Across the Pond #13: Changing Pilot Certification
As we go to press, the world is watching the latest developments after a British Airways Boeing 777 landed short of the south runway at Heathrow. It appears to have skimmed the perimeter fence and landed on the grass before the threshold of Runway 27L, before skidding to a halt on the markers. There is no news yet on why it happened. Thanks to the skill of the flight crew -- Captain Peter Burkill and Senior First Officer John Coward, who actually brought the plane in to land -- and cabin crew, all 136 passengers and 16 crew survived the incident. It does drive home the need to keep the flight-training industry alive and well, with GA at the sharp-end preparing pilots for the future.
Keeping and developing flying skills is a key part of that aim. One of the biggest sore spots for European GA pilots is the potential loss of various national ratings and licenses, which are historically designed for safety and ease of flying. In the UK, the particular rating that is under threat is the IMC (instrument) rating, which is scheduled to cease to exist, without anything to replace it.
On the plus side, it seems that after intense lobbying from GA groups, there is a probability that Eurocrats will see sense and set up a working group to look at instrument flying in Europe. The UK's CAA is backing a license offering instrument privileges that does not involve the study and cost of a full Instrument rating, which is designed for professional pilots.
It is possible that the IMC rating will survive beyond 2008. It is still unclear, however, whether UK schools will be able to continue to offer training for the IMC rating. A Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) will be issued in the next three months, covering the IMC rating, as well as losing the requirement for flying instructors to hold a Commercial Pilot License. The NPA will also include the new European Light Aircraft Pilot License.
If you want to support the UK campaign and petition to retain the existing IMC, you can do so here.
One Thousand Members for Forum Air et Aviation
The U.K. is not the only European country to garner support from the GA community. The French forum Air Aviation covering the whole of Europe celebrated a milestone this month when it gained its 1000th forumite. The independent site is open to anyone with a "passion for aviation" and members discuss a wide range of topics. Not bad for only three months in existence. It is currently asking its French members to contact it to respond to the Fédération Française Aéronautique (FFA, the French Aviation Federation), which is polling French private pilots on GA in France. Send email to Air Aviation and the site will forward comments to the FFA.
U.S. Base for Germany's Remos
Manufacturers are in the news as Remos Aircraft is due to open a new plant in Arkansas to cater for demand for its Remos G-3 light sport aircraft. The carbon-fiber ultralight has a range of 550 nm and can cruise at 113 knots Last autumn the German manufacturer was under the spotlight when it promised to take US$5000 off the Remos for any Cessna SkyCatcher 162 customers who had put a deposit down on Cessna's new offering.
And there's more good news from the green movement. The Association for the Promotion of Electrical Engine Aircraft (APAME) flew the Electra F-WMDJ -- a lithium-battery-powered light aircraft -- in France in December. The open-cockpit tail dragger has a 25-hp engine and flew for 48 minutes in the circuit at Aspres sur Buech airfield piloted by Christian Vandamme. The flight beats APAME's previous record of a 22-minute electric flight.
Eclipse in Russia
However, as previously reported on AVweb, the biggest manufacturing news here recently is that Eclipse Aviation is looking at building some of its very light jets in Ulyanovsk, in Russia. Luxembourg-based European Technology and Investment Research Center (ETIRC) is headed by former computer magnate Roel Pieper, who will take the helm after investing $100 million into the company.
Pieper has become non-executive chairman of Eclipse and has the rights to sell the VLJ in 60 countries, including Western Europe and Britain. Vern Raburn, who remains president and CEO of Eclipse, said the deal expands Eclipse's horizons more quickly.
Century of Helos
In Paris, the world famous Musee de l'Air et l'Espace at Le Bourget Airport has opened a new permanent display: "100 Years of Helicopters." The exhibition contains replicas of the world's first helicopter, built by Paul Cornu, which flew in 1907. In addition to the Cornu machines, there are original prototypes, such as the eight-blade co-axial machine built by Raul Peschara in 1922. The museum houses one of the best collections of vintage aircraft in Europe if not the world and is well worth a visit should you find yourself in Paris.
Sustainable Future for General and Business Aviation
Two ex-Chairmen of key European organizations that protect GA -- Mark Wilson of the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) and Brian Humphries of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) -- have contributed to a key document presented at the EC on January 11 looking at how the future of business and general aviation might look in Europe.
I've extracted a few key highlights for readers here. The paper points out the diverse nature of general aviation and that a significant part of the industry is formed of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or not-for-profit organizations. Very often, these individuals or small firms have limited resources to keep up with changes in regulatory or technical requirements. On the industrial side, European general- and business-aviation manufacturing industry is breaking out to the world markets in an unprecedented way.
There are up to 50,000 motor-powered general- and business-aviation aircraft in Europe (including about 2,800 turbine-powered) as compared to about 5,000 aircraft in the European commercial-airline fleet. In addition, 180,000 to 200,000 microlight and non-motor-powered aircraft are used for sport and recreation. Since 2003 the number of aircraft movements in this segment registered by Eurocontrol has been growing almost twice as quickly as the rest of the traffic (22 percent more flights in 2006 than in 2003, compared to a 14-percent increase for the rest of the traffic). Eurocontrol does not register the vast majority of general and business aviation flights, as they are moving in non-controlled airspace. Most of the recreational and sport-aviation operations will not be captured by these statistics.
Recreational and sport aviation is one of the big sources of qualified aviation staff for airlines and supporting services. Many of the trainee pilots and engineers, after building the number of their hours in the air or in the hangar, subsequently move to work in the airline industry.
Aeroclubs and air-sports organizations promote pilots' qualities, technical knowledge, and aeronautical skills -- especially amongst the young citizens of the European Union, raising their interest in the highly demanding and motivating air sports and future careers in commercial aviation or aeronautical research and development.
Complete data describing general and business aviation in Europe is not available and it seems that such data is not being gathered in a systematic and coherent way. As regards the specific issue of safety, there are no European-wide comprehensive statistics on safety of aircraft with maximum take-off mass (MTOM) below 2,250 kg (5000 pounds) and the partial data available gives only some indication as to the main causes of fatal accidents.
In order to properly regulate any activity, policy makers need to have a clear picture of the situation. This calls for the development at the European level of the basic set of objective and coherent data as well as for close cooperation with all the interested stakeholders.
The Commission has asked the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) to conduct a study on general and business aviation that would identify the sources of available data and suggest the most efficient way for its future gathering.
All Hail the Air Taxi Association
And finally: Just to show Europe is serious about its air taxi prospects despite some skepticism, a new industry group came into being this week. The Air Taxi Association (ATXA) Europe has elected Stefan Vilner of JetBird as its first chairman, with Javier Díez Cardona of Wondair as vice chairman, as well as several committee officers. The Founding members include AccelJet, AirCab, Air-Cannes, BikkAir, Blink, byJets, Etirc Aviation, GlobeAir, Gonow, JetBird, Jet Ready, London Executive Aviation, Taxijet and Wondair.
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest of Liz Moscrop's columns.