I wrote about the loss of the IMC rating last month, and the issue is not going anywhere for a while. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for U.K. IMC-rating holders. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has indicated that it could be in favor of preserving the IMC. Opinion is divided across Europe on the safety of the license, with many states believing that in order to fly in IMC conditions, pilots should have a full instrument rating (IR).
Speaking at a briefing in London at the end of last month, Eric Sivel, deputy head of flight standards at EASA, said that the U.K. CAA had fought hard to keep the IMC rating during negotiations with EASA's governing committee, which is made up of representatives from all 27 states of the European Union.
From February, EASA is due to cover Flight Crew Licensing, which had previously been under the jurisdiction of individual national authorities. There will then be a four-year limit to change to new pan-European licensing rules, which will come into effect in March 2012.
U.K. accident statistics support the notion that the IMC rating saves lives, rather than persuading its holders to fly in dangerous conditions. Many British pilots feel that the present European IR for private pilots is onerous, requiring some 300 hours of ground school and aimed at those wishing to pursue careers as commercial pilots. At GBP12,000 (approx $24,000), it is also much more expensive than the equivalent U.S. IR, which comes in at around GBP5,000 (approx $10,000). The current IMC is priced at around GBP2,250 (approx $5,500).
Suggestions to resolve the issue include a simpler Euro IR for PPLs, or possibly a new European IMC rating. Eric Sivel is urging private pilots to get involved in the discussions.
AOPA U.K. is calling on human-rights legislation to save the restricted Basic Commercial Pilots License (BCPL), the ticket that allows British flying instructors to earn money for their skill. The BCPL is under threat because of the new EASA legislation outlined above. The license is due to disappear, along with all other national licenses, and be amalgamated into new pan-European ratings. However, AOPA argues that because the 400 to 500 instructors flying on the license in the U.K. will automatically lose their jobs, the new regime will contravene European human-rights laws, which state that every citizen has the right to work and that employment cannot arbitrarily be taken away. Writing in British AOPA's GA Magazine, CEO Martin Robinson said, "The Treaty of Rome, the Treaty of Amsterdam, every European major treaty enshrines this principle. You are protected by law from being forced out of work, and if EASA persists with this course, it will be acting contrary to European law." Situations like this provide just one of the many reasons why it's worth joining AOPA, to give a united voice to GA pilots throughout Euroland.
Brussels launched its "Clean Sky Program" on Feb. 5. The new research program, based on applying joint technology-initiatives within the European Union, aims to create sustainable air travel by encouraging the aeronautical industry to develop and produce cleaner, greener and quieter aircraft. One of the founding members of the working group, Italy's AgustaWestland, has announced that it has committed to investing in technologies and processes that reduce the impact on the environment in all phases of the life-cycle of rotorcraft, from manufacturing, through operation, and up to disposal. There are no further details yet, but watch this space.
In news that is going to reshape air traffic control in Europe forever, NATS, the U.K.'s air traffic services provider, has awarded a contract worth GBP47 million (approx. $94 million) to Spanish IT business Indra to build the next generation of flight data-processing equipment. In what is a major step towards creating Europe's new air traffic control system, NATS and Indra engineers will work together on this complex and technically demanding project. Other European countries are also analyzing the new system, called iTEC-eFDP (interoperability Through European Collaboration -- european Flight Data Processing). The project is designed to operate within the overall iTEC-eFDP framework being developed jointly by NATS and Indra with the Spanish air navigation service provider, AENA, and its German counterpart, DFS.
The system can also slot into the SESAR project, which is aimed at harmonizing air traffic management across Europe by 2020. The European Commission and Eurocontrol, the co-coordinating body for air traffic in Europe, drive SESAR. NATS' Supply Chain Director Chris Odam said, "We have a strong business collaboration with Indra that is highly valued by both organisations. It is this breadth of activity and the already strong personal relationships between key players in our organisations that will make our working together a success."
NATS manages some of the most complex and busiest airspace in the world and handled almost 2.5 million flights last year. It provides air traffic services at 15 airports in the U.K., including Heathrow and Gatwick. Indra is one of Spain's leading IT companies with 22,000 employees and customers in more than 80 countries across Europe and Latin America.
Cessna's new Citation 510 -- a.k.a., Mustang -- moseyed into the U.K. in style at the end of January. London Executive Aviation, Britain's largest private jet operator, took delivery of the first of its order of 10 Mustangs, which it will offer for charter in the U.K. The new aircraft will enter in mid-February, meaning that LEA will become Europe's first Mustang fleet-operator.
The Mustang will make its presence felt elsewhere over the next few months. Farnborough based start-up Blink is Europe's largest Mustang customer, having taken 30 of the type. The air taxi operator is due to get its first aircraft this May.
On the VLJ theme (although Cessna denies that the Mustang is a VLJ, referring to it rather as an "entry-level" jet), the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), along with several manufacturers, has become involved in European VLJs Integration Platform (VIP), launched at the beginning of the month. With business aviation one of the fastest growing sectors in Europe at around 10 percent per annum, the introduction of VLJs is a welcome addition to this healthy growth. Eurocontrol's studies show that there are about 440 VLJs currently on order for operation in Europe. Of these, at least 230 are expected for delivery by the end of 2010. The majority of the aircraft are expected to be used for air-taxi type work.
Eric Mandemaker, CEO of the EBAA said, "The EBAA feels that a forum such as VIP is a positive development for business aviation in Europe. We are convinced that the services that these additional air-taxi operators provide will only enhance the business travel industry in the region and the travel options open to customers."
In product news this month, Diamond Aircraft Industries has announced that it has expanded to South America, where it will start to sell its single-engine DA20 and DA40 aircraft, as well as its popular twin, the DA42, and its Airborne Sensing portfolio range. Globe Connect International will distribute the products in Brazil, whilst Aviaservice International will take care of business in Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba Bonaire and Curacao. Diamond now has a presence on every continent.
And finally, proving he's no different from any other pilot, Prince William was snapped sporting a huge grin after his first solo. On Jan. 17, eight days into his intensive RAF course, the prince did his first solo circuit at RAF Cranwell in a Grob 115E Tutor.
He said afterwards, "God knows how somebody trusted me with an aircraft and my own life. It was an amazing feeling, I couldn't believe it." In a scenario that will be familiar to many, he explained how it happened. "I was doing a few circuits going 'round and 'round, then Roger my instructor basically turned round and said, 'Right, I'm going to jump out now' and I said, 'What, where are you going?' He said 'You're going on your own,' and I said, 'There's no way I'm going to do that,' but he said I was ready for it and jumped out. The next thing I knew I was taxiing down the runway and I was sitting there saying, 'Oh my God, this is a bit odd ... there's no one in here.' Going solo is one of those things. If you had a list of the top 50 things to do before you die, it would be in there."
His instructor, Squadron Leader Bousfield, said, "To get William to go solo is fantastic. He's worked very hard and has coped marvelously to pick it all up and that's been backed up with some natural talent in the air. He's got good handling skills and learns lessons really quickly and keeps hold of those lessons, which makes it easier for the next time we're in the air."
Prince William is actually in the British Army, ranked as a Second Lieutenant with the Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals. However, he is on attachment to the RAF, where he is known as Flying Officer William Wales -- equivalent to his Army rank.
His father, The Prince of Wales, earned his wings more than 35 years ago.
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest of Liz Moscrop's columns.