Across the Pond #16: Report from Europe
Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) umbrella is no more. As of April 8 the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) officially took over the operations and licensing responsibilities formerly conducted by the authorities. For the time being, EASA will regulate using the Joint Aviation Requirements (JARs), but these will be absorbed into EU law by around 2012. The only role JAA will retain at its Hoofddorp base near Amsterdam with be to provide training for national aviation authorities' staff of non-EASA states that have been voluntary JAA members.
I'm a firm advocate of supporting GA groups that stick up for the sector and actually manage to protect grandfather rights, or to be a force for positive change. IAOPA is one such organization and this month IAOPA Europe reports on one of the new changes creeping into EU law. Of huge interest to non-commercial operators of "complex" aircraft such as light jets and twin turboprops is a new regulation that requires tons of extra paperwork. These operators are likely to fall foul of the ruling, which requires operators to implement a management system with internal reporting procedures, a safety program, an operations manual, and a fatigue management system. Although non-commercial operators do not need an air operator's certificate (AOC), they still have to provide written declarations of how they comply with the regulation.
Trial lessons and flight training may now fall into the commercial category, adding onerous administrative tasks to companies offering such services. The good news is that IAOPA is on side and represented in the EASA working groups for operations and flight-crew licensing rules, and is committed to making sure that the small, non-commercial operator is not drowned in bureaucracy. The new implementing rules are expected to go into consultation shortly.
EASA is also currently issuing a number of Notices of Proposed Amendment (NPAs) that will impact GA. Go here for more information on the first one about Air Traffic Management and Air Navigation Services (ATM/ANS).
New Lease on Life for British Flight Instructors
Whilst the implementation of a new rulemaking body for aviation in Europe is throwing up problems, it is not all doom and gloom. The severe shortage of flight instructors has long been a concern to schools in Europe, as the airlines have nabbed commercial pilots (CPL) virtually as soon as they come onto the market. This has cut deep into flight-training organizations in the UK because, in order to be paid for teaching students to fly, instructors must hold a professional license, which costs around £20,000 (U.S.$40,000) to obtain -- including the flight training and medical certificates required. Flying jets full of holidaymakers to Benidorm pays far more than teaching newcomers how to stall safely, so it is a no-brainer to see why most instructors head to the airlines pretty rapidly, leaving schools understaffed and unable to serve as many potential new pilots as they would like. However, EASA has offered a ray of hope. The agency has filed a "differences" claim with ICAO, which exempts private pilot license (PPL) instructors from the requirement to hold a professional license before teaching PPL students. Under the new laws, all that is needed to teach PPLs will be a CPL equivalent or a PPL with 200 hours of flying. The best outcome this could achieve is that it could attract many experienced PPL holders into the teaching industry.
And on the training note, Abu Dhabi flag carrier Etihad has launched a global cadet scheme that will take ab-intio recruits to first officers. The new scheme will launch in June for 12 students with two further intakes later in the year. The minimum age required is 18, up to a maximum age of 26. Successful applicants will be invited to Abu Dhabi to join Horizon flight training academy in Al Ain.
William Gets His Wings
It is always good when high-profile people put flying in positive light. I reported two months ago that second in line to the British throne, Prince William, had started his flying course. He earned his RAF wings this month, giving a much-needed boost to the image of flight training in the UK.
Flying the Future
Prince William is not only one striking a positive note for the future of aviation. As reported on AVweb recently (AVwebFlash, Apr. 4) and in my column a year ago (Columns, April 2007), Boeing has flown a light, two-seat, Diamond Dimona motor-glider with a 16.3-meter (53.5-foot) wingspan powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The three flights took place in Ocaña, south of Madrid, during February and March and are the fruits of years of research and development in conjunction with British company Intelligent Energy.
Boeing said that the pilot climbed to 1000 meters (3300 feet) above sea level using a combination of battery power and power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Then the pilot disconnected the batteries and flew straight and level at 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) for around 20 minutes on power solely generated by the fuel cells. A fuel cell converts hydrogen directly into electricity and heat, with none of the byproducts of combustion, such as carbon dioxide. Other than heat, water is its only exhaust. Boeing says that fuel cell technology potentially could power small manned and unmanned air vehicles and could eventually be applied to secondary power-generating systems, such as auxiliary power units for large commercial airplanes. (Video of the flight here.)
Birds of a Feather
Another green machine, the RoboSwift micro-aircraft, also took flight this month. With a wingspan of approximately 50 cm and weighing in at 80 g, the RoboSwift is a good deal smaller than standard model airplanes. The microlight has variable-shaped "morphing" wings, which are modeled on the swift. Each wing has four feathers that can fold and sweep over each other, changing the shape of the wing and flight characteristics, while an electric motor can be turned on and off in flight. Aerospace engineering students at Delft University of Technology in Holland have developed the aircraft in cooperation with the Experimental Zoology Group of Wageningen University, Netherlands. The tiny aircraft is equipped with observation cameras that can be used in the future to study birds or to conduct surveillance of groups of people or vehicles. It would be wonderful to report that a wealthy ornithologist had poured cash into the project, but unsurprisingly it is the second potential application that has attracted the necessary financial clout needed to make the concept fly: Holland's National Police Services Agency (KLPD) has announced that it will back the development of the UAV. Watch it fly here.
Tempelhof Closure Reminder
It is always good to get feedback, and thanks to Tom Horne for the reminder that the German "Save Tempelhof" campaign collected more than 204,000 signatures earlier this year, showing the strength of feeling against the historic airport's closure. The organization is confident that it can convince the mayor of Berlin and the city's council to reverse the decision to close the famous central airport in October. Earlier this year, Germany's top Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig rejected claims by a number of airlines and upheld a decision by the Berlin-Brandenburg court that acceptable alternatives were available. A number of companies have declared their interest in investing in the airport, including the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways), which has said that it is keen to develop a multi-modal operation on the site, combining road, rail and air links. It would be a shame to demolish this beautiful site. We'll keep you posted.
AeroExpo Prague Debut
There are a couple of significant trade shows taking place over the next few weeks that have a big impact on the GA market here. April 25-27 sees the inaugural AeroExpo show in Prague. The show covers the entire spectrum of aircraft from ultralights through to business jets ... Hawker Beechcraft will be showing a Premier 1, for example. The show is the only dedicated general aviation exhibition in Central Europe in 2008 and is aimed firmly at the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as traditional Western European sectors. The daily show schedule promises flight demonstrations of all aircraft on display, and free seminars focusing on flying in Eastern Europe and EASA. Visiting pilots to the show can camp by their aircraft at the AeroExpo site within Letiště Příbram Airport, near at the visiting aircraft park. There will be access to toilets and showers near to the visiting Aircraft Park. However, while the show organizers will provide the camping space, pilots who choose to camp must provide their own anchors and tie-downs. The organizers ask campers to email them in advance. There will be no entry charge to the AeroExpo exhibition for pilots and passengers flying in, but slot times need to be booked in advance.
The other show is, of course, EBACE, of which we'll have more next month.
Top Female Aviators
Finally, who are the greatest women pilots? My book is going full steam and I'm collecting some great names. Thanks to the reader who suggested I include the late Joan Hughes, who flew just about every aircraft in the RAF inventory as an ATA pilot during WW II. That reader also recommended Lettice Curtis, who was both an ATA pilot and now enjoys a second career as an aviation author. I'd also definitely wish to include the world-record breaker, Polly Vacher, who has performed heroic, solo, 'round the world flights in a single-engined Piper Dakota. Her driving force is to raise awareness for the Flying Scholarships for the Disabled (FSD) charity, which has now spread to the U.S. in the form of Able Flight. Coincidentally, Polly has the paperback version of her book Wings Around the World out this month. She sent me a copy for review. It is a fantastic read about her voyage, which took in 60,000 miles and 30 countries. She writes in a warm and human style and, of course, offers a great aeronautical adventure. All author proceeds and a percentage of the publisher's profits go to FSD.
I welcome your suggestions for other great female aviators. How about Bessie Coleman, the first licensed black pilot? Or Eileen Collins, the first American woman to pilot a spacecraft? And there's Marina Raskova, dubbed the "Russian Amelia Earhart." So far I have 180 on my list, so deciding who stays and who goes is the hardest part. Let me know your thoughts.
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest of Liz Moscrop's columns.