Across the Pond #17: Report from Europe

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Across the Pond

Eurocontrol Working On VLJ Air Traffic Management

Eurocontrol is assessing how it will manage very light jet (VLJ) operations by simulating potential traffic scenarios as the European market grows. The organization is looking at performance, types, and expected frequency of operation. The intention is to assess how air-navigation service providers will deal with a burgeoning market.

The assessment will start in October at Eurocontrol's research center in Budapest. According to the agency's Deputy Director Of Air Traffic Management Strategies Alex Hendriks, VLJs are likely to have a "considerable impact" because they perform differently both in the departure and en-route phases of flight. They are slower than most airliners, and do not climb as fast. Hendriks says that Eurocontrol staff will visit the FAA in Washington, D.C., in September to share ideas on how to meet this new challenge.

There are about 500 VLJs due to come into Europe, half of them by the end of 2010. Eurocontrol's latest findings suggest that the most VLJs in Europe will be operated by air-taxi operators, running around three one-hour flights per day. In terms of ATM provision, this means catering for an extra 200 to 300 flights a day.

The agency is also looking at whether VLJs should be required to carry an airborne collision-avoidance system. At present, only civil aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of over 5700 kg (12,550 pounds) or with 19 seats or more have to carry such equipment.

On a similar theme, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said that new VLJs and business jets in Europe will have to meet basic certification characteristics plus extra requirements tailored to the aircraft's performance. A jet such as the Eclipse 500, which competes with twin-turboprop aircraft, operates at altitudes and with avionics that make it completely different from the turboprops, necessitating extra certification considerations. The more congested European airways may mean that there will be some differences between EASA and FAA certifications, such as the need for Mode-S transponders.

Other changes include sufficient backup electrical power for sophisticated avionic systems. A standard personal-use jet is likely to be exempt from the more stringent certifications; however, when an aircraft is used to carry paying passengers, there will be a requirement for higher margins to guarantee safety standards across commercial operations.

IAOPA World Assembly -- Icarus 2008

Tatoi Airfield, Athens, Greece

GA in Greece will receive a welcome boost next month with the 24th IAOPA World Assembly taking place in Athens June 9-15. Phil Boyer, IAOPA's president, exhorts visitors to "come visit the land of Icarus, where aviation was born." Running alongside the conference will be the First International Aero Expo Athens. The GA Exhibition will take place June 13-15 at Tatoi Airfield. There will be pilot seminars with keynote speakers including Phil Boyer, Hellenic Air Force representatives and Air Safety Foundation experts, as well as several international instructors. There is also free access to the Hellenic Air Force Museum and to a unique private collection, M. Kyriakou's private museum. Southern and Southeastern Europe are becoming fast-growing GA markets in Europe thanks to their warm weather, and this promises to be a great GA event.

Tatoi Airfield (LGTT) is home to all Athens aero clubs and their flight schools. It is located 15 km from downtown Athens, three minutes from the trunk highway network. There is also a direct rail link to the Athens subway. The 5800-foot, asphalt runway is large enough for some business jets. The organizers are offering permission to land and freely visit Tatoi airfield for 10 days, June 6-16. As an added bonus there will be no handling charges in all Greek airports during the month of June, thanks to sponsorship from Olympic Airways Services. Details on Tatoi Airfield can be found here

Thielert Bankruptcy

As reported in AVweb earlier this month, the Thielert's supervisory board dismissed Frank Thielert -- founder of Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH, the German manufacturer of diesel engines -- and the company has filed for insolvency. Thielert manufactures Centurion diesel engines. Two companies that have been badly hit are Cessna and Diamond. Cessna was set to produce a diesel variant of its Cessna 172 Skyhawk equipped with a Centurion later this year. Meanwhile, Austria's Diamond Aircraft is moving swiftly to offer customer support for aircraft equipped with Thielert engines.

New Owner For Sino Swearingen

SJ30

Dubai's Emirates Investment Developments (EID) is set to take the lion's share of ownership of Sino Swearingen Aircraft (SSAC), manufacturer of the SJ30 light business jet. The remaining stakes will belong to the Taiwanese government and private investors. The deal should be complete by the start of the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE). San Antonio (Texas)-based Sino Swearingen has an order book of 300 units for its $7.5 million aircraft, and the investment will allow it to restart production in earnest.

Isle of Man Aircraft Registry

More than 50 aircraft have signed on to the Isle of Man (IOM) Aircraft Registry since it was launched a year ago (Across the Pond, June 2007). The IOM is self-governing and says it has mainly seen private and corporate takers.

Merger for UK Associations

In the U.K., the Light Aircraft Association (>LAA) and British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) are in talks about a possible merger. The two organizations believe that uniting under a common umbrella will offer grater protection for members. There have long been rumors about such a marriage; however, now it looks more likely. Keith Negal, BMAA chairman, and Roger Hopkinson, LAA chairman, issued a joint statement that said, "During mid-April, our respective councils voted unanimously to work towards the amalgamation of our two successful organizations. Our aim is to put this proposal to our members later this year and, with their support, enter 2009 as a single association of nearly 12,000 members ... the advantages of pooling our strength, experience and resources for the benefit of all our members can no longer be ignored."

Among the issues still to be addressed before any amalgamation can go ahead, is that of the merged body's name; this could prove to be a tricky part of the deal.

New FBO for Oxford

Oxford Airport Ramp

Oxford Airport in the UK is set to open a new, private-aviation terminal on site, named Oxfordjet. The FBO will be open in July. Building work on the new facility started last month. "The new Oxfordjet facility ... will enable us to build on the business aviation activity we are enjoying," said Steve Jones, managing director. Oxford Airport averages about 10 business jet movements a day.

Oxfordjet is aiming to attract business aviation traffic stymied by lack of slot availability in the increasingly congested London airports. Jones said, "We are less than an hour's drive from the west end of London and, importantly, we have slot availability." The facility will have triple the space of the existing GA terminal, with a fresh, modern design and amenities akin to a smart, boutique hotel. There will be separate lounges for crews with additional rest areas, along with VIP and "VVIP" zones for passengers. There will also be private shower rooms, a crew kitchen, bar and meeting rooms and customs and immigration facilities.

The new terminal represents the first phase of a major investment by Oxford Airport's joint owners, international property developers the Reuben Brothers and Dawnay Day, who purchased it last summer from BBA Aviation. It also reflects the fact that business aviation at the airport has doubled over the past three years. Jones said, "With our new wider and stronger runway completed last summer, Oxford Airport is able to accommodate heavier business jets such as the Global Express and Gulfstream V (550), together with regional aircraft such as the BAe 146 family and the Bombardier Q400. The new high-bearing-strength apron will allow us to accommodate aircraft with maximum weights in excess of 77 tonnes."

Meanwhile, PremiAir Aircraft Engineering announced that the Oxford would be home to its new fixed-wing maintenance base for Hawker Beechcraft aircraft. Work will move from the company's HQ at Blackbushe Airport, Surrey, from September this year, and Blackbushe will become a dedicated base for rotary-wing maintenance. Managing director David McRobert explained that Blackbushe is too small to allow the company to expand its fixed-wing operations. The airport's short runway-length and lack of ILS always constrained fixed-wing operations.

EBACE

As you read this, Europe's largest business aviation gathering is just concluding, too late for inclusion in my report this month. I'll have details from the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) in next month's Across the Pond report.

Tempelhof Update

Sadly, as one European airport expands, it looks like it could finally be the end of the road for Berlin-Tempelhof -- centerpiece of the city's famous post-war airlift. The airport has been slated for closure for some time, but Berlin held a citywide referendum to assess public opinion about the move. Initial results showed that only 21.7 percent of voters took part in the poll, which required at least 25 percent to be legally valid.

Campaigners said that the city government had underestimated the place Tempelhof holds in Berliners' hearts. The airport was vital to the success of the Berlin airlift of 1948/49 when more than 278,000 allied air force planes kept West Berlin in food during a Soviet military blockade.

Berlin's ruling Social Democrat/Left coalition government has insisted on enforcing a permanent shut-down at Tempelhof this autumn. Before the vote, polls had indicated a 60 percent majority would be in favor of keeping the airport open. Tempelhof's closure would be the end of one chapter of more than 100 years of German aviation history. (Orville Wright landed there in 1903 and put on airshows.) The city's revamped Schönefeld airport is due to open in 2013.

ILA 2008

Tempelhof may be shutting its doors, but over on another Berlin airfield the biennial International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) will open its doors on the southern section of Berlin-Schönefeld Airport. From May 27 to June 1 over 1000 exhibitors from some 40 countries will be presenting aviation and space flight in all its fascinating details.

The final weekend June offers a program of flying displays featuring 300 of the world's leading aircraft and helicopters, ranging from ultralights to flying legends. One of the main attractions for visitors this year will again be the Space Hall, presenting a wide range of German and European activities, products and programs. Visitors can even test their flying skills in a Eurofighter simulator. There will also be sightseeing flights in a historic Ju 52 on offer. Take it from someone who's enjoyed one of these flights: It is well worth the trip. The airplane is simply gorgeous.

Biggin Hill

One of the most popular warbirds of all time, the Avro Vulcan, will fly again at Biggin Hill.

I have to give a plug to my favorite U.K. airshow. The Biggin Hill International Air Fair is not only one of the most famous worldwide aviation events, but it is also the largest privately organized airshow in Europe. Although it gets busy, because of the layout of the historic airfield, there always seems plenty of space to wander and enjoy the show and displays. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Biggin Hill Airport and the former WWII fighter station for the great mix of airshow participants and ground attractions.

On June 7 and 8, the gates open at 9 a.m. and the airshow is usually between 12:00 and 5:30 p.m. One of this year's special attractions is the U.K. debut of the Indian Air Force Helicopter Display Team. It will be flying four Dhruv advanced light helicopters, which are highly decorated with peacocks, the national bird of India. Also getting an airing for the first time since 1992 is former RAF cold war bomber, the Avro Vulcan.

Red Bull Flugtag

If silliness is more your thing, British eccentricity can be seen at Red Bull's Flugtag, also taking place on June 7. The event returns this year to London's Hyde Park. There are 40 teams of intrepid inventors will vie for the title of Red Bull Flugtag Champion. Homemade flying machines are launched from a 20-foot ramp above Lake Serpentine. The competition is judged on distance flown and ingenuity, in both costumes and pre-flight silliness. Tickets are free but limited to 80,000 -- doubtless sparked in part by a previous event, when the park was packed to capacity. (I know, I was there ...)

Great Female Aviators

In addition to the book I'm writing on the greatest female aviators, I've also discovered that Women in Aviation International has introduced a book called Stars of the Sky, Legends All. I've already ordered my copy. Ann Lewis Cooper's book is illustrated by Sharon Rajnus, an award-winning artist. I'm looking forward to reading about women such as Aida de Acosta and Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell -- both of whom I have not covered. It is great to see these pilots getting the recognition they deserve. If you have any more suggestions for mine, please send them over. Anyone know anything about Ruthy Tu, the first Chinese pilot -- or Chinese female pilots in general? I gather the Chinese Air Force has a history of hiring women since the '50s, but if you know more than that, I'd be grateful for your help.



For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest of Liz Moscrop's columns.