Britain's Office of Communications (OFCOM) is proposing all users of U.K. airspace -- i.e., airports and air-navigation service providers -- should pay an "administrative incentive pricing" charge for using radio spectrum.
According to the Association of European Airlines (AEA) the new pricing scheme is merely "a euphemism for tax" that will add £60 million ($105 million) a year to the U.K. treasury's coffers. AEA also points out that U.K. airlines, airports and general aviation (GA) will become less competitive, since no other governments charge.
OFCOM's response is that it is simply suggesting that aviation and marine sectors be brought in line with other services that use the spectrum, including radio and television. Police and ambulance services are already charged.
It is possible to comment here on the proposed charges until Oct. 30.
IAOPA-Europe reports that Eurocontrol's director general David McMillan has warned that GA must ensure that its "voice really is heard" as European consultations continue on the development phase of the Single European Sky SESAR.
He indicated to IAOPA that the regulators are aware that GA should not be penalized as new airspace regulations are formulated. He said, "I'm conscious that there's a direct link between the levels of equipment that we regulators impose on people and airspace access issues, and we need to find the right balance between the two. It doesn't seem to me that it's in anybody's interest to regulate a level, either in terms of airspace classification or equipage, that prevents GA doing what seem to me to be a very legitimate set of activities. We need to get that balance right."
A great place to speak up is via the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Web site. EASA has extended the deadline for responses to some of the most far-reaching discussions to impact GA to December 15, two months later than its original deadline of mid-October. New regulations for flight-crew licensing will attempt to bring all European pilots under the same umbrella, with rules implemented by EASA. The discussions cover the new Leisure pilot license, an overhaul of the IMC rating and medical assessment, among other key issues.
Regional AOPAs are urging their members to log on and respond. AOPA France reports that in the last 18 months 200 French Private pilots obtained an American Instrument rating. The French pilots' group is calling for an Instrument rating "adapted for Private pilots" (much as the IMC rating is available for U.K. Private pilots). The association says that in North America more half of private pilots are qualified to fly on instruments and that proportionally PPLs are safer. On a similar note, Martin Robinson, chief executive of AOPA-U.K., is calling for pilots to complete an online survey on the current IMC.
Germany's AOPA Web site concentrates on the potential pitfalls of over zealous license revalidation. Should a pilot fail an onerous theory test, says AOPA, he or she may abandon flying completely.
EASA says that it has "further extended the consultation period due to the importance of the subject."
The relevant documents NPA 2008-17 a, b and c are available here. Be warned: NPA 2008-17b is 647 pages long (4.5 Mb).
To comment on the new rules go to this page at EASA.
Pointing the way to a good reason to retain the IMC in the U.K. is the U.K.'s first approved RNAV Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) non-precision approach for GA to use with a GPS. The GPS approach will be introduced at Shoreham Airport.
Details of the approach at Shoreham are included in the U.K. Air Pilot update published on Oct. 9, and the approach will be available to aircraft and crew meeting the necessary requirements starting on Nov. 20.
Richard Taylor, Chairman of the CAA's Communications, Navigation and Surveillance for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) Steering Group, said, "The introduction of the GPS approach at Shoreham Airport is a significant development in the on-going project to make GNSS non-precision approaches available to U.K. GA pilots."
Pilots flying the approach must have a current Instrument rating or IMC rating. Taylor added, "Now the first approach has been introduced at Shoreham we hope to see other airfields follow. We would encourage any other airfield meeting the criteria that wishes to add an approach to contact us for assistance and guidance."
Elsewhere in Europe the European Commission imposed a new tax on Swedish avgas, equating to around one US$1 per liter for "private pleasure flying." Since personal pleasure flying is only a tiny fraction of the community who use avgas, mountains of extra work are created, as those who are eligible must claim the new tax back. The EC has refused to consider tax reductions for cleaner, lead-free avgas, which is the majority of avgas sold in Sweden.
Ironically, the European Parliament looks set to take a tougher stance on aviation emissions by revamping the European Union emissions trading scheme.
The Environment committee proposes that aviation buy 20 percent of its carbon credits at auction from 2013, gradually increasing to 100 percent in 2020, as well as introducing annual reductions on aviation emissions.
The committee will also try to subject aviation to a 5-percent higher level of auctioning than other sectors. Parliament will vote on the amendments on Dec. 16. Ministers were due to meet at the EU Environment Council on Oct. 20-22 to debate the topic further.
AOPA Germany's flight instructor training takes place twice annually alternately in Egelsbach and Braunschweig. This year the course is in Egelsbach on the weekend of Oct. 25-26. The advanced education course fulfills the prerequisites for extension and renewal of CFI Airplane, Helicopter, and Instrument (Airplane or Helicopter). Interested parties can register at AOPA Germany. Costs are 130 (including tax) for AOPA members and 180 for non-members.
You can get the registration form here.
French aircraft manufacturer Apex Aviation has been put into liquidation by a court in France. The company built Robin and CAP aircraft. In Farnborough, U.K., the company behind the Farnborough F1 Kestrel is now in administration. The six-seat, single-engine, turboprop design was intended to be an air-taxi vehicle. Only one prototype was built, which first flew in 2006.
On a brighter note, Britain's Swift Aircraft has bought British homebuilt firm Europa Aircraft. The Europa is the most popular kit-build in the U.K. The company says it has sold more than 1,000 models over the last two decades. Europa will continue to operate from its Yorkshire home.
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest of Liz Moscrop's columns.