Ominous skies and gusting winds were extra challenges to deal with for the Aero GP racers on the last day of the Constanta air race challenge in Romania last month. According to their Web site, this was in marked contrast to the first day of the event when wake turbulence and thermals had been the major problems the pilots encountered. With almost zero wind, the pilots were flying through their own disturbed air.
The international air race series features several aircraft racing together at breakneck speed at close quarters. Aero GP pilots pit against each other across three disciplines: air racing, air-to-air combat and target bombing. The five competitors for 2007 were: Hungarian Zoltan "Red Phantom" Veres; Slovenian Peter "Maximum G" Podlunsek; Andy "Horsepower" Bickmore; Brit Gerald Cooper; and local Ioan Postolache.
It was a close call for winner at the end of two days intense competition. Champion air combatant was Peter Podlunsek while Zoltan Veres took home the trophy for the best pilot and overall winner.
Aero GP was created in 2000 by Jeff Zaltman who later formed "Flying Aces" to develop this unique new concept into a mainstream sport. The Aero GP launched in 2005 with its first official competition, broadcast in more than 100 countries.
Europe's FAA counterpart, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), is holding a series of briefings to explain Part-M maintenance rules for light aircraft to U.K. pilots. The first was held on Sep. 4 at the Popular Flying Association's (PFA) headquarters at Turweston Aerodrome. There will be others held throughout Europe during September.
All aircraft owners, pilots, associations and maintenance organisations are invited. The controversial Part M ruling was introduced in 2003 and has been a sore point with Europe Air Sports and other bodies, who perceive it as being a heavy load for non-commercial light aviation (below 5700 kg). Consequently, implementation was deferred to September 2008 and EASA has established two working groups consisting of European GA experts to look at the ruling.
The results of their efforts are published on the EASA Web site. Anyone wishing to attend the meeting can go to this page and book online.
IAOPA Europe reports that there is currently zero VAT imposed on aircraft and parts bought in Denmark, so many Europeans either buy their aircraft through Denmark or have their aircraft serviced or repainted there. This has proven a much-needed shot in the arm for a sickly GA industry in Europe and the Danish aviation industry has done well from the deal.
However, the Danish Ministry for Taxation is proposing to add 25 percent VAT to aircraft purchases, parts and services. This is the highest VAT rate in Europe and will therefore destroy the healthy GA market there. In future, aircraft owners will likely look towards lower-VAT countries, such as Luxemburg or Cyprus.
AOPA Denmark is fighting this proposal and I will report in more detail next month. The proposal is doubly unfair since all other transportation services in Denmark are VAT exempt.
One of Europe's most famous GA institutions, Germany's Aerokurier magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary last month. Aerokurier organized a big fly-in at the former U.S. Air Force Base in Bitburg, Germany. Publisher Motor Presse Stuttgart GmbH hosted the international anniversary fly-in in cooperation with Bitburg airfield on Aug. 25. More than 300 aircraft took part, making it the busiest day ever for Bitburg airport. Readers came from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Luxemburg. Every crew received an anniversary welcome package, which included an anniversary mug.
Red Bull drew a crowd of 600,000 to Porto to watch the latest round of its Air Race series. Surprise winner was Briton Steve Jones, who beat series leader Mike Mangold of the U.S. in the final. A second Briton, Paul Bonhomme, took third spot. Mangold has strengthened his pole position, leading the series with 41 points. Bonhomme is trailing him by two points. With two races left, there is still everything to race for.
In a bid to combat falling membership, the U.K.'s Popular Flying Association (PFA) is changing its name to the Light Aircraft Association (LAA). The organization says that its brand image is currently vague and poorly presented. Additionally, there is a feeling that as GA expands into more light aircraft, the association must take advantage of any new opportunities that will open up.
I'm writing this month's column from Hong Kong, where I've been attending the first Asian Aerospace show. It's been an interesting few days, with plenty of welcome GA news. Cirrus and Diamond are here, as well as Hawker Beechcraft and the U.S.'s Liberty. Flight training is becoming a huge industry in the region and foreign schools are out in force in a bid to capture a burgeoning market catering for the explosion of new airlines here.
For example, training specialist Aviation Australia is offering maintenance and engineering training as well as cabin crew and flight operations courses. CEO Paul Bredereck says the company is unique in that it is a not-for-profit organization, with any profits being reinvested in course material and services. "The Queensland government identified the skills shortage to support the growing needs for the aerospace industry in the state," says Bredereck. "We were set up in 2001 to increase the skilled workforce with 21st Century capability."
In addition to what's happening at the Expo center itself, readers might also be interested to know that there is a large exhibition in Hong Kong's international Chep Lap Kok airport encouraging people to learn to fly. This is a welcome change as it has traditionally been prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain and maintain a PPL here. There's a lovely old Beagle Pup at the heart of a large display on when and where to go.
If you'd like me to cover anything in particular, drop me a line.
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest Liz Moscrop's columns.