Across the Pond #9: Crises and Promises in Europe
I do get lucky. I'm writing this from the press room in Atlanta, Ga., where I've just been along to the 60th annual National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) exhibition -- and gotten to meet at least one of my U.S. colleagues in person. Meanwhile, over in Europe, it's been a mixed month for GA pilots ...
Crisis for British Private Pilots
Britain's AOPA. has produced a disturbing set of figures that show that 70 percent of U.K. Private pilots don't renew their licenses after five years. Of the 2,500 licenses issued in 2000, only 750 were renewed in 2005. It is also clear that Instrument pilot ratings are down 50 percent, impacting both safety and commercial training. Martin Robinson, chief executive officer of AOPA in the U.K. gathered the figures from the British Civil Aviation Authority. The alarming dropout rate has raised concern and AOPA's corporate members are producing an information pack that explains how to reactivate the private certificate, aimed at attracting private pilots back into the fold. AOPA-U.K. believes that the fallout is due to both expense and over-regulation, as well as the plethora of leisure pursuits that jostle with flying for people's pounds and time. As if this wasn't bad enough, another black cloud on the horizon comes from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is threatening to cancel grandfather rights held by long-term aviators who hold licenses from the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rather than JAR-FCL licenses. Apparently EASA is about to pull the plug on nationally-issued licenses, forcing all European pilots to apply for JAR tickets. The two overwhelming issues are the additional expense caused by having to renew a JAR license every five years, currently GB£55 (around US$110) and the fact that pilots may have to be re-examined to retain their flying privileges.
Also in Britain, the CAA has issued a new student callsign, after a tragedy that saw an inexperienced student pilot killed after he lost control of his aircraft whilst carrying out an unfamiliar maneuver trying to obey an ATC instruction. The crash was the culmination of an unfortunate series of events, so the Air Accident Investigation Bureau has recommended to the CAA that the Manual of Air Traffic Service (MATS) Part 1 and the Radio Telephony Manual (CAP413) should be amended to "emphasize to controllers that pilots identifying themselves as students have limited ability, which must be taken into account when issuing instructions." Pilots will be issued with a "suitable prefix for use in civil radio telephony to signify a student pilot, flying solo." The CAA has accepted both recommendations and is in the process of adapting the manuals.
Next year's largest European GA show organizer has created a second, new, central-European venue in addition to its 2008 London event. I have to fess up here ... I'm helping them promote it. I say this unashamedly as it's great to have anything that develops GA in Europe. (Reread the story above if you need convincing.) AeroExpo has announced a brand-new event taking place in Prague April 25-27, 2008, which builds on its experience of producing successful shows. The organizers have selected Prague because of its location: 70 percent of all European GA takes place within a 500-mile radius of the capital. "We wanted to create a venue that would attract and benefit all the region's key players," said managing director John Brennan. "With business aviation burgeoning in the region and light-sport aircraft becoming a reality, it was the logical next step"
The exhibition will be the only dedicated, GA exhibition in central Europe in 2008. Said Brennan, "It is also the city that most effectively provides the bridge between Western Europe and the emerging countries to the east. Its location at the heart of Europe together with the facilities available means it will be an important venue for exhibitors to showcase their products and services to the European GA market and, in particular, to the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and Russia." The show takes place at Pribram airfield, which offers brand-new, covered exhibition space with adjacent apron, plenty of hard-static display areas and almost unlimited open-air ground suitable for general aviation aircraft. Facilities on the airfield include a small hotel, restaurant, bar, and a conference centre. There is also an internet café and press center on site. The 4,700 ft. tarmac runway is sufficient for aircraft up to business-jet level and is supported by a well-maintained grass runway of equal length. Exhibitors flying into Pribram can taxi their aircraft directly to the static display area. Flight demonstrations will be especially easy to accomplish at AeroExpo Prague.
The AeroExpo team already has a proven history of producing successful shows. June 13-15, 2008 will see around 15,000 visitors descend on Wycombe Air Park near London, U.K., for its third annual event, which will be Europe's largest GA show in 2008.
Svetlana Kapanina is certainly flying the flag for GA. The Russian ace won the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Grand Prix held in Moscow at the MAKS 2007 show last month. This win means she is the first woman to be an overall winner of an international FAI aerobatic competition. More than 600,000 people attended the airshow, where the competition took place. Kapanina won the female category in the 2007 world championships, placed fourth overall and has consistently been the top female competitor in all world and European championships since 1995.
GPS Approval For Non-Precision Approaches ... Almost
Following a trial at six U.K. airfields last year, instrument-rated pilots flying suitably equipped aircraft were invited to try such approaches. The CAA has now issued a brochure detailing how to fly the approaches as part of the preparation for the introduction of non-precision GPS approaches for GA. CAP 773: "Flying RNAV (GNSS) Non Precision Approaches in Private and General Aviation Aircraft" is available from the CAA Web site.
Mangold Triumphs in Budapest
Mike Mangold once again trounced his opponents to take the Budapest leg of the Red Bull Air Race World Series on Aug. 20. Mangold pipped Kirby Chambliss to the post, flown over the famous river Danube in Hungary. Watched by a million spectators, Mangold ousted Brit Paul Bonhomme in the seventh race of the 10-set series. Mangold did particularly well, as it seemed like he lost control of his high-speed Edge 540 and almost ditched at high speed.
Red Bull World Air Race spectators in Budapest were treated to a stunning display by Flying Bulls helicopter ace Rainer Wilke. Piloting a Bolkow Bo-105, his show included gravity-defying rolls and loops. Wilke is a former military pilot and a regular on the Flying Bulls crew, a team which flies stunt and classic aircraft and which was the inspiration behind the Red Bull racing series. Flying Bulls are based in the state-of-the-art, egg-shaped, glass Hangar-7 at Salzburg Airport, Austria, and run by Sigi Angerer, a close personal friend and former flying instructor to Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull's owner.,
Meanwhile, Britain's Steve Jones took his first Red Bull win at Porto, Portugal, beating Mike Mangold in a tight battle over the Douro River in front of 600,000 spectators. He posted a winning time of one minute 10 seconds exactly. Paul Bonhomme took third by winning the consolation race against Peter Besenyei.
World Championships put Microlighting on the Map
August saw the World Microlight Championships in the Czech Republic. Won by the British team after a week of competitive flying, the winners took four gold medals, two silvers and one bronze medal. Seventy-one competitors from 15 countries showed up to pit against each other in 11 events. The competition was held at Usti Nad Orlici, a large glider airfield 100 miles southwest of Prague. Virtual 250-metre gates were dotted over the courses to measure track accuracy and predicted ground speed.
No Need to Feel the Speed in Spain
The Spanish government is examining a new helicopter-based radar system to nab miscreants speeding along the highways. The Direccion General de Trafico (DGT) says the radar system is accurate from an altitude of 1000 feet and a distance of 1 km. The ministry intends to launch a fleet of helicopters to counteract speeding. The aircraft will be equipped with a Wescam MX15 infrared camera, enabling them to zoom in on a vehicle's numberplate while an airborne radar system reads off the speed.
That's all for this month. Looking forward to your comments!
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest Liz Moscrop's columns.