BBGA: reg changes need attention now

 - March 25, 2008, 6:19 AM

Demonstrating environmental responsibility while remaining operationally viable is the biggest challenge facing business aviation, according to the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA). But along with its European colleagues, the UK industry also faces potential difficulties with new security requirements covering border controls and the prospect of wider powers for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

“The British economy is threatened by restrictions on business aviation and foreign business visitors must not be made to feel like second-class citizens,” declared BBGA’s new patron, HRH Prince Michael of Kent, in a keynote address to the association’s annual conference in March. Addressing the mounting environmental issue, Prince Michael added, “Business aviation is the ultimate minority interest, and it is easy to portray it as a wasteful use of resources despite the fact that [British business aviation produces] one five-thousandth of annual [British carbon] emissions–equivalent to just one London rush hour. Nonetheless, we must be seen to be acting responsibly by voluntarily offsetting emissions. We have to win our right to continue flying.”

The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) is lobbying the European Commission and the European parliament to keep business aviation out of the mandatory emissions trading scheme (ETS) that will be imposed on the air transport sector in 2011. It contends that aircraft weighing less than 20 metric tons or certified for less than 20 passengers should be able to have an alternative means of compliance.

EBAA is proposing that this alternative means of compliance could be a voluntary carbon offset program such as the new Carbon Balance Scheme the BBGA introduced. Brussels-based EBAA is proposing that it could establish a not-for-profit foundation that would handle purchasing and administration of carbon offsets for its members.

According to Mark Wilson, director of regulatory affairs for NetJets Europe, the typical administrative cost for business aircraft operators to be part of ETS would be approximately $45,000 per year. Based on a recent study by accountancy group Ernst & Young, proportionally this is about 60 times the cost that major airlines will face.

Another reason why the EBAA believes that the impact of ETS would be disproportionate on business aviation is that the sector is unlikely to get the free allocation of carbon credits that will probably go to the airlines. Wilson predicted that business aviation would likely have to pay for 95 percent of its carbon emissions under ETS. Since under current proposals it will not be able to buy more than 15 percent of its carbon credits from outside the aviation industry, it will have severely restricted buying power, partly because the airlines will have more free credits.

Peter Griffiths, director general of civil aviation with the UK Department of Transport, left BBGA delegates with no doubt that they must confront their environmental responsibilities. While acknowledging that aviation generally accounts for a relatively small proportion of carbon emissions, he stressed that at current projected growth rates the industry’s impact will undoubtedly grow exponentially.

“Aviation is making an increasing contribution to global warming,” Griffiths told the conference. “Other parts of the economy are already making cuts so it is time for aviation to do so. People must be made to pay for the results of their actions.

“Technology alone cannot tackle aviation’s contribution to warming,” the British government official continued. “Within the corporate jet market, new aircraft are achieving fuel consumption improvements that are comparable to the A380 and Boeing 787, but business and general aviation needs to come up with more accurate figures [to prove this]. Growth in traffic will outstrip technological improvements.”

EBAA has taken encouragement from the fact that the European Commission recently published a policy document on “a sustainable future” for business and general aviation that talked about the need for “proportional regulation.” BBGA patron Prince Michael said that such a document would have been “unimaginable” a few years ago when the EC’s attitude towards this sector of aviation appeared to be largely ambiguous.

The BBGA conference also heard that Britain’s business and general aviation community is to be incorporated into the country’s new e-Borders customs and immigration control network by 2011. UK Border Control deputy director Ian Neill said that there is still time for the industry to shape the way the process works in practice. He also claimed that the process will not result in smaller airports being closed to international flights and could actually result in an increase in UK ports of entry.

The new UK Border Agency started operations on March 31, with the intention of rationalizing activities previously handled by the police and separate government immigration and taxation departments. Neill acknowledged that FBOs and operators have faced inefficient processes for exchanging passenger data with three separate agencies and said that the intention now is to operate a single e-Borders “data window” using existing databases.

The UK Border Agency’s goal is to capture 95 percent of all passenger movements in its system by 2010, as it moves towards a full rollout of the e-Borders concept between 2011 and 2013. Current plans call for iris recognition to be part of the border-control infrastructure from 2011.

Neill confirmed that final responsibility for gathering passenger data will lie with the business aircraft operator, rather than with the airport or FBO. He said that changes in passenger rosters will be permitted until the aircraft door is closed.

Get Ready for EASA NPAs
The new “basic regulation” extending the jurisdiction of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to aircraft operations, pilot licensing and regulation of “third country” aircraft could be formally implemented before the end of this month, according to Herbert Meyer, the organization’s air operations manager. He told BBGA delegates to expect a wave of notices of proposed amendment covering topics such as pilot licensing and management systems for operators over the coming months, adding that formal EASA “opinions” on these will likely be published at the end of this year or early next year.

Meyer confirmed that the new EU-OPS operating rules that are to replace the existing JAR-OPS 1 regulations will cover commercial operations of “complex motor-powered aircraft” with a max takeoff weight exceeding 5,700 kg (12,566 pounds) or certified to carry more than 19 passengers. It will also cover any commercially operated aircraft with at least two pilots, or powered by one “turbojet” (turbofan) engine or more than one turboprop.

Finally, Graham Forbes, head of licensing division with the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Safety Regulation Group, said that later this year the agency will publish a report on research into business jet safety. He said that preliminary results show that the safety record of non-commercial business jet operators is as good as that of the airlines. However, he added that the findings for commercial business jet operations are not as positive. Forbes also highlighted an “unacceptably high level of altitude busts and runway incursions” and said that further studies on these issues are now being done in conjunction with the International Business Aviation Council.