At a conference session here at EBACE this morning, delegates will hear an update on where business aviation stands in relation to long-awaited revisions to the European Commission’s EC2320 rules. As is the case with many other regulatory areas, the core concern for the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) is whether the requirements will be proportionate and appropriate to a mode of operations that is fundamentally different from the airlines for which these rules were essentially conceived. The terrorist attacks in the U.S., Spain and London have forced countries to strengthen their transport security measures, but there is not always agreement on how far such measures can go before becoming invasive and overly expensive.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, aviation security moved rapidly up the political agenda. The European Union adopted its first common rules in 2002, with detailed provisions on access to sensitive airport areas and aircraft, as well as passenger screening and baggage handling, control of cargo and mail, staff screening and training, and the classification of weapons and other items prohibited on board airplanes or in airports.
International Cooperation on Security Issues
In September 2005, the European Commission (EC) proposed amending its 2002 rules (outlined in the EC2320 legislation) and introduced the idea of placing armed air marshals on flights. Both the European Parliament and Council of Ministers supported the suggestions but stressed that placing armed officers on flights must remain subject to approval by states of departure, overflight and arrival.
One year later, following the discovery of a terrorist plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto aircraft flying from the UK to the U.S., the EC adopted rules limiting the size of hand luggage and the amount of liquid that can be taken on flights. The new rules went into effect on November 6 last year.
The 9/11 attacks and subsequent incidents in Madrid and London have led to closer cooperation between the EU and the U.S. on transport security, but some of the measures proposed have led to transatlantic disagreements. This is particularly the case for records of passenger names. These are files created by airlines for each passenger when a journey is booked, and stored in the airlines’ reservation and departure control databases.
In April, members of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee unanimously backed a report demanding that the cost of measures for fighting terrorism in airports and on airplanes be shared by national governments. In cases where a member state wishes to impose more stringent measures than those set at EU-level, it will have to cover the entire cost itself.
The aim of these provisions is to avoid any distortions of competition between airports and air carriers in different member states, while at the same time ensuring that security measures are carried out to the highest standard at all airports, rather than at the lowest cost. European Union governments rejected such provisions in a first vote on the draft law at the end of last year, and it looks likely that Parliament and member states will have to hammer out their differences within a special conciliation committee.
Both the Association of European Airlines (AEA) and the Airports Council International Europe have warned against the ever-increasing cost of aviation security, which now represents up to 25 percent of operating costs for European airports. They believe that countering the threat of terrorism is a national security duty and government must therefore help finance the costs linked to protecting the general public, as it does in the U.S.
The air transport groups have also stressed that security measures must remain risk-based. Regarding the transfer of passenger data, the AEA believes passenger data requests present a financial burden while “posing a risk to quality customer service” and raising “legitimate data-protection and data-privacy concerns.”
Impact on Business Aviation
New security restrictions on commercial air travel have prompted business executives increasingly to consider the ease and comfort of private aviation. EBAA is leading the policy debate on the development of appropriate security rules for business aviation operations in Europe. At the same time, operators are also working closely with the EBAA to review the best operating practices for the industry when considering terror threats.
“Business aviation is committed to continuing to deliver best-in-class security standards. However, different means will work best for small aircraft, and both the EC and other major nation states are increasingly recognizing this reality,” EBAA manager for European affairs Pedro Vicente Azua told EBACE Convention News.
Currently, EU Framework Regulation 2320/2002 requires screening for all operations (except noncommercial) of aircraft weighing less than 10 tons maximum takeoff weight or carrying fewer than 20 certified seats, and for airports conducting a yearly average of two commercial flights per day. In theory, these rules are supposed to be applied to most bizav operations, but widespread inconsistencies exist among EU states as to how these are applied in practice.
This problem should be resolved through the redrafting of EC2320, which should be achieved by the end of this year. At the same time, the EC is preparing a detailed set of requirements for security procedures relating to the legislation but it will not be in the public domain. EBAA sits on the EC working group preparing these changes.
The EC’s proposal for business aviation is to completely exempt aircraft below a certain mtow and carrying fewer than 20 seats. It will then institute specific requirements for aircraft below a higher mtow and with fewer than 20 seats.
“Like the railways, business aviation uses a vast number of departure and arrival points. It is an open system, unlike airline security which forms a closed system,” said an EBAA spokesman. “Therefore security measures must be proportionate to the risk and consequences and the size and nature of the business. Identification of passengers and validation prior to boarding are more effective tools than allowing all to board and attempting to deny them the means to do harm.”
Included in the rules being drafted for business aviation is the requirement that all operators adopt a written security program containing a provision that full screening be mandated when passengers move from groundside to airside and that passengers be pre-identified by a “lead booker” who provides a passenger list for the manifest. Passengers’ identity would have to be checked before they board if the passengers (or main passenger) are not recognized. On the rare occasions when a passenger is not known and has not been validated, both passenger and luggage will be screened.
The EC and European Union member states have agreed to work on draft rules based on aircraft weight and the concept of “known consignor” whereby operators and their clients commit to providing sound security information and validation procedures. The size of the airport will be taken into account to determine how security will be carried out in practice.