NBAA Convention News

French strikes beginning to pinch GA

 - October 20, 2010, 3:50 PM

Civil unrest in France, in response to the government's attempt to raise the minimum retirement age to qualify for a pension from 60 years to 62 years, is beginning to affect general aviation operations there.

Although street demonstrations and violence appeared to be abating yesterday about one-third of the nation's high-speed TGV trains were still running behind schedule and truckers were engaging in rolling roadblocks, snarling traffic at several locations throughout the country.

At Paris's two main commercial airports–Charles de Gaulle and Orly–unions announced plans to block access roads. While one-quarter of the flights at Orly were cancelled, mainly due to ATC work actions, traffic at de Gaulle remained normal through Wednesday morning.

President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered police yesterday to clear blockades of fuel depots, which had caused an estimated one-third of the nation's gas stations to shut down.

The airport fuel situation does not appear near as dire, however. Nevertheless, Universal Aviation (Booth No. 3927) is advising its clients to pre-arrange fuel needs, as opposed to expecting on-demand service.

So far, aviation fuel supplies in the Paris and Cote d'Azur regions are holding up, but Universal's Jeff Bistany, UVair director of fuel supply, said outlying areas, particularly the island of Corsica, are being harder hit. On Corsica, fuel supplies at Ajaccio, Bastia and Calvi are reported tight. On the mainland, the airport at Saint-Nazaire was reported out of fuel on Wednesday morning.

Of greater concern is the impact of ATC disruptions because of controller work-to-rule and other delaying tactics, according to Andrew Hughes of handler Ocean Sky. Hughes said those are delaying slot availability and flow control, causing "significant" flight delays that are "having a major impact on the remainder of European air space."

Hughes added, "We have heard warnings about low [fuel] reserves but haven't suffered any problems as a result–yet." He said many intra-European flights bound for France were tankering fuel as a precaution.