EBAA’s Gamba Ready For EU’s New Guard

EBACE Convention News » 2014
EBAA CEO Fabio Gamba (Photo: David McIntosh)
EBAA CEO Fabio Gamba (Photo: David McIntosh)
May 16, 2014, 8:00 PM

The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), which co-hosts EBACE with the U.S. NBAA, plays a central role in fighting for the industry’s interests–with the main focus being on lawmakers in Brussels, where the organization first became known as EBAA in 1984. Some 30 years later the association can boast considerable success in the influence it has had on various issues–from the EU ETS and other taxes and charges, to access to infrastructure such as airports and ATC.

EBAA’s mission statement is that “EBAA aims to promote excellence and professionalism among our members to enable them to deliver best-in-class safety and operational efficiency, while representing their interests at all levels in Europe, to ensure the proper recognition of business aviation as a vital part of the aviation infrastructure, supporting local and national economies.”

Ahead of this year’s EBACE, AIN reporter Nick Klenske sat down with EBAA CEO Fabio Gamba to explore the EU regulatory agenda as the European Parliament prepares for Europe-wide elections later this week, which will ultimately mean it needing to form new relationships with incoming politicians.

What is the most pressing regulatory issue on the EBAA’s agenda?

At the top of the list has to be illegal flights and the impact new regulations will have on business aviation. After carefully defining “illegal flights” and clarifying the scope of the definition, what we learned is that 14 percent of all flights are illegal. This translates into a €1.2 billion [$1.8 billion] loss in revenue to the economy.

With this information, EBAA is working with the European Commission to understand what needs to be done to reduce this impact without being too heavy-handed and burdensome. In other words, we favor taking a preventative approach as opposed to a repressive one.

To succeed, we have to tackle this issue at its root: Why do people fly illegally? We believe that more often than not, it is because the legislative environment is crafted in a way that does not allow one to operate in a sustainable way. When one feels their hands are tied and they have no other choice, they cheat or, in this case, operate an illegal flight.

For example, look at runway use. Commercial flights can use only 60 percent of the runway [in performance calculations], whereas noncommercial flights have access to 100 percent. Thus, there is an incentive to go noncommercial [to get larger aircraft into smaller runways], which is obviously illegal if the nature of the flight implies remuneration.

So in areas like this we aim to establish where the incentives to go illegal are and then focus our actions on removing these root causes.

Speaking of your work with the European Commission, how would you describe the relationship between the EU and business aviation?

For one of the first times, business aviation has its own agenda within the EU institutions.

What I mean is we have a Commission that is open to looking at issues like illegal flights from the narrow perspective of business aviation, as opposed to aviation in general. This is a significant accomplishment.

On this point, is there a risk of “two steps forward, one step back” with the new Commission following this spring’s European elections?

Honestly, I don’t think our work will be affected by a changing of the guards. We talked with the [EC] Vice President, Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas and he showed great interest in the topics we are advocating. We fully expect this interest to be passed on to the next commissioner and his or her team.

With the international community rejecting the EU’s emission trading scheme (ETS), has it fallen off the radar?

As it currently stands, the ETS is a failure. What was originally intended to be a simple and fair tool was transformed into a discriminatory and complex regulation incapable of delivering its intended benefits. That being said, the fact is that operators in Europe will have to cope with this regulation.

EBAA sees this as an opportunity to think “outside the box.” Outside of Europe, we have to face the fact that sooner or later environmental concerns will translate into industry requirements that will impact our sector. Knowing this, we can either do nothing now and then fight for exemptions later, or we can anticipate these changes and take action now.

The latter gives us the opportunity to contribute to the development of these requirements and to create the solutions that cater to our needs.

One topic that will impact business aviation is the Single European Sky initiative. Where is EBAA on this issue?

From a business aviation point of view, our concern is that the Single European Sky initiative is not being implemented as originally planned. Business aviation is a small voice in a noisy environment, and because of this we aren’t seeing our plans incorporated in the Sesar Joint Undertaking’s Master Plan in a way we feel comfortable with.

What EBAA is doing is taking a proactive approach and encouraging sector-financed projects. We hope these projects will prove that the Sesar Master Plan leaves business aviation on the outside looking in.

Can you give us an example?

What we’re essentially doing is identifying, financing and overseeing demonstrations ourselves with the hope of forcing the issue. If we can show that it works, we’ll be harder to ignore.

For example, let’s take providing business aviation with access to major commercial hubs. The Master Plan assumes this cannot be done without impacting scheduled traffic.

The problem is that those business aviation customers who do want to fly into these hubs aren’t allowed to because they do not have the necessary slots, nor can they due to their unscheduled nature.

What our demonstrations aim to show is that business aviation can, in fact, fly into these hubs without interfering with the current scheduled traffic simply by maximizing the use of existing runways via the granting of new, steeper approaches geared toward business aircraft.

We feel, irrespective of whether the project’s validity is demonstrated or not, this is taking a proactive approach that creates a win-win for all involved: On the one hand the business aviation operator would be able to access key hubs. On the other hand, the hubs could generate additional revenue.

The issue of runway access seems to be a topic that touches on many of EBAA’s key issues?

I personally believe access is crucial. Business aviation’s added value is our flexibility, and access is what allows us to be flexible. Without access, the need for business aviation drastically diminishes, and so does its raison d’être.

To ensure our sector remains viable, we must continue to focus on creating access, both to hubs, as said before, but also to secondary or even tertiary airports, via a generalized use of Cat I approaches, by updating existing runways, by investing in new technology.

Although access may be an issue for tomorrow’s agenda, it is definitely an issue that EBAA is focused on today.

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