BBGA Mulls Brexit Uncertainty

 - March 8, 2019, 5:19 AM

The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) has completed a member-led review of its strategy, BBGA chairman and Gama Aviation co-founder Marwan Khalek told members at association’s annual conference in London yesterday. With this in place, Khalek said it is now time for him to stand down and allow a new chair to bring a fresh approach. The new chair will be elected in a few weeks, BBGA sources confirmed, with several “excellent” candidates apparently considering the position.

BBGA has also moved into a closer relationship with the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), which with NBAA will once again hold the EBACE convention in Geneva in May.

While “STEM Jobs & Skills” was the theme of the conference, with several illuminating presentations from the likes of the new Stansted Aviation College, there were panel sessions covering topics such as the increasing difficulties business aviation is having getting access to airports—chief among them the to-be-repeated summer nighttime bans at London Luton and Stansted.

But this is a Europe-wide problem at larger airports, and even slot coordinator ACL was unable to reassure delegates—all it can do is follow the EU slot regulation, which BBGA tried unsuccessfully to influence in its infancy. Calls at this session were some sort of system to fence off slots for non-scheduled operations, given it is a key economic contributor. A NetJets representative described how difficult its life has become at Luton, and he said it now used Farnborough much more, preferring non-slot-controlled airports.

A round table on illegal charter showed just how much a gray area this is, with the Emiliano Sala accident near the Channel Islands last month cited as an example. Industry participants clearly would like to see flight-sharing services such as Wingly shut down, on the basis the public doesn’t know the risks. Edwin Brenninkmeyer, CEO of Biggin Hill-based Pilatus dealer Oriens Aviation, argued that while private aircraft owners find it useful to be able to share costs with family and friends, the broader public are unaware of the difference between commercial and private flying, and the EASA cost-sharing rules that now allow non-commercial flights to be advertised is misleading. "It is this element of cost-sharing legislation that is one of the worst things ever to be introduced,” he said. 

A presentation followed from Grant Shapps MP, who said 213 British parliamentarians had now signed up in support of the All Party Parliamentary Group for GA, giving the sector a fighting chance of saving airfields that are being threatened by housing developers, for example. He was challenged by Andy Patsalides, marketing director at London Biggin Hill Airport, who suggested business aviation didn't seem to be part of the picture. Shapps said the group also represented the interests of “aviation in general” and that the grassroots was important, coming back to the shortage of pilots and other aviation skills.

Finally, the organizers kept everyone to the end by leaving Brexit until last. The panel included Richard Moriarty, CEO of the UK CAA, who assured the audience that his “door is open” for anyone with concerns over “no deal” becoming a reality on March 29. He said he had a large team working on the various issues and licensing alone had to draft in an additional 50 temporary personnel to help with, for examples, license transfers to EU states.

The delegates were clearly perplexed that the UK government and EU had still not sorted things only three weeks from the deadline. “We never expected to be in this position,” several said with incredulity.