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An Aviation Strategy:

Should be all encompassing and a UK strategy should make sure that we remain competitive in the fast moving global economy. The aviation sector provides thousands of Jobs (and tax) to the UK – brings in tourism and facilitates business growth and this includes GA.

However the real divides are:

  • Safety
  • Expansion of CAT flights
  • Environmental impact in noise
  • System delay/ capacity
  • ATM costs. Emissions charges.

Through single European sky legislation, Europe is trying to address many of the issues listed above. For example, the issue of individual states all with their own ATC environment has led to fragmentation, this in turn has led to system delays along with flight inefficiencies, more emissions and so on.

The development of functional airspace blocks was intended to deal with issues like efficiency and emissions. Unfortunately, member-states in my opinion paid lip service to FAB’s on one hand, whereas, again in my opinion the commission’s plan was far too ambitious because they really did not consider properly the social impact of trying to rationalise ACC.

In looking across the Atlantic at the US ATC system, Europe thought why if it is for comparatively similar size land mass (the wider EU is 4% bigger than the USA) why does the USA only need 20 ACC’s, one computer system (one language) and one national airspace? The FAA is both regulator and service provider when the same is not true for Europe (or even the UK). So the commission thought the development of Single European sky regulations sought to deliver a better system. A laudable goal but the member-states have not delivered the way the commission intended them to and today the commission is unlikely to commence infraction proceedings against states for their failure to comply with EU law. 8.33 kHz v c s is another good example of where 19 states are seeking exemptions from compliance on the grounds that they do not need to have additional capacity- What a MESS! A mess created by states agreeing to the regulation (EC 1079/2012) and at the 11th hours seeking exemptions. Why didn’t they input properly to the consultation prior to 2012? Can GA believe what it is being told i.e. the real reasons for the changes- To under pin the FAB’s development users needed to know that the airspace rules would be the same across all member-states- not unreasonable- until you consider the geography of Europe and recognise that a one size fits all approach doesn’t always work. But along came SERA, Single European Sky Rules and the air.

The UK is still trying to resolve the visual flight rules and distance from cloud in class D airspace for example- To tackle the modernisation of air traffic management (ATM) the USA has for many years been developing  technology through Next Gen (Next Generation) whereas Europe has a similar set up through SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research). The differences between the two in my view is about an integrated approach whereas SESAR is more segregated because it is ANSP/Airline centric- this is largely due to the political goals mentioned above when the focus is on the airline/ ATM network and where GA is treated as a second class citizen when we have to fight to get our voice heard over those large commercial interests. But what does GA expect from Europe’s ATM system? In reality GA’s expectations are the same as other airspace users- We expect a safe, expeditious and economic service that supports access to the airspace and airports (integration not segregation) be it for local flights of longer ones through national airspace and across international boundaries.

Most GA aircraft in Europe cannot fly above 12,000 feet as they need oxygen and equipment to handle icing conditions- however with the advert and GPS/GNSS equipment GA should be able to fly more accurate routes.

The commercial air transport sector continues to expand so there is a need, more so than even before, to make sure that GA is not forced to operate in smaller and more complex volumes of airspace. Emissions is a big problem- Europe tried to establish an emissions trading plan but forgot that the rest of the world had not signed up to it- Now the aviation community is seeking CAO to resolve the problem.

Of course the airline industry expects to grow and for the period 2016-2035 traffic is likely to double. ICAO is advocating carbon neutral growth by 2020 with an absolute 50% reduction in carbon by 2050- Currently aviation (airlines mainly) accounts for 2.5% of global Co2 emissions and for 13% of all Co2 emissions from the entire transport sector- so further growth is set against emissions/carbon targets. So that emissions are the lowest they can possibly be, the efficiency of the airspace and airports is a major step along the path for achieving the environmental targets.

As Drones begin to deploy more widely in line with Government policy, GA should take the opportunity to examine where some technology integration could provide improved safety and situational awareness at low cost- One thing I know for sure, Drones are coming- and they will have access to all classes of airspace and GA must integrate becayse being like King Canute is not the solution.

In the USA airspace, users are treated on a first come first serve basis. Europe wants to move towards a best equipped, best served environment where the most equipped get the best service, so for GA things may get worse before they get better. There is also talk of UTM airspace, which is for UAS (drones) traffic management or as I call it, automated traffic management. Never again GA must be included. Looking back at projects like Eurocontrol's ATM 2000 plus, Drones didn’t even appear in the discussions, 17 years on as Drones will IMHO form a major part of aviation discussions over the next few years.

The government, when deciding on airspace use/changes naturally wants to consider the views of the people who live under flight paths or near airports. Aviation must inform society about how it respects its neighbours as we are the guardians of the airspace for future generations.

Blue skies ahead, happy landings!

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