The European Aviation Safety Agency has been urged to examine corporate aviation on the continent. The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) says EASA should "review the situation with regard to the regulation of corporate aviation activity in Europe as a matter of urgency".
But the European Business Aircraft Association (EBAA) counters that parts of the charter sector of the general aviation industry, not the corporate sector, is at issue, and the situation cited by the AAIU reflects a need for enforcement of existing regulations rather than the creation of more rules.
The AAIU made its recommendation as a result of an investigation into a non-fatal accident involving a Schweizer 300CBi light piston helicopter in September 2007, but this is not the first time Ireland has raised the issue of extending Joint Aviation Regulations as they apply to business aviation.
In the Schweizer accident, a passenger received spinal injuries. The passenger owned a turbine-powered Hughes 500 and employed a professional pilot, but because the Hughes aircraft was undergoing maintenance, the pilot arranged to hire and fly the Schweizer (G-CDTK). The aircraft ran out of fuel and he had to carry out an autorotative landing.
Among the conclusions about the accident flight, the AAIU says: "The pilot lacked detailed knowledge of the helicopter's fuel consumption rate and of the point where the low fuel contents warning system should illuminate...[and] had very limited experience for the type of flying operations he was engaging in."
The accident occurred during an autorotative landing when the helicopter ran out of fuel, and the pilot flared too early, resulting in a high rate of descent at impact, says the report.
The Irish authorities are concerned that existing regulations allow too much discretion for owners and operators to operate aircraft against ad hoc arrangements that are not conducive to safety.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has recently been urged by the National Transportation Safety Board to clarify the lines of responsibility that cover cases when operators are chartered to fly aircraft under a business name other than their own.
EBAA president Brian Humphries says that the ad hoc chartering of aircraft and helicopters is already well regulated, but the situation remains under review by the association, working with EASA.
He believes that improved enforcement of regulations and industry standards by aviation authorities is likely to have a greater benefit for the safety of the charter section of the general aviation industry than simply creating more regulation.
The AAIU sent the final draft of its Schweizer report and recommendations to the EASA last September and received an acknowledgement, but says it has otherwise had no response from the agency.
Meanwhile, it notes, the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment has declared that it has set up a working group with EASA and the FAA to review the requirements for flight recorders and GPS avionics for the general aviation industry.