A transatlantic war of words over European Commission plans to place serious restrictions on hushkitted commercial aircraft operating in Western Europe has reached new levels following the European Parliament's endorsement of the legislation.

The European Union's anti-noise rule is opposed by the Clinton Administration and most of the entire US aviation industry.

As drafted, the regulation will ban operations by aircraft hushkitted to Chapter 3 standards within the EU from 1 April, 2002, unless they comply with specified criteria in the period preceding a cut-off date of 1 April, 1999.

The legislation will allow hushkitted aircraft on the EU register before 1 April to be transferred freely to registers of other EU states after that date and beyond 2002.

But it will not allow hushkitted aircraft registered in non-EU states to go on flying in the EU after 2002 unless the aircraft have been operated in the EU between 1995 and 1999, and have remained on the same register.

The Clinton Administration says that the rule would harm US air carriers, devaluing the resale worth of hushkitted commercial transports, while trampling on international aviation guidelines set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

In addition, it says that the regional noise law would disrupt transatlantic trade in aircraft, engines and air transportation services while causing US and EU financial institutions to question their reliance on ICAO standards as a basis for financing aircraft.

Senior administration officials say that the rule, if adopted, will have a "profound impact" on US-EU relations and "-will not go unanswered".

The US Department of Transportation says the regulation "-seems to be motivated by a desire to appear tough on noise to placate local constituencies, or by a mistaken belief that US operators will dump hushkitted aircraft in Europe".

The European Commission dismisses US complaints, saying the legislation "-does not discriminate against aircraft or aircraft equipment on the basis of origin". It adds that the ruling is "in line with ICAO standards", and says the USA has "-chosen a national approach on how to fulfil the ICAO resolution rather than apply the joint strategy agreed within the organisation providing for a phase-in period ending in 2002".

It claims that Washington's approach is "-clearly in the US industry's interest, since all manufacturers of hushkits are US-based". The EU Transport Council is due to vote on the new regulations on 29 March, after which they will become law.

Source: Flight International