Trade bodies urge US DoT to act on working group recommendations and ease red tape

Business aviation trade bodies are calling on the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to take urgent action over its working group recommendations for European business aircraft operators, which were submitted last year by a wider industry working group for business aircraft operators (IWG-BAO).

The group headed by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and the National Business Aviation Association was formed two years ago by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) to find a workable consensus on the complex and highly contentious issue of how to regulate fractional ownership operations in Europe where there is no specific regulation equivalent of US FAR Part 91 Subpart K rules.

The final recommendations which were submitted to both the European Commission and ECAC seek to formalise the legal status of fractional ownership along the lines of 91K, but as part of the same package of reforms, the IWG also called for an easing, for European charter operators, of US Part 129 rules by raising the limit of flights to the USA each year from six to 12 without having to apply for a Part 129 licence for foreign airlines, faster processing of applications for commercial flights into the USA, and a relaxation on whole-plane charters so that foreign operators can make such flights into the US without falling foul of cabotage restrictions.

According to EBAA chief executive Brian Humphries, the key to a solution that all parts of the industry can accept, is getting US authorities to ease access restrictions that are resented by European charter operators. "This arrangement was also supposed to be a quid pro quo," says Humphries. He adds: "We are in the frustrating position that the industry agrees, but we cannot get the politicians to act."

Opponents of the IWG recommendations argue that US operators, particularly fractionals, face fewer restrictions when flying from the USA to Europe. Denis Famin, president of French charter operator Unijet, and EBAA board member, says: "The current situation is completely unsatisfactory. For example US operators, notably NetJets, can fly from the US to Europe and back again via different countries, we cannot. US operators can also fly to Europe with very little notice, but we are faced with a raft of time consuming and unnecessary rules to get access to the USA. Perhaps we should treat US operators in the same way."

Famin fears the adoption of equivalent 91K rules for fractionals in Europe could have a dramatic impact. For example a US registered NetJets aircraft might be used to increase or fill the capacity in its European operation which currently deploys regional charter companies to plug these gaps. "NetJets will become a monster," he says. "Our only leverage with US regulators is NetJets. If they don't start to change conditions for European operators we should advise ECAC not to proceed any further with the IWG proposals for fractionals," Famin says.

Source: Flight International