Julian Moxon/BRUSSELS

A "SERIOUS DECLINE" in the number of business-aviation aircraft in Europe, and the imminent arrival of tough new regulations, is forcing the European Business Aircraft Association (EBAA) to become more vocal.

Increasing difficulty over access to airports, the need to re-equip to meet forthcoming rules on reduced vertical-separation minima, and some of the highest airport and airspace user charges in the world, says the EBAA, "...threaten the very existence" of many smaller business-aviation operators.

Despite "encouraging" market developments in Eastern Europe and Russia, the European business-aircraft fleet declined by 18% in 1995, from 2,103 aircraft in 1994 (the best year on record) to 1,857 aircraft in 1995. The French fleet saw the biggest drop, falling from 550 aircraft in 1994 to 392.

In contrast, membership of the EBAA almost doubled during the year, to about 200, reflecting what one operator said at the association's convention in Brussels on 26-28 March was a "desperate need" for better representation to put the business-aviation case to bodies such as the European Commission and Joint Aviation Authorities.

Business aviation is now faced with what EBAA chief executive Fernand Francois says is a "new series of possible threats", including the plan to introduce extended-range twin-engined operations regulations for business aircraft, re-equipment with microwave-landing and global-positioning systems, the need to meet the new reduced vertical-separation criteria, and requirements for new 8.33kHz VHF radios and traffic-alert and collision-avoidance equipment.

Zimex Aviation president Hannes Ziegler says, that it is time that European business-aviation operators increased lobbying efforts, to make themselves heard. "Many of the decision and policy makers in the European Union were simply not aware of the economic importance of a business aircraft as a tool for business...because nobody had told them," he says.

Source: Flight International