European hopes of speeding up process of matching US regulations fade as countries oppose reclassification

European aviation rulemakers are hoping for an interim measure to legalise the grey area of US fractional-ownership companies operating on the continent, ahead of a lengthy regulatory battle over similar rules for European operators. The US Federal Aviation Administration determined 18 months ago that fractional ownership should be regulated as private aviation, creating a stringent Subpart K to Part 91 rules.

However, most European countries regard fractionals as public transport, creating a limbo for operators entering Europe from the USA without aircraft operators' certificates or permits, says Glenn Cronin, chair of the 42-nation European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC).

ECAC directors general (DG) will meet this month and are likely to approve a short-term recognition of Subpart K, legalising the entry and onward flight by US fractional operators in Europe, although such a decision would be a non-binding recommendation, says Cronin.

The ECAC taskforce has initially suggested bringing European rules into line with those in the USA, with the adoption of similar rules demarcating fractional as private transport, albeit with extra record-keeping requirements and safety constraints.

Hopes for a speedy adoption of an annex to Joint Operational Requirements (JAR Ops) 1 have faded as the transition to the new European Aviation Safety Agency as operations regulator slows the process. Several countries are opposed to the move, so progress through the existing Joint Aviation Authorities is unlikely, says Cronin. "There is no fixed timeframe for the adoption of new rules; ECAC DGs urged the JAA to give priority to the task. We cannot do more than that," he says. Brian Humphries, president of the European Business Aviation Association, says the likely ECAC recommendation "buys us time to allow the status quo and use the wider recommendations as a framework for future regulation".

Meanwhile, pan-European air traffic control (ATM) regulator Eurocontrol has launched a study to define business aviation use of airspace in Europe, after the sector recorded much faster growth than other sectors. Bo Redeborn, director of ATM strategies at Eurocontrol, says there is a need to better understand business aviation flight patterns so the body can "plan and accommodate future requirements".

Business aviation accounted for 4.5% of total flights carried out under instrument flight rules last year, but the sector is growing faster than any other, by 8% already this year, he says.

Destinations under-served by commercial air transport, such as points in eastern Europe, are popular with private aircraft and as such have an impact on future ATM strategies, he says.

Source: Flight International