UK government consults industry on foreign aircraft use

UK private aviation organisations are offering to take on greater responsibility for the administration of foreign-registered aircraft based in the country in a bid to lessen the impact of an expected change in UK policy towards “offshoring”.

The UK Department for Transport has issued a consultation document on the operation by UK residents of foreign-registered aircraft. The UK is unusual in Europe in having relatively few restrictions on the practice. The ministry estimates that there are around 1,500 non-European Union-registered aircraft based in the UK, mainly from the USA for general aviation and from Aruba, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands for business aviation.

Foreign-registered aircraft are not subject to UK air operator’s certificate (AOC) rules and there is a fear among air taxi operators that some aircraft are being used for charter operations, undercutting UK AOC holders, says Mark Wilson, chief executive of the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA).

“We don’t want illegal public transport operations, but it’s a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he says, because the UK authorities “have the powers [to stop the practice] already”. The BBGA is calling for additional ramp checks to stamp out the practice, while urging retention of the regulatory status quo as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is scheduled to harmonise rules on foreign-registered aircraft when it takes over operations and licensing from 2007.

However, the transport ministry says there is a safety case for stricter regulation as the UK Civil Aviation Authority has no safety oversight for foreign-registered aircraft based in the UK, nor does the airworthiness body in the state of registration in most cases. “There is no move to change the rules at the moment, we just want to understand why so many aircraft are being registered overseas,” the ministry says.

“We want to be sure that aircraft registered in other countries are registered in ‘safe’ countries.”

However, Martin Johnson, chief executive of the UK arm of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA-UK), says: “We are not seeing N-registered [US] aircraft dropping out of the sky, so is it really a safety argument or is it an administration burden they want to avoid?” AOPA has offered to assume some responsibility for administration, says Johnson.


Source: Flight International