SES draft rules propose exemption for light aircraft

General aviation light aircraft will be exempt from user charges in the proposed European Single Sky (SES) if the European Commission's draft charging regulations are adopted into law, despite opposition from some key states including the UK.

In a significant potential victory for the GA lobby, European Union member states would be required to exempt aircraft with a maximum take-off weight below 2t under the draft proposals, says chairman of the UK General Aviation Safety Council (GASCO) Roger Dunn. Non-EU countries participating in the SES would be likely to follow suit.

The GA community's lobbying efforts at Eurocontrol and the Commission are having a positive effect, said Dunn, speaking at last week's Royal Aeronautical Society Aerospace 2005 conference.

However, Dunn warned against complacency because some states, such as the UK, are dissenting from the current draft position on light aircraft user charges. While the UK does not levy user fees for GA aircraft, the UK Civil Aviation Authority interprets SES framework legislation as implying that no airspace users should be excluded from the charging structure.

Under the draft proposals, mixed visual flight rules/instrument flight rules (VFR/IFR) flights "where they are performed exclusively under VFR and where a charge is not levied for VFR flights", will be exempted, said Dunn.

The draft lists several aircraft categories that states "may exempt from charges". These include military flights, training flights where no passengers are carried, flights for testing ground equipment, flights terminating at the aerodrome from where the aircraft has taken off, and VFR flights of all categories.

As for who pays any costs entailed in service provision for exempted flights, the draft charging regulation says it should not be the operators that are liable for charges. It suggests that "member states shall be responsible for these costs", arguing that taxes paid on fuel by exempted aircraft should be considered adequate financing for such services.

DAVID LEARMOUNT/LONDON

Source: Flight International