Senior representatives from international general aviation trade bodies were calling at Aero Friedrichshafen for industry to create a strong united voice within Europe's corridors of power if it is to head off potentially corrosive regulation. Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the International AOPA, which represents 470,000 pilots in 68 countries, said: "It is much more effective to speak with one common voice on the issues that are affecting our industry, including airspace and airport access, aircraft manufacturing costs, the enviroment and security."
Europe is home to a plethora of national and local associations representing diverse sectors of the GA community. "Each of these groups plays an important role but we would like see the industry join together to fight against the issues that impact all sectors of the community," Fuller said. He added that collaboration among aviation groups in the USA has been effective in helping to present a united front against user fees, causing the notion to be withdrawn from consideration for at least two years. "Co-operation by the same user groups helped foster a GA caucus in the US Senate and another in the House of Representatives," Fuller said.
"The challenges internationally and especially in Europe are huge," said Ed Smith senior vice-president of international and environmental affairs for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which represents over 65 airframers. Among the biggest challenges in Europe are the completion of the European Aviation Safety Agency unification process, dealing with environmental issues, and air traffic control modernisation, he said. "We are in the eye of the storm and it's important that all stakeholders come together," he added.
European trade bodies are looking to introduce a version of the successful AOPA-led GA Serves America campaign, which was introduced a year ago to help bolster the industry's shattered image following the a wave of public and political attacks. "This campaign has helped to stop the GA-bashing in the USA and has galvanised existing supporters and elected [political] officials", Fuller said. "[European] decision-makers don't appreciate the value of GA and we have been largely ignored. Now is time to be more vocal and more visible."