The UK Government has pledged backing for its business-aviation operators in ensuring a "level playing field" in Europe when full cabotage is introduced in 1997.

The promise was delivered at the annual conference of the General Aviation Manufacturers and Traders Association, which urged its members to exploit the mainland European market while preparing for the reciprocal challenge from foreign competitors.

Department of Transport (DTp) senior civil servant Bronwyn Hill told delegates from more than 50 companies - which have long complained of unfair treatment on mainland Europe - that the UK Government will back them if other nations fail to play by the rules.

Hill also says that, "in principle", companies can now establish themselves in other countries, provided that they obtain operators' licences there. From 1997, they will not need separate licences.

Aviation lawyer Ian Clark warns that, despite the promised "level playing field" in 1997, "...the going will be better in some parts of the pitch than in others".

He says that economic and regulatory factors are certain to make some states more attractive options as bases for operators than others.

Clark also expresses the view - sure to be controversial in some regulatory quarters - that, if operators dry-lease aircraft which have not been type-certificated in the new country of operation, they cannot be made to register and certificate them.

He continues: "It is going to be worthwhile considering, now and later, whether one has one's nameplate outside the UK, or if costs are going to be less outside.

"Clearly, unless the Civil Aviation Authority can make the costs of UK registration as attractive as elsewhere, then people will go elsewhere. The good news is that there are signs of that in the CAA."

Source: Flight International