Ramon Lopez/WASHINGTON DC David Learmount/LONDON

The Clinton Administration has asked the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to arbitrate in its row with the European Union (EU) over plans to limit the number of hushkitted aircraft operating in Europe after the 2002 introduction of a ban on non-Stage III compliant aircraft.

Europe has already moved to May its cut-off date for determining which hushkitted aircraft can continue to fly, but the USA is pushing Brussels to drop the new deadline. The European Parliament is expected to drop all proposed compromises and vote on 30 March in favour of the cut-off.

The EU has about 90 days to respond following the 14 March filing under the little-used ICAO arbitration procedure Article 84. A decision in Washington's favour would put pressure on Brussels to drop its ban or face losing ICAO voting rights, although it will be able to appeal to the International Court of Justice.

EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio claims the US Commerce Department has buckled in the face of US industry pressure in filing its complaint. Hopes for a compromise dissolved at a Brussels meeting with US commerce under-secretary David Aaron, with de Palacio saying the USA had turned down an EU offer to suspend its ruling in return for a US commitment to early negotiation of new Stage IV standards.

An ICAO arbitration verdict could be issued before the end of the year. A senior US Federal Aviation Administration official says he hopes ICAO negotiators will find a solution, but warns: "We stand ready to suspend or create a hiatus in the ICAO process."

Europe says it has moved as far as it can in offering to compromise. Member of the European Parliament David Bowe, a spokesman on environmental issues, predicts a clear vote on 30 March in favour of applying the full hushkit ban.

Source: Flight International