IAOPA-Europe e-news, March 1st 2008

Welcome to the bi-monthly e-news of IAOPA-Europe, which goes out to 23,000 AOPA members in 27 countries across Europe.


Three months to go to the IAOPA World Assembly in Athens – see details at the foot of this e-news.


Fuel tax rebate?

AOPA-Germany's successful campaign for a fuel tax rebate for general aviation users could translate into a multi-million-euro payback for the GA industry in every country in Europe.

A two-year legal battle which resulted in victory in the courts has entitled every German aviator to a fuel tax rebate on all flying for business related activities, including corporate flying, commercial flight training and aerial work. Private pleasure flying is not eligible.

AOPA-Germany based its claim on a European Court judgement dating back to June 1999 when the airline Braathens challenged the Swedish imposition of an environmental tax on aviation over and above EC-harmonised levels. The court ruled that Sweden's action was incompatible with EC tax harmonisation.

The court's judgement said: "The obligation imposed by Article 8(1)(b) of Directive 92/81 to exempt from the harmonised excise duty mineral oils supplied for use as fuel for the purpose of air navigation other than private pleasure flying may be relied on by individuals in proceedings before national courts in order to contest national rules that are incompatible with that obligation."

Using this ruling, AOPA-Germany's lawyer and tax expert Prof. Gustav Real went to court of defend a pilot who flies a rented Mooney for both private and business purposes, and who had had his claim for a fuel tax rebate refused by German customs. The pilot won the case, and the pilot had his entire rebate claim paid in full.

On the basis of this ruling, AOPA-Germany is promoting claims for rebates for all business-related flights, and is also lobbying politicians to extend the concession to private flying. Although Customs lost the case, they have continued to reject applications for a refund, so it is unlikely that tax rebates will be paid out unless pilots take the matter to court. The EU legislation is in conflict with German national law, which the tax authorities consider themselves to be bound by.

The Court directive defines private pleasure flying as: 'The use of aircraft by its owner or the natural or legal person who enjoys its use either through hire or through any other means, for other than commercial purposes and in particular other than for the carriage of passengers or goods or for the supply of services for consideration or for the purposes of public authorities.'

Several other European AOPAs are now consulting with tax experts in their own countries to see if similar tax rebates can be won. More details will follow as they become available.


EC promises better future for GA

The European Commission has produced a bold new report which seems to show that it understands general aviation, sees why it is suffering and intends to decrease the pressure of the regulatory boot on the industry's neck.

The report, titled 'An agenda for sustainable future in general and business aviation,' gives real cause for optimism that the EC intends to remove some of the unnecessary burdens under which the industry suffers. It speaks of the need for GA, and the requirement for a level of regulation suited to the industry. It will begin by compiling for the first time realistic data on GA's contribution in Europe, its effects and its needs.

The report is the result of a meeting between IAOPA representatives and EC Aviation Commissioner Daniel Calleja Crespo in 2006, which was attended by IAOPA president Phil Boyer, chairman John Sheehan and UK chief executive Martin Robinson. At that meeting Mr Calleja promised a 'white paper' dedicated to the industry.

The resulting report contains a lot of positive notes for GA. Says Martin Robinson: "There's a real sense that the EC understands the problems and has the will to address them. This could be the beginning of a tremendously important process of revitalization for GA, and the Commission is to be commended on its initiative."

EC Vice President and Transport Commissioner Jacques Barot said on publication of the report: "We fully recognise the value of non-commercial aviation and intend to work with this sector in Europe, as it is a large source of employment, expertise, technology and revenues."

Apart from calling for proportionate rulemaking, the report takes up the issue of EC insurance requirements, where the one-size-fits-all approach has had a devastating effect on the air display sector. The EC will submit a report on insurance to the European Parliament by April 30th.

The report gives comparative statistics which indicate that GA aircraft outnumber commercial aircraft by ten to one, and while 30,000 airports are served by commercial connections, 100,000 are used by GA. "European aerial works companies provide high-value specialised services, both in the Community and third countries," it says. "Recreational and sport aviation is one of the big sources of qualified aviation staff for airlines and supporting services. Many of the trainee pilots and engineers, after building the number of their hours in the air or in the hangar, subsequently move to work in the airline industry. Aero clubs and air sports organisations promote individual's qualities, technical knowledge and aeronautical skills, especially amongst the young citizens of the European Union, raising their interest in the highly demanding and motivating air sports and future careers in commercial aviation or aeronautical research and development."

*A fuller version of this story can be read in the February 2008 issue of General Aviation magazine on www.iaopa-eur.org. See page 5.


8.33 kHz breakthrough

IAOPA has won significant concessions on the spread of 8.33 kHz radio with an agreement across Europe that they will not be mandated below FL195 until at least 2013 and possibly later.

Eurocontrol claims there aren't enough frequencies to go round and is demanding that every aircraft re-equip with 8.33 kHz-spaced radios, a demand that is estimated to cost the European GA industry some 2 billion Euros. But IAOPA has demonstrated that this expenditure would be unnecessary if Europe got its act together on the existing frequencies. At the moment frequencies are allocated by individual countries, with each VHF frequency having an exclusive zone of up to 300nm around it. Huge numbers of frequencies have been allocated but are virtually or completely unused. IAOPA has pointed out that if the 27 frequency allocation offices in Europe were replaced by two people in Brussels, far better use could be made of the spectrum. The 27 offices disagree.

Michael Erb, managing director of AOPA Germany and a doctor of economics, has produced a technical paper showing the massive wastage in the current system. Martin Robinson says: "This is an excellent paper which shows there is plenty of capacity in Europe without 8.33 kHz. Eurocontrol have tried to ignore this paper so we have taken it to the European Commission, who asked Eurocontrol for an explanation. Eurocontrol tried to blind them with science, but the Commission has requested a full study and analysis. Their request seeks 'further information from Eurocontrol on how the current utilisation of the band could be assessed, and the potential gains which might be expected from improved practices. The outcome would provide the proper basis for a decision on the expansion of the newly adopted Regulation to the airspace below FL 195.'

"At a meeting in December I was able to ask the chairman of the EC's Industry Consultation Body if the ICB endorsed the EC's letter to Eurocontrol, and in effect they have no alternative but to do so. Eurocontrol is now bound to carry out the request. The earliest 8.33 kHz can now be mandated is 2013, and it may take longer."

Dr Erb adds: "This is a welcome development that will potentially save European general aviation many millions of Euros. A well crafted Europe-wide frequency utilization plan should easily prevent users of the lower airspace from having to re-equip with radios with channel spacing less than the existing 25 mHz."


Saving a lifesaver

AOPA-UK is seeking the help of all European AOPAs to help save Britain's IMC rating, which is threatened by EASA's takeover of flight crew licensing.

The IMC rating is designed to get low-time private pilots out of trouble should they inadvertently encounter bad weather. Its syllabus, written by AOPA-UK more than 30 years ago, provides for 15 hours of flight training under instrument conditions and a good enough working knowledge of radio aids to get an aircraft safely onto the ground. Even though the IMC rating confers no special privileges on the holder, more than 25,000 people have undertaken the course, including many from outside the UK who realised the safety benefits. The fears of some professional pilots who originally thought it would encourage unqualified people to fly in IMC have been proved groundless, and the IMC rating is credited with saving many lives. The British government, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the British Airline Pilots Association support the IMC rating without reservation.

But EASA's FCL-001 committee, which has been deciding which national ratings to adopt across Europe, is virtually unanimously opposed to the IMC rating, with members saying that the only suitable qualification for flying in IMC is an Instrument Rating. AOPA-UK believes they have misunderstood the IMC rating, which does not allow the holder to fly on airways – it simply gets him out of trouble. EASA is sympathetic and has given the UK four years in which to explain the situation to the rest of Europe.

At the next Regional Meeting in April, AOPA-UK will be asking each country to lobby its national authority in favour of the IMC rating. It is also pursuing the issue with the European Commission, with EASA directly, and with other bodies.


Danish VAT reprieve

The Danes will continue to levy VAT on aircraft at zero percent at least until the end of 2008 and possibly longer following a lobbying campaign involving AOPA-Denmark.

Importing aircraft through Denmark has become big business since the VAT anomaly was identified, and one company in particular – Opmas – has created an industry from it. Many hundreds of aircraft have been brought into the EC through Denmark, then moved on to other countries as VAT-paid. Tax authorities outside Denmark have confirmed that the system is wholly legal.

The EC has been pressuring Demark to raise the VAT rate on aircraft to 25 percent, but the lobbying campaign has stressed that Denmark's GA industry, which thrives on zero-rate VAT imports, would be devastated by the change. On Wednesday February 20th the Danish tax minister presented the latest draft of a VAT law amendment in Denmark which postpones any change until January 1st, 2009.

Lasse Runghold, CEO of Opmas, says: "We have very good reason to believe the law change will be postponed even further to January 1st 2010 but we will know for sure in the coming weeks. It seems that our lobbying efforts have been fruitful. The Danish GA trade industry organisation, of which I am chairman, AOPA and several other parties with an interest in these matters have worked very hard on several fronts to achieve this. We are very happy that it seems we have been effective."

Jacob Pedersen of AOPA-Denmark says: "This is good news for all European aircraft owners who can still buy their aircraft in Denmark free of VAT. We have uncovered some very fundamental competition problems in the Government's first proposal that make it illegal in relation to EU law. This needs to be resolved and we therefore believe that we can push the date back even further, or maybe avoid it entirely."


Peace Rally

IAOPA Europe, together with the FAI, is planning a Peace Rally to the Middle East in September. The route will include visits to tourist attractions like Masada – the lowest strip on the globe at 1,250 feet below sea level – in Israel, Petra in Jordan, and the Valley of the Kings and the pyramids in Egypt.

The Rally will take in 18 countries, runs from September 1st to 15th and will involve participants from Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece as well as from many European countries. Full details have yet to be finalised, but you can keep up with the details on the website www.airshow.lu – click on 'Rally'.

AOPA Israel has a new website address at www.aopa.org.il, with an English section including information about flying to Israel and around the country. The association has recently completed refurbishing its offices in Herzliya Airport, the biggest general aviation hub in Israel, located 10km north of Tel Aviv and very near the coast. All AOPA members are invited to visit. Opening hours can be found on the English section of the website.

AOPA Israel had its annual general assembly meeting on February 11th and also held its biannual election to appoint a new managing board. Five of the nine board members are new faces. Names and contact details could be found on the website.


Munich – can you help?

AOPA-Germany is fighting to save Munich's Fuerstenfeldbruck airport for GA and is seeking help from all AOPA members to put pressure on the state president.

Fuerstenfeldbruck is a former military airfield which the Bavarian parliament wants to devote to unspecified "non aeronautical" use. But its loss would effectively exclude GA from the Munich area. Munich's main airport, Franz Josef Strauss, is closed to GA, as is a secondary airport at Oberpfaffenhofen. An alternative aerodrome called Jesenwang has a runway only 408 metres long.

In a petition to Bavarian state president Gunther Beckstein, AOPA-Germany points out that loss of the airport would fly in the face of the European Commission's agenda for a sustainable future for general aviation, and would isolate Munich as far as business aviation was concerned.

If any AOPA member has business in the Munich area or needs to travel there, please write to Beckstein pointing out that Fuerstenfeldbruck's closure would be Munich's loss. The address is:

Bayerischer Ministerpräsident
Herrn Dr. Günther Beckstein
Bayerische Staatskanzlei
Franz-Josef-Strauss-Ring 1
80539 München
Germany

Telefax: +49 89 29 40 44


Sweden investigates GA datalink

AOPA-Sweden, together with other GA associations, is working closely with the Swedish Air navigation service provider LFV on a project for GA datalink communications.

At the start of this year LFV launched a project called 'Datalink services for General Aviation' which aims to improve services to GA airspace users by establishing digital communication between aircraft and air traffic control.

The first phase of the project will assess the feasibility of implementing data-link services for the GA sector and will establish which services are of most benefit to airspace users and ATC.

LFV believes such a system will improve safety for all airspace users, while AOPA-Sweden recognises that such datalink services would help to guarantee GA access to controlled airspace.

The focus will be on three groups of services:

• New means of surveillance, including improved surveillance coverage.
• Flight information services (weather, NOTAM etc.)
• New means of sharing information between airspace users.

The first phase of the project will be completed during 2008.


In memoriam – Jack Meinl

Julius 'Jack' Meinl, one of Austria's most experienced pilots and long-standing president of AOPA Austria, passed away on 4th January 2008. Jack, born on October 27th 1930, got his first flying lessons in the 1940s in a British Royal Air Force Tiger Moth – an aircraft which his son arranged for him to fly on his last birthday. When he returned to Austria in 1953 to take over the presidency of the family-owned coffee enterprise Jack started using his aircraft for business trips all over Europe. In the LORAN era Jack Meinl crossed the Atlantic in his Turbo Commander, and he brought the same high standards to general aviation that he demanded in his company. His technical skills and knowledge often surpassed those of experienced mechanics, and he was able to set up and successfully develop his own maintenance company, Gate V.

Jack Meinl never believed blindly in authority. He was a true liberal, his mind always open to new ideas. Adventure attracted him. He flew his first round-the-world flight in a Bombardier aircraft, landing on tiny atolls in the Pacific or the strip in front of the Wichita production line. Air rallies were one of his passions, and he combined his aerial adventures with his business, enjoying Julius Meinl Coffee on the shores of Lake Baikal or in Uzbekistan, negotiating in Saudi Arabia in a tent with camel meat roasting on a spit, and visiting with coffee producers in Brazil. And a trip to Julius Meinl at his restaurant in Vienna's Graben was always a treat.

Jack Meinl, co-founder of AOPA-Austria and its president for more than 30 years, rarely missed a World Assembly or Regional Meeting. His advice was respected; his interventions on the national or European level were effective and his keen humour illuminated general aviation. The values he espoused, his openness and his desire for adventure encouraged others to look and think far beyond the horizon. – Ruedi Gerber, IAOPA Vice President for Europe


Greece welcomes GA!

Greece, which has in the past has a reputation for being one of the most difficult countries in Europe through which to fly, is throwing open its airspace to welcome GA for 'Icarus 2008', the First International Athens Aero Expo in June.

GA aircraft will be exempt from handling charges at all Greek airports in June, while Tatoi Airfield (LGTT) outside Athens, where the Expo is being held, will have no landing fees, no PPR requirement, no airport taxes and cheap fuel. The Expo coincides with the 24th IAOPA World Assembly, where representatives of 66 AOPAs worldwide meet to discuss common issues.

Key speakers at the World Assembly will be David McMillan, Director General of Eurocontrol, Daniel Calleja, EC transport commissioner, Karsten Theil, Regional Director of ICAO, IAOPA President Phil Boyer, and Bruce Landsberg, Executive Director of the Air Safety Foundation. Delegates have registered from all over the world. AOPA Pakistan will be attending their first World Assembly, Japan and Lebanon are sending three delegates, and non-AOPA countries like Nigeria are sending observers.

The Expo and the Athens World Assembly have come about almost wholly because of the drive and commitment of AOPA-Greece executive Yiouli Kalafati, who has worked tirelessly to convince the Greek authorities that their country could benefit hugely by welcoming GA. Good and reliable weather and the attractions of the Aegean Islands make Greece a perfect destination for European general aviation, and Yiouli has convinced the Greek Ministry of Tourism Development, the Hellenic Air Force and other important bodies that restrictions on GA should be relaxed. She has also attracted major sponsors for the Athens Expo, including Aegean Airlines, Air BP, Olympic Airways and the Greek National Tourism Organisation. As well as providing fuel at a five percent discount, Air BP is sponsoring GA initiation flights for members of the public.

Yiouli says: "The European South is one of the fastest-growing aviation markets because of excellent weather, EU enlargement and dynamically growing economies. The world of aviation now has an opportunity to introduce itself and explore the untapped potential of the region while paying a visit to Athens, at the crossroads between East and West, a bridge to the Middle East and the most important economic hub in the south eastern Mediterranean."

Phil Boyer, president of IAOPA, issues a personal invitation to all AOPA members. "Come and visit the land of Icarus, where aviation was born," he says.

Olympic Airways and Aegean Airlines are offering discounts on international and domestic flights to AOPA members during the Expo. Tatoi airfield is located 15 km north of downtown Athens and has excellent road and rail connections. It has a 5,800-ft tarmac runway, and all landing and parking charges are waived from June 6th to 16th.




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