Could ATM make you rich?

Would you invest in an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP)? Their reputation for inefficiency, government influence and resistance to change would suggest your money might do better stored under the mattress. However, the successful flotation of Italy’s ANSP, ENAV, indicates that many investors see some potential in air traffic management (ATM).

In July, the Italian government offered up 47% of ENAV to potential investors. 10% of these shares were reserved for ENAV employees and individual investors, with the remainder offered to large investors such as hedge funds, banks and pension funds. The Italian government maintains its influence, however, through its majority stake.

ENAV shares have proved to be a popular investment. At the time of flotation, demand for ENAV shares outstripped supply eight times. Since then, the share price has remained above the initial offering of €3.30 a share.

While it is still early days, ENAV could provide a useful case study for other governments, especially those with large public debts.

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Is there an opportunity to de-regulate European ANSPs?

A recent article in Eurocontrol’s Skyway magazine provides further evidence that competition is starting to emerge between ANSPs. Air traffic flow managers at Maastricht Upper Airspace Centre (MUAC) have noticed a changing in routings through their airspace, as airlines avoid neighbouring expensive airspace. Even though the resulting routes are longer, once the cost of fuel is taken into account, the total cost can be lower. Just don’t tell the environmentalists.

MUAC point to a 5% increase in 2015 in the proportion of aircraft flying on routes through their airspace that limit travel in the more expensive German and British airspace. This change comes at a time when both the German and UK ANSPs increased their route charges, the Belgian ANSP reduced theirs, and the average price of jet fuel fell by almost 30%. The perfect recipe for airlines to re-think their flight plans.

Unfortunately, given the current regulatory set-up in Europe, any such change in airspace patterns is all too quickly posed as a challenge to ANSPs, not an opportunity.

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Finally, an answer to the Heathrow problem?

Is a foreign holiday a luxury, only for those who can afford them? Or a necessity that should be available to everyone regardless of income? According to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), it is the latter. At least if you are British.

The CBT is up in arms at proposals to deal with increasing aviation emissions by introducing some sort of carbon tax. According to the CBT, this approach will mean foreign holidays are no longer affordable for many people. A problem that, in its view, will only be exacerbated by the Airport Commission’s recommendation to expand capacity (and therefore emissions) at Heathrow Airport.

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What Europe and the US could learn from Africa about drones

This week Amazon announced that it would be partnering up with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to test its Prime Air delivery service. Amazon’s tests would involve flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), the use of sensors for avoiding obstacles, as well as the possibility of multiple drones controlled by a single operator.

The CAA has been lauded for its part in allowing these tests. Paul Misener, Amazon’s VP of Global Innovation Policy and Communications, has gone as far as claiming that ‘the UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation’.

Misener’s statement served as a not-so-subtle jab at the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), who released their own drone regulations last month.

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There are no facts, only interpretations

You may remember a report from A4E earlier this year claiming that its members are paying 80% more in airport charges in 2014 than they were back in 2005. Europe’s 21 largest airports – which account for 50% of passengers – were accused of increasing their charges by up to 255%.

This report was cited as evidence that airports were abusing their market power and that further regulation is necessary. A4E were also at pains to point out that, in contrast, airlines had reduced their airfares by 20% over the same period.

It’s a modern day tale of good versus evil.

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Space traffic management: Stratospheric thinking

You might be excused for not paying too much attention to space matters. It has been a sleepy hollow for many years, away from the cut and thrust of ATM reform, unfair subsidies and consumer rights. When space makes the news it is because some very rich person has decided to tackle the last frontier for reasons that seem to be as connected to ego as commerce.

But that image is wrong. In May, US House of Representative appropriators approved an amendment to a bill that will raise the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s FY2017 budget by $1 million.

The budget increase, amongst other signs, portend further expansion of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

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Would the real business aviation please stand up?

Attendees at last month’s European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva may have been left a bit confused. The business aviation industry cannot seem to agree amongst itself what its role is, or who its customers are.

The industry’s representatives are clearly trying to change the image of business aviation. This was evident in the opening general session, which focussed on extolling the benefits of business aviation from a humanitarian perspective and from a pure economics angle.

The speakers were carefully chosen to support this image. We heard a presentation from the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontiers, who pointed out that much of the work his organisation, and other organisations like his, did would not be possible without the ability to charter private aircraft. Meanwhile, the billionaire entrepreneur, Bassim Haidar, explained how owning a private aircraft was a cost-effective way for him to run his business.

All very noble and inspiring.

However, on entering the trade show, the bottles of Moët, personalised cutlery on display, glamorous female attendants, and choice of luxurious interiors suggested that much of the industry is marketing itself at a very different customer.

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The Aviation Advocacy acronym competition

The silly season has not yet quite begun (or given that we are into AGM season, perhaps it has), but we feel a need for a little light relief from all the usual problems of the aviation industry.

As you may be aware, the industry loves an acronym. Our personal favourites include the gloriously cheerful FABs (Functional Airspace Blocks) and GLADs (Global Aviation Dialogues). Or how about SARPs (Standards And Recommended Practices), which frankly suggests a doctor’s appointment is needed.

No new aviation initiative would be complete without its own abbreviation. Yes, the question on everyone’s lips is: what will ICAO’s Global Market Based Mechanism (GMBM) be called?

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Why state-ownership is a red herring

The European Cockpit Association and the European Cabin Crew Association have both recently announced their support of the action group Europeans for Fair Competition (e4fc). Ho hum, yet another aviation body that thinks it will be taken more seriously if it spells like a teenager.

According to its website, e4fc is a coalition of employees, passengers and companies who are fighting to save European aviation. By which it means stop Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways from taking market share from the European carriers. How exactly they will do this is left to your imagination. How this saves European aviation is likewise left unspecified. But it will do it. Trust us. Naturally, there is an opportunity to provide donations towards this noble cause on the group’s website.

The usual allegations against the Gulf carriers are repeated. In e4fc’s opinion, competition in European aviation has been distorted due to the subsidies the Gulf airlines receive, including interest-free government loans and government-backed loan guarantees. This puts the jobs of European aviation workers at risk. Unless, of course, they happen to work for an airport, or the carriers in question, or Airbus.

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Registration and identification: worth the effort?

This article was originally published on Drone Alliance Europe’s website. More information on Drone Alliance Europe can be found here.

In the midst of the on-going discussion over how EASA’s proposed ‘Open Category’ drones should be defined, there remains the issue of identification. Whether or not they are ‘toys’,  identifying them and their operators is vital to maintaining civil order. The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) hosted a workshop in mid-May to discuss how such a system might work in the UK.

Despite a full day of discussion, there was agreement on only thing: there definitely needs to be a system of registration and identification.

The broad spectrum of speakers that the RAeS invited made it difficult to find a consensus.

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