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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Airlines continue to tolerate legacy subsidies

The Russian economy is struggling. Falling oil prices, economic sanctions and the decline in the value of the Rouble have pushed the country into recession. Fortunately its national airline, Aeroflot, can still count on a steady income stream, thanks to the overflight fees it levies on foreign airlines flying across Russian airspace.

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Pot. Kettle. Black.

Last month saw the release of a report commissioned by IATA on the economic benefits of modernising European airspace. It estimates total benefits worth between €126 billion and €245 billion by 2035. (Incidentally, a 2011 report in by the consultancy McKinsey put the benefits at €419 billion by 2030 alone. Have the delays in implementing the Single European Sky (SES) already wiped out €200 billion of benefits?)

The purpose of this report is discussed in this month’s Aviation Intelligence Reporter. Think winning hearts and minds. Or rather, bribing hearts and wallets. It is an attempt to persuade member states of the importance of implementing the SES as soon as possible. The Commission, for too long the misplaced target of the airlines’ ire, must also engage in winning hearts and minds. For the current SES packages to succeed, ANSPs and member states need to be persuaded that there is something in it for them

There is one issue in this report that is worth further discussion.

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The new runway. Who’s going to pay?

With the news this month Dublin Airport is building another runway comes the inevitable questions from airlines – how much is it going to cost and who is going to pay for it?

History suggests that getting all sides to agree on the answers to these questions will not be easy. Back in 2005, the decision to construct a second terminal at Dublin Airport led to a bitter and protracted dispute between Ryanair, daa (the owners of Dublin Airport), and the Irish airports regulator, the Commission for Aviation Regulation. A change in management at daa appears to have led to a closer working relationship between Ryanair and the airport in recent years. The construction of the northern runway will be a vital test of this new friendship.

First, the cost: daa has put the cost of constructing the new runway at €320m. Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair have already questioned this figure, which is almost 30% higher than the original estimate of €250m. Ryanair has previously suggested the runway could be built for as little as €50m although, like many Ryanair statements, a large pinch of salt is required.

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A remote view

This article was original published in the April edition of the Aviation Intelligence Reporter. For information on subscribing to the Aviation Intelligence Reporter, click here.

The great and good of air traffic management gathered in Madrid last month for the World ATM Congress. All anyone could talk about was remote towers. Some were even seen wearing badges with ‘I heart remote towers’ emboldened across them.

Remote towers are taking off, if you’ll excuse the pun. Many are keen to join the cult. There was talk of remote towers operating in Dubai, Germany, Norway and Singapore as well as further operations in Sweden. The idea of extending the notion of remote management to entire airport operations was also touted. LFV, the Swedish ANSP, were keen to be sure that everybody realised they were the leaders in this area.

As positive as the story is around remote towers, it flags up one of the weaknesses of the ATM industry: an obsession with technology as the solution to all its problems.

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Striking controllers demonstrate the scourge of sovereignty

Subtlety is not Ryanair’s strongpoint. Its business has grown on the back of in-your-face advertising campaigns and a CEO not afraid to steal the limelight. Ryanair is essentially the bad boy of European aviation. The cool kid with the devil-may-care attitude, who everyone admires but no one has the guts to be.

Ryanair’s current headline-grabbing campaign is an online petition for, first, the removal of air traffic controllers’ right to strike and, second, to allow other European controllers to manage flights over French airspace during any strikes. Frustrated passengers, whose holiday plans have been scuppered by striking French or Belgian air traffic controllers, are being encouraged to sign up. Once the petition reaches one million signatories, Ryanair will personally deliver it to the European Commission.

Is this anything more than another Ryanair publicity stunt?

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GMBM. It’s a win-win for airlines.

There has been a flurry of press releases as negotiations get underway towards developing a global market based mechanism (GMBM) for the aviation industry. And, boy, does the airline industry want us to know about it. The GMBM is rapidly turning into a PR exercise rather than a means of addressing the impact of aviation on the environment.

Having somehow slipped out from any obligations at the COP21 negotiations in Paris late last year, all eyes are now turned to ICAO and the GMBM. Getting a GMBM agreed at the ICAO Assembly this year will be essential if the aviation industry is to repair some of its tarnished reputation on environmental matters. In this respect the GMBM is invaluable. Media-savvy environmental groups can no longer complain that aviation is doing nothing to address climate change. Passengers will be able to fly without any guilt. And best of all, its effect on fares, and therefore airline profits, will be minimal.

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