Slots, emissions and economy problematical
The 2008 EBACE show will be the biggest yet, but it isn’t size that sets the event apart, according to Eric Mandemaker, new chief executive of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA). “This is such a focused show, focused on exactly that side of aviation that interests us. It’s accessible,” he added. “You can do EBACE in a day.” This year’s event is Mandemaker’s first at the helm of the association representing the interests of European business aircraft operators.
Today’s adverse economic conditions are not damping demand for business aviation in Europe, Mandemaker maintained. Only two EU countries have experienced declining economies recently, he said, and in any case, companies continue to need to do business and are increasing their amount of travel. Business aviation traffic now accounts for eight percent of Eurocontrol IFR movements and is increasing, Mandemaker said. The more critical problem for EBAA members is airport slot restrictions. Given that Eurocontrol knows precisely how much business aviation is using airports and airspace, he said, slots should be distributed to reflect business aviation’s actual use of such resources.
An issue that is a growing concern within the European Union and for EBAA members is environmental restrictions to combat global warming. “The business aviation community will take its responsibility,” Mandemaker emphasized. “We do emit carbon, albeit small.”
The proposed emissions trading system (ETS) primarily is designed for airlines, which generally operate large fleets of airplanes. According to EBAA, ETS is not ideally suited for the many companies in Europe that own one or two aircraft, and there is no accurate way to collect data about the 800 business aircraft in Europe to satisfy the needs of ETS. The cost of administering an ETS for a small or medium enterprise could be prohibitive, too. So EBAA is proposing an alternative method of compliance, an association that any business aircraft operator could join to administer an ETS for the members. The association would be open to operators of jets weighing 5.7 to 20 metric tons or carrying fewer than 20 passengers. This would spread the cost of administering the ETS over hundreds of operators, as well as enable the association to buy carbon credits at volume discounts.
This proposal is still subject to negotiations with the European Commission, Mandemaker said, and while ETS is coming, it isn’t scheduled for implementation until 2011 or 2012. He is hoping to conclude the negotiations this year and at least strike an agreement that doesn’t harm business aviation.
Meanwhile, EBAA and its members are increasingly frustrated that U.S. authorities restrict European charter flights to 12 per day while U.S. charter operators have no restrictions on the number of flights they make to Europe. Even worse, Mandemaker added, is that approval for one of those flights to the U.S. takes as many as 10 days while U.S. operators can depart for Europe with about two hours notice. “Talk about not having a level playing field,” he said. Unfortunately, any resolution of this problem will have to take place at the political level, which could take a long time.
Security is a growing burden for business aviation in Europe, but it is a fact of life, Mandemaker said. EBAA members aren’t saying they don’t want security, he said, “but we want simplified security. Our passengers are known passengers.” If security requirements become more stringent, Mandemaker hopes that FBOs can be trained and authorized to administer security instead of having to hire an expensive, dedicated security team that will sit around waiting for the occasional flight to depart.