Phil Boyer, in his role as president of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA), told a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, that European "Single Sky" plans could prove costly and reduce the utility of general aviation on the continent. The plan could also have long-term implications for U.S. pilots.
Speaking to participants of the General and Business Aviation annual meeting held at the headquarters of Eurocontrol in Brussels, Boyer said that while the plan may be a needed step in Europe, it also challenges the future of general aviation access to valuable airspace.
"The simplified structure may increase the communications, navigation, and surveillance equipment requirements that could reduce general aviation's utility, increase delays, and restrict access so that all airspace will be controlled," said Boyer. "This also raises questions about increased costs for new equipment such as Mode S transponders for datalink and 8.33 kHz-capable aircraft radios to address frequency congestions."
"Single Sky" would eventually reduce airspace categories from seven (A through G) to three (N, K, and U).
While the meaning of this to the 33 IAOPA European affiliates is obvious, U.S operators can look at this initiative and see that similar airline-caused congestion and air traffic control modernization issues are facing the FAA.
"So often, the European model is held up as the solution for problems in the United States; we must ensure that general aviation needs are not overlooked whether it is in Europe, the United States, or other areas of the world," Boyer explained.
Boyer also met with officials of the European Commission about the efforts to create a European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that will develop aviation safety regulations for members of the European community over the next several years. The initial regulatory effort will apply to aircraft certification and airworthiness, both areas of importance to general aviation. According to Boyer, "Because the FAA attempts to 'harmonize' its regulations with European rules, AOPA has been and will continue to be engaged in such efforts."