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Boyer addresses Eurocontrol conference in BrusselsBoyer addresses Eurocontrol conference in Brussels

Boyer addresses Eurocontrol conference in Brussels

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IAOPA President Phil Boyer addresses attendees to General and Business Aviation Day at Eurocontrol.
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AOPA President Phil Boyer, in his role as president of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA), was the featured speaker this morning in Brussels, Belgium, at the annual General and Business Aviation Day at Eurocontrol headquarters. What happens in Europe - for good or for bad - can be a harbinger of things to come in the United States.

"It's a great benefit to listen and discuss with those in the know about what Europe is doing and where it's going," said Boyer. "What Europe has already implemented could come here, if we're not proactive."

Consider user fees.

Currently, VFR and IFR aircraft weighing less than 2 metric tons (about 4,410 pounds) are exempt from the very substantial user fees imposed on most aircraft for air traffic control. But now there is discussion about country-by-country charges for smaller GA aircraft.

"But why should we pay for a system we don't use?" said one French pilot. "The average French pilot files a VFR flight plan once every two years."

(Eurocontrol is in some ways the "UN" of air traffic control in Europe. Its goal is to develop a seamless, pan-European air traffic management system, integrating the navigation and ATC systems of its 34 member states.)

Many other European issues find parallels in the United States.

Eurocontrol Director General Victor Aguado told the more than 150 general aviation pilots, operators, and business and association representatives gathered in the ornate Europa Conference Room in Eurocontrol headquarters, that, "We have cautious optimism for general aviation in the future, for the first time since 9/11."

Aguado recognized that general aviation represents the largest group of aircraft and pilots, even in Europe. "What we want to try to achieve is maximum freedom for all airspace users," he said. "We know you need access to airports and airspace."

Boyer talked about the cost burdens for owners who have to install new equipment to meet the needs of air traffic control. Every aircraft in Europe will have to have a Mode S transponder within three years and have to upgrade radios to 8.33-kHz frequency spacing to meet current regulations.

"There should be a solid benefit for the user in required equipage," said Boyer, noting that in the United States, most aircraft are now equipping with GPS, not because it is required, but because the benefits are so obvious.

Boyer also demonstrated some of the advanced technology coming on line, including videos showing WAAS approaches and new glass panel displays with "highway in the sky" (HITS) symbology.

He also spoke to the need to understand the best ways to harmonize equipment requirements between the United States and Europe. "If Cirrus has to equip its aircraft one way for us and another way for Europe, it only increases costs on both sides of the Atlantic."

General and Business Aviation Day was cosponsored by IAOPA and Eurocontrol. There are 34 European IAOPA affiliates.

April 8, 2005

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