General aviation, as we understand it in the United States, is practically nonexistent in Greece. Which is precisely why the various AOPA groups of the world decided to hold their biennial World Assembly in Athens from June 9 through 14.
“Yiouli Kalafati, president of AOPA Hellas (Greece), wanted to show Greek authorities what they could gain by promoting, rather than restricting, general aviation,” said Phil Boyer, president of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA). “And the presence of general aviation representatives from 26 different nations around the world helped change attitudes in Athens.”
There are fewer than 300 GA aircraft in Greece, airport services are limited and expensive, the military controls most of the airports and all of the airspace, and all VFR flying is done on a flight plan with mandatory reporting points.
But it could be so much more, as Boyer explained to Kostas Hatzidakis, the Greek minister of transportation and communications. “General aviation provides a unique and flexible form of transportation for both individuals and businesses seeking to maximize their time; we connect people to the world of opportunity via a fast, economical, and enjoyable form of transportation. We fill in the blanks left by public and commercial transportation,” Boyer said.
Hatzidakis agreed that general aviation was an essential form of transportation within Greece that would receive increased attention from his ministry. “His perspective on GA was positive and forward looking,” Boyer said. “This attitude can only help the cause of GA in Greece. We are pleased to see that holding our World Assembly in Greece has had a positive effect on the government’s perception of GA.”
Some 125 delegates and observers from around the world attended the twenty-fourth IAOPA World Assembly. And the delegates dealt with issues that concern pilots everywhere, including in the United States.
On the issues of fees, the delegates passed a resolution, urging airport operators and air navigation service providers to charge only for services actually required and received, to consult with all user groups regarding changes to existing charges, and to prepare a cost-benefit analysis on each charging scheme for each user community. And the pilots from other nations counseled U.S. pilots to continue resisting user fees. Direct user charges have only harmed GA in other parts of the world.
IAOPA resolved to urge national and international regulatory authorities to permit affordable and practical alternatives to emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) for general aviation. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines currently call for 406-MHz ELTs in GA aircraft, and many national regulatory bodies are making the rule mandatory for any aircraft flying in their airspace. But IAOPA asked that aircraft owners be allowed to select an alerting and locating option that is “appropriate for their type and area of operations,” including relatively inexpensive personal locator beacons.
Security is an issue around the world, and officials everywhere tend to respond by clamping airline-like restrictions on general aviation. But that’s not necessary or appropriate for GA. IAOPA will urge security and airport officials to park GA aircraft in non-security restricted areas, to provide access through non-security sensitive perimeter access points, and to abolish or absorb mandatory security handling charges for GA aircraft.
At the end of the assembly AOPA Hellas sponsored Icarus 2008, the first airshow and general aviation Aero Expo in Athens at the Tatoi military airfield outside of Athens.
Said Boyer, “AOPA Hellas President Yiouli Kalafati and her entire organization provided us a wonderful platform from which to conduct our deliberations and a memorable series of events that we will long remember as one of our best assemblies.”
The World Assembly is held every two years to permit the Board of IAOPA to meet and consider the issues facing aviation and to develop action plans to promote and protect general aviation interests worldwide.
IAOPA represents the interests of its 66 worldwide affiliates comprising more than 480,000 pilots and operators of general aviation aircraft. IAOPA headquarters are in Frederick, Md.