Archive for October, 2010

Safety or Politics?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Most U.S. pilots have never heard of EASA – the European Aviation Safety Agency. Their motto is “Your Safety is our Mission” but in my view, as least as far as light GA is concerned, they sometimes create solutions in search of a problem. And sometimes it is done out of frustration with our political system.

I’ve had the privilege of working with the International AOPA (IAOPA) for a number of years and have participated over a decade in IAOPA conventions. I always come away with a new-found appreciation for the freedom to fly that we have in the U.S.  Despite some recent encroachments, GA here is generally much better off here than in the rest of the world.  Believe it or not –  it is much more affordable and less complex.

EASA has just proposed to require holders of U.S. pilot certificates to also get a European Instrument rating to operate IFR for Part 91 flights on the Continent. The logical question is, “Have there been accidents or incidents by U.S. pilots where the probable cause was due to a misunderstanding of IFR European flight procedures?”

To my knowledge there is NO data to support this concern – zero, zip, nada. You should know that the Air Safety Institute has offered to maintain an international database and report annually just as we do in the U.S. with The Nall Report. So far, there has been no answer.

So why this sudden concern about U.S. IFR pilots?   Glad you asked! It seems that in 2008 there was a bi-lateral agreement proposed between the U.S. and EASA that called for the joint recognition of flight crew certification, air carrier operating certificates and maintenance facilities.  Seemed reasonable especially in light of no conflicting operational data.

However, concern was voiced from some U.S. labor sources that off shore repair shops might  be substandard and hence would require FAA oversight.  Was there any systemic data to support that contention? Again, not to my knowledge. Understandably, that was a deal-breaker for the Europeans. The response was, “OK, if you can’t trust our shops – guess we can’t trust your pilots!”

The potential ramifications are enormous. Thousands of U.S. registered aircraft would be grounded in Europe. To obtain an EASA IFR rating it would require seven (7) knowledge tests and a flight check.  Some pilots would attempt VFR when they needed to be in the IFR system.

One of the biggest impediments to safety and common sense is politics. Economics and fairness is also important and those need to be judged on their merits but wrapping them in the golden mantle of safety is disingenuous.  Settle those differences honorably on the economic and political playing field.

IAOPA and AOPA have been engaged since 2008 although this is just now coming to a head and there has been a direct and forceful response.  If there was ever a time for pilots to band together with their Association this is it. In the immortal words of Thomas Paine,  “If we do not hang together we shall surely hang separately.”