Tuesday, July 24, 2007

News from ICAO

Report of IAOPA Presence at ICAO

Most pilots don’t believe that what happens at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) matters to them, that ICAO concerns itself only with commercial international air travel.

That used to be the case.

To show you how things have changed, let me recount some of the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (IAOPA) insights and activities these last few months.

ICAO itself is in transition – trying to re-align itself with a new business plan, a reduced and reducing budget, trying to live with post-WWII (1944) Articles which were developed by 53 States instead of the current 190, with new staff and results of Universal Safety Oversight Program (USOAP) audits indicating low level of compliance with ICAO’s Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS). These SARPS are adopted to meet ICAO objectives including safety and efficiencies. Naturally General Aviation (GA) concerns are pushed into the background by these institutional upheavals.

The USOAP program has found a low level of compliance with ICAO SARPs among States. In addition, States do not wish their level of non-compliance to be made public. In fact, in addition to non-compliance, States have filed over 11,000 differences with the ICAO SARPs. Although ICAO is attempting to develop a list of ‘Safety-critical’ SARPs, it is not generally understood that what is ‘safety-critical’ depends largely on the phase of flight. There are no absolutes. As well, there is a strong move afoot to convert the SARPs to a ‘Performance-based’ status. Again, some standards don’t lend themselves to that form – runway length and width, for example. It hardly seems that there is actually any uniformity in the application of internationally agreed Standards and Practices. Discussion is on-going on the need to segregate out safety-critical standards, giving further rise to the fear that standards may be neglected. In fact a new Unified Strategy Program has been launched which will attempt to provide assistance to States regarding the sharing and exchange of information, transparency, partnerships and alliances in the hope that the differences will be minimized. It may be worrying to outsiders that this cooperation has not been ingrained since the inception of ICAO in 1944. GA easily gets lost in this traffic.

This varied application causes grief to pilots and aircraft owners within any State. The problem for GA is that the needs of GA and particularly the needs of aircraft owners are often not clearly understood by regulators in many States, and at ICAO by technical commissioners, the political/financial arm of ICAO (Council), and sometimes by the Secretariat. ICAO is a place where many forces converge and unfortunately IAOPA is not an officially recognized component of ICAO. IAOPA’s function primarily is to act as an advocate for GA, educating and sensitizing State representatives regarding our needs and concerns.

States adapt the requirements based on a variety of factors, including largely finances but also pressure from organized groups. Whereas States can control to a degree the extent of their costs by opting out of a requirement, it is IAOPA’s task to sensitize regulators that owners and pilots have no such control over compliance with regulations aimed at commercial operations. Frequently the impact on GA is overlooked.

One such issue beginning to surface is Carbon credits. As airlines trade credits, how will GA be able to trade credits? How many trees can we plant? The metrics by which we will eventually compare our activities are important. Will we agree to pounds of Carbon Dioxide per passenger seat mile? Would that be fair for a flight which ends up at its starting point? Are we going to use cars as the equivalent? Clearly we can’t use the same metrics as do airlines. This issue is rising in prominence, and is currently being discussed at ICAO. Will the Aircraft Emissions Standard in Annex 16 Vol. II mean the end of leaded avgas, if the standard is enforced? Will airliners creating higher pollution therefore receive preferential treatment concerning access to airspace and airports?

Noise management and certification is already with us. Europeans are already flying with larger mufflers attached to Cessna 150s. Will regulators (most of whom are not aircraft owners) succumb to the European solution?

Although ICAO has ‘Guidelines’ on land-use planning and management, regulators and municipalities are not held to these guidelines, creating ever more conflict with pre-existing airports.

Another issue is an air traffic management system which will be performance based. GA has to ensure that an appropriate metric is applied, one which measures different factors than those in which the airlines are interested. IAOPA will remain watchful.

IAOPA achieves its goals in a variety of ways. This year as IAOPA’s rep I attended all Air Navigation Commission meetings (a technical commission) held twice a week, attended Unmanned Aerial Systems symposia, participated in the Air Navigation Service Providers Performance Conference earlier this year, participated in the Language Proficiency Symposium, lobbied for changes in the ELT requirements, and participated in the Medical Provisions Study Group. I do my work by meeting with Council members, Commissioners and the Secretariat. We hold discussions, I demonstrate equipment, and I distribute both COPA newspapers and AOPA magazines. IAOPA has advanced the idea of using Personal Locator Beacons instead of the mandated fixed ELT. As well IAOPA has lobbied strongly that the severity of the Language Proficiency requirements be reduced for pilots flying VFR.

A number of the issues outlined here will be addressed and resolved this fall when ICAO holds its tri-annual Assembly. IAOPA will be happy to have had the opportunity to provide input, whatever the outcome.

Frank Hofmann
IAOPA Representative to ICAO.
COPA Quebec Director and Eastern Vice-Chair

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