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Air bp
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.
Perspectives – Ensuring business aviation is fairly represented needs strong voices
Business aviation represents only a small proportion of the air transport industry, it cannot be denied. Yet it has a highly positive effect on company and national productivity that is sometimes misunderstood by the wider public.

Business aviation represents only a small proportion of the air transport industry, it cannot be denied. Yet it has a highly positive effect on company and national productivity that is sometimes misunderstood by the wider public.

The regulatory framework within which business aviation must operate is almost always devised and adjusted primarily with the mass market airline industry in mind. Sometimes this framework is inappropriate for smaller operators.

This is clearly a sector of the industry that needs a strong lobbying voice – and this is exactly what it has.

In our region there are major international associations such as the European Business Aviation Association and its Middle Eastern counterpart, MEBAA. There are business aviation national associations in France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia/Ukraine, Switzerland and the UK, and a host of European and national helicopter associations too.

Here, a representative sample of these organisations give us an insight into the work that they do.

Meet the lobbyists...

As well as being entrusted to represent member interests in dozens of countries, the European Business Aviation Association is an umbrella organisation for the region's national associations, all of which makes the business of lobbying and representation technically much more complex.

Pedro Vicente Azua has been the chief operating officer of EBAA for the past three years, having first joined the organisation seven years ago. Significantly his roots are not in business aviation.

"Complex regulatory structures and divisions of sovereignty mean that the aviation situation in Europe is hugely complicated," he says. "It makes sense to understand how this works first, and then learn about business aviation afterwards."

That is not to say that Vicente Azua does not have a passion for flying – he holds a private pilot licence himself – or lacks insight into the needs of business aircraft operators. After all, he is surrounded by willing participants within the association who blend their lobbying and advisory activities with 'day jobs' in active aircraft operations.

He acknowledges that colleagues with a background in business aviation frequently also do an excellent job in lobbying. "I've seen people do it both ways," he says.

But with an area of responsibility as wide as EBAA, it is very valuable to have effective communicators who are fully familiar with the structures and processes of government and aviation authority decision-making processes. Vicente Azua was educated in European studies, regulatory matters and economics before working in the aviation department of the European Commission.

He believes it may be equally as important to be able to devote full-time effort to cultivating the best contacts in high places. "It is of fundamental importance to have personal contact with legislators," he says. "I can give advice on technical matters, but in the end decisions often become more political. Then it is impossible to influence unless you are in a relationship of trust."

As chairman of two committees, on environment and on safety/flight time limitations, he spends a lot of time discussing issues with colleagues in EBAA, but finds himself primarily engaged in meetings outside the office. "My job is to keep on top of all aspects of the business, especially safety, airport access and ATM issues, but also the environmental impact of aviation, which is becoming increasingly regulated," he adds.

This is the area of his most recent achievement. Vicente Azua believes that his, and EBAA's, lobbying of the European Commission will shortly lead to a change in the regulations regarding the reporting of emissions by small operators. This could allow operators with CO2 emissions of less than 25,000 tonnes to use Eurocontrol's emissions trading system support facility (see front cover for the full story).

Making sure that business aviation is fully understood by those in power is something which gets easier with time, Vicente Azua believes. "When an investment in time and personal relationships pays off with a change in regulations, then we can see the fruits of our efforts."

As in all types of business activity, he sees that in future the internet will make the gathering of opinions and evidence faster. This will not lessen the need for lobbyists, though: "Aviation will always be regulated, and this will always be done by someone far away from aircraft operations. There will always have to be someone in the middle!"

So the future looks interesting for Vicente Azua. "It is busy, and there are new issues all the time, but it is not overwhelming and highly enjoyable."

Ali Al Naqbi shares his role as chairman for the Middle East Business Aviation Association with a position as senior executive for a private airline in the UAE. But, as his working day starts early in the morning and extends late into the evening, and with a driving passion for aviation, he feels he manages to balance and fulfill both roles satisfactorily. "I must mention the utmost support my parent organisation provides for my commitments to MEBAA's efforts." Al Naqbi believes that the association's good access to government and regulatory forums arises from its regular interactions with such agencies, attending meetings and seminars on topics such as safety and operational standards.

When it comes to providing advice to individual member companies, Al Naqbi says: "I do not take the role of a consultant to troubleshoot individual problems. But if there is a major issue that affects a substantial number of our members' interests, such as unsafe operational issues left unattended despite repeated representation at individual member level, I step in to take it to the appropriate level for potential redress.

"But whenever there is a need to focus our members' concerns at the appropriate levels in governmental organisations or industry forums, I am there to represent and lead the discussions."

As founding chairman of MEBAA, Al Naqbi found its formation particularly fulfilling, considering its limited resources and reach in the industry. Every aspect of building such an organisation, such as registration, drafting bylaws, creating and sustaining the interest of members in the early days, were strenuous but satisfying, he says. "I am proud of the growth in membership to its present level of more than 165."

The first MEBA show in 2008 was a historic moment for the organisation, fostering the confidence that the region was ready for such a large event. "It is heartening to note that MEBA shows are a great attraction to one and all in the industry," says Al Naqbi, "it seems all are eagerly looking forward to the next one."

However, he admits it has not always been fair weather and smooth sailing. Events like the global recession and political uncertainties in some areas of the region have given Al Naqbi a few sleepless nights. "Our members, especially operators that have pitched in sizeable resources in the industry, had their concerns on all fronts regarding their investment.

"When the survival and growth of the industry is at stake, the association needs to provide information the members need that may not be readily available. We did our best to provide such support."

A hot topic at the moment in the industry is "grey market" operation that has been termed illegal as well as unsafe. Explains Al Naqbi: "Though our region remains unaffected to some extent, we need to be vigilant as the market grows and becomes attractive for "grey market" operators to step in and take advantage of."

With an early background in finance and administration Al Naqbi has more than 25 years experience of aviation, witnessing its growth in the region from close quarters. "My involvement in aspects of airline management like aircraft purchase, legal aspects of air transportation, insurance/risk management etc, has widened my horizons in aviation.

"Needless to say, these have been exciting years and I pray it continues to be so."

In order to enter the world of the business aviation association, one must study the industry well and be up-to-date with recent develop-ments, Al Naqbi says. A challenging task in a fast changing industry, but imperative to survival. "Be discriminative towards demands of members to identify the wider interest that needs to be taken further. Be prepared to sweat it out and put in extended hours of work."

The British Helicopter Association (BHA) is the trade association that represents the UK's civil rotorcraft industry. Full-time ceo Peter Norton has been in post for more than six years and finds the task keeps him fully occupied, with extensive travel to meetings in the UK and in Europe.

Peter works with a small team of part-time staff from the BHA offices at Fairoaks airport near London.

"I spend perhaps half my time on various industry-related committees working with regulatory and governmental departments to ensure that the UK's rotorcraft sector is recognised as a vital component of the UK's aviation industry, unburdened by restrictive or unnecessary legislation. I enjoy an excellent working relationship with the UK CAA and draw on the expertise of industry colleagues for specialist support when required."

The BHA has supported the European Helicopter Association (EHA) financially and in committee since its inception, explains Norton. BHA members provide expertise to EHA's working groups in areas such as flight-time limitations, operations and technical matters. "I recently concluded an EHA task to provide operational expertise to a project team (pictured) formed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking to review the high-level SESAR Concept of Operations document and to ensure that the needs of the GA and rotorcraft sectors were satisfactorily included."

Norton says that BHA is always happy to offer advice and guidance to members, publishing papers on subjects such as careers in the industry or codes of practice for those involved in survey, aerial photography and operations over noise-sensitive areas. "We act as a responder to the many regulator, government department and EASA consultations that are released for industry comment," explains Norton.

"In many cases the consultation is summarised to members and their opinion sought to inform an association response on behalf of the industry." Fortunately, members are proactive in their support for the association, says Norton, and need little encouragement to assist in campaigns.

"I find it most rewarding to be a small part of an aviation sector that has such an important impact on the health, wealth and security of the population. The variety is endless and I am fortunate to work with professionals who regard safety above all else as their motivation."

Currently, BHA is active on many fronts, including discussion with the UK Treasury on the proposed extension of air passenger duty to helicopters and working to ensure that airspace restrictions during the 2012 Olympic Games allow members to conduct business essentially as normal while preserving the necessary security requirements.

A member of the Baltic Air Charter Association for over 15 years, Markham Jackson has now taken the reins as part-time chief executive. Now he devotes as much time as necessary to his BACA responsi-bilities. Over the years, BACA has presented its case to various government committees and industry bodies to make sure the views of the charter sector are understood.

"I spend a lot of my time attending events that I consider would be of interest and benefit to BACA members," he says. At these events there are often members present from bodies such as the CAA where he can informally discuss matters of mutual interest. "I also try to encourage some attendees to join BACA if I think we will all benefit," Jackson adds.

"We have a close association with the British Business and General Aviation Association, with its chief executive being a member of BACA and our chief executive a member of BBGA. This ensures we can discuss matters concerning the general aviation side, as well as problems concerning all flights such as the rise in air passenger duty tax."

One of BACA's roles is to keep members up-to-date on UK and European legislation, so it is useful that BBGA is a member of EBAA, with its headquarters in Brussels.

At the moment BACA is particularly focused on the APD tax and arrangements by governments and other agencies to control the estimated 500,000 overseas visitors to the Olympic Games.

"Also this year we have launched an escrow account, helping our members to provide a secure deposit for funds being paid in advance to operators. This aims to ensure that money paid in advance to airlines and others is not lost if that party is unable to provide the flight."

Members can attend networking opportunities that include BACA's successful lunch gatherings. The BACA awards ceremony is growing in prestige every year and an annual golf day has been launched.

But it is not all social. Courses are available, including an annual law course to keep participants up-to-date with legislation concerning aviation, such as the new Corruption and Bribery law. Events at various airports allow members to meet their counterparts while also learning what is available at the particular location.

Jackson believes his background in the commercial field of aviation, with experience of scheduled and charter flights, gives him a good perspective on the industry. And now he brings this to BACA, saying: "I enjoy everything I do in my role. Nothing gives me and our council more satisfaction than being able to assist when requested and delivering value for the annual membership fees."

The International Business Aviation Council is a family of business aviation associations around the world. The organisation was established in 1981 to provide an international voice for the business aviation community.

IBAC is not considered a lobby organisation, explains director general Don Spruston, it is more a representative body providing technical and operational expertise to government policy and rule-making organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

"IBAC professionals participate in the development of safety, security, environmental and air traffic management procedures and regulations with a common goal of well-developed and effective rulemaking, responding to the needs of society and the business aviation community," says Spruston.

An important objective for IBAC is international harmonisation of rules, that he says is critical given that business aviation aircraft criss-cross the globe with little notice, making universal procedures a safety imperative.

IBAC's office is located in the ICAO headquarters in Montreal, Canada, but activities are conducted around the world. Committees meet throughout the year to formulate policy detail and to ensure business aviation is effectively represented at all key policy making forums.

"An example of IBAC's success in formulating global policy is found in its approach to enhancing aviation safety," Spruston says. "The business aviation safety record is excellent. The professionalism of the industry that led to the good record has been applied to establishing a set of best practices incorporated into the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO)."

In turn, the aviation community has promoted this industry standard as the basis for the development of harmonised safety rules around the world. The standards served as the model for the ICAO Annex 6 Part II modernisation that recently incorporated provisions for cor-porate aviation.

Since ICAO Annexes are intended to be the international standard upon which nations are to establish their regulations, there is a movement around the world to incorporate the performance based business aviation best practices into regulations. As Spruston points out: "Business aviation has always been a strong proponent and user of safety management systems that are the foundation of the IS-BAO safety standard, so business aviation is well placed as SMS requirements are introduced universally by civil aviation authorities."

The council has established a proactive Statement on Climate Change and has promoted the business aviation position to be taken through ICAO to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Business aviation has a seat on many of the ICAO panels and committees that establish the policies and rules for international civil aviation around the world. And Spruston firmly believes that the business aviation community is well represented by the IBAC family. "The family is strong and together provides for the business aviation leadership that will make the industry even stronger in the future," he says.

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