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EU States Brought Up On Aviation Law Failings

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

27 August 2015

The European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Germany in July for imposing excessive requirements on pilot license applicants.

Member states are obligated to issue pilot licenses to applicants who comply with the rules described in the Commission Regulation (EU) No. 1178/2011 without any additional administrative or technical requirements. However, Germany is demanding that applicants for pilot licenses provide a security background check with no negative remarks before it approves a licence.

The Commission has given German authorities two months to respond to its reasoned opinion. If Germany fails to bring its requirements back into line with EU law – namely by removing the security check requirement - the European Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

Also in July, the Commission requested that Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands complete the implementation of their Functional Airspace Block (FAB). FABs are large portions of airspace arranged around traffic flows rather than state boundaries in which air navigation services are optimized. This allows aircraft to fly without delays on the shortest routes and best flight levels possible, thereby reducing fuel burn and costs.

All EU member states should have implemented their FABs by December 4, 2012, according to Regulation (EC) No 550/2004. The FAB between Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland (FABEC) has been formally established through an international agreement which came into force on June 1, 2013. However, the objectives pursued by the legislation - to optimize the use of both that airspace and the air navigation services - have not been reached yet because the FABEC implementation has so far been too slow.

Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands now have two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to remedy this situation, from July 16, 2015. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer these countries to the Court of Justice.

The Commission said, more generally, the lack of progress on FABs is holding back the implementation of the EU's Single European Sky, resulting in 30-40 percent extra costs for air navigation charges being levied. This represents a loss of some EUR5bn annually. Additionally, planned safety enhancements in the Single European Sky are negatively impacted. Slow progress on the FABEC alone affects 55 percent of European air traffic.

Today each flight over Europe has to add an average of 42 kilometres due to the fragmentation of airspace along national boundaries. Currently there are 10 million flights per year in the EU and the existing air traffic management is approaching its capacity limits. By 2035, this number will increase to 17 million flights.

TAGS: Belgium | Netherlands | aviation | Luxembourg | legislation | France | Germany | Switzerland | services | Europe | Other

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