Wednesday, 15 December 2010

UK Harriers bow out

Over 80 have been built, they're operated by five different countries and today the UK retired its Harrier fleet. As Harrier test pilot John Farley said - the decision says a lot more about the UK than it does about the aircraft.

I've had the pleasure of working with John for a while now, he wrote a regular column for FLYER for a few years - each one carefully researched and crafted. If there were any more we'd publish them in an instant, but John's a man who knows his own mind, and when he decides that he's written enough that's it!

I've also had the honour of working with John on his book A View from the Hover. The first print run sold out pretty quickly and the second has just arrived back from the printers. This time it's in full colour and with an index. I delivered some to John a couple of days ago - and got him to sign a few while I was there.

This blog's not really an advert, but if you want to get hold of a signed copy. then give Charlotte in the FLYER offices a call and she'll sort it out for you.

Monday, 13 December 2010

In the blue corner

Stand by for a war of words and numbers. Highly respected online news organisation Avweb and highly respected member organisation AOPA USA are squaring up for, well, a bit of a ding-dong.

Just before AOPA Summit in November, AVweb ran a story commenting on AOPA's senior staff salaries, they went on to comment about AOPA's spending on aviation and other lobbying activities. Needless to say, AOPA reacted and discussions were held. The story was pulled, but not spiked. Instead, talks were promised and I believe that an exchange of views has taken place.

The next few days will see an AVweb update, and perhaps as a pre-emptive strike AOPA President Craig Fuller has written about AVweb in his blog.

AVweb has responded.

I wonder who'll be reaching for their lawyers first?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Parallel Universe

A week or so ago I went to a press conference at EASA. The invitation said that the subject would be 'A better regulation for GA' with about half-an-hour set aside for a brief presentation, which would be followed by some lunch and a Q&A session. It struck me that half-an-hour wasn't long to cover both EASA's efforts so far and their plans for the future.

Once inside the building, I was shown to EASA's reception where I chatted for a while with other European aviation journos while we watched everyone in the meeting room waiting for us in an office on the other side of the atrium and one floor down. There seemed to be an issue with letting them know we were all somewhere else; somewhat unkindly I found myself muttering something about drinks parties and breweries.

We were eventually taken to the room and introduced to eight or so EASA employees responsible for looking after different aspects of GA. Eric Sivel started by explaining that of EASA's 500 employees, 100 had PPLs and so they were well aware of the issues facing GA. He went on to say that back in 2004 he and others had realised that GA needed help, and that something had to be done to give it a boost and make it sustainable. I just about muffled a scream at this point. I seemed to be experiencing life in a parallel universe.

Sivel went on to describe how MDM.032 was about to achieve great things, and that the LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilots Licence) was also a very good thing. He accepted that there was much work still to be done, and that by engaging with EASA we could all help move things in the right direction for GA.

At this point I didn't know what to think, part of me was glad they realised how much still had to be done, and part of me was scared about them doing it.

Eventually the time came for a few questions. In no particular order...

Q. When ELA1 comes about, what will the weight limit be, 1,000kg or 1,200kg?
A. 1,200kg

Q. What the f**k were you thinking when you brought in Part M? Costs have increased, confusion reigns and there are lots of things that are mandated now, but were recommended before.
A. Err, well, err if you use Part M properly it should cost you no more. Not only is LAMS allowed (even though the CAA say it won't be) but many of the things that some authorities claim as mandatory are in fact recommended. Not all owners, maintenance organisations, CAMOs or National Aviation Authorities are the same, or apply the rules in the same way.

Q. Part FCL. Why are there all sorts of dumb things in here like the revalidation rules for example?
A. The revalidation rules are simple for the LAPL

Q. What about the PPL
A. Ah, well, not out fault. We had to adopt a lot of the stuff from the JAA.

etc. etc.

In general , the impression I got was...

1. The LAPL is seen as the recreational licence for Europe.
2. There's not a great deal of uniformity in the way in which regulations are interpreted or applied.
3. If you want to save money, understand the system yourself and be prepared for a fight.
4. EASA staff do not fully understand how unpopular they are.

I'm digging into a few things that were said, and will report back...