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Ten Questions For EBAA’s Brian Humphries 

It’s almost a cliché to note that- much like the corporations that own and operate them- business aircraft transcend international borders. More and more- the corporate aircraft is used internationally to connect business executives with overseas operations and clients.

Nowhere is that trend more apparent than in Europe- where the equivalent of the average U.S. business aircraft leg can take the business aircraft across the frontiers of two- three or more sovereign nations. And nowhere is the need for seamless operations and smooth access between nations more an issue than in Europe.

It was to help streamline access and promote the benefits of corporate aviation that the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) was founded. The European equivalent of the US-based National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)- EBAA has grown in importance and influence during its years of existence- even teaming with NBAA to create the European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (EBACE) trade show in 2001- a joint venture that has become remarkably successful.

Five years into its existence- EBACE has grown in importance to operators and suppliers- much as EBAA has grown in its influence within Europe. With the sixth annual EBACE scheduled for May 3-5- World Aircraft Sales Magazine asked EBAA CEO Brian Humphries to sit down for a ten Questions Interview.

Humphries assumed his post in 2004 after serving as chairman of the association while representing one of EBAA’s operating-company members. In his role as EBAA CEO- Humphries deals daily with the challenges and demands of his association’s members- acting as their united voice to European regulatory and air traffic control authorities.

Much as the aircraft operate the same wherever the air is- many of the issues European operators face parallel those important to US operators. Nonetheless- many others are unique to the environment on a continent with so many nations populating the continent.

WAS: What do European and American business aircraft operators share most in common?

Humphries: The need for fair and affordable access to airports and airspace- without which the best business aircraft in the world are of little use.

In terms of airspace access we need to ensure we retain two key principles: first come first served- and weight related charges- which properly reflect the greater demands on airspace and runway occupancy time of large aircraft compared with their smaller brethren.

In respect of airports we can do much to help ourselves as illustrated by the superb facilities created in the UK at Farnborough [TAG Aviation]. But we constantly need to remind policy makers that good access for business aircraft is vital to the health of national economies- with one government study highlighting that good access for business aircraft is the third most important factor affecting inward investment.

WAS: To look in the other direction- in what ways do European and US corporate aviation users differ most?

Humphries: Probably in a European reluctance to own- and be seen to own business aircraft- leading to a preference for means other than ownership for meeting their travel needs- and very discrete marking so that owned aircraft are not immediately identifiable to their owner.

Whilst the situation is much better than it was- there is still a tendency for the press to give very adverse criticism to the use of business aviation as 'the rich man’s toy' destroying shareholder value- whereas exactly the opposite is the case with numerous studies showing that companies using business aircraft invariably outperform those that don’t.

WAS: US and European air-safety authorities have worked hard to harmonize airworthiness standards. How has this effort helped or hurt business aircraft operators in the EU countries?

Humphries: There is more to do here- but it will be of enormous help. It really is nonsense that it can still cost US $0.5m to transfer an EU registered aircraft to the N register for 'safety' reasons when the record of such aircraft is outstanding whichever register they are on. Moreover- how can steep approaches with an aircraft be judged entirely safe by the majority of EU authorities- but prohibited by the US?

WAS: Are there still areas in which more harmonization might advance business aircraft use on both sides of the Atlantic?

Humphries: There certainly are. Continued progress with common certification standards - as highlighted above - and aligned operating- and performance rules. Better-aligned economic rules for a more level playing field- including approvals for 'foreign' charter operations. And aligned security standards

WAS: Aviation users in the United States are engaged in a fierce debate on how best to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and- in particular- how to pay for and manage the Air Traffic Control System. Virtually all the airlines support a system of fee-for-services under which their control will increase and shift more cost to general aviation. Virtually every other segment favors continuation of the current structure of excise taxes on airline tickets and general aviation fuels.

The airlines like to cite the fee-based structures of Europe and Canada. Interestingly- opponents also focus on those entities – how they work- how much they cost- and how much less efficiently they function.
How does EuroControl work for general aviation operators in general and- more specifically- for business aircraft operators?

Humphries: It is certainly very much more expensive to operate business aircraft in Europe than in the US. However- we at least have broad support for continuing with the weight related charging formula- which is seen by all but the most extreme as proportionate and fair. A blip is not a blip and it is nonsense to try and claim it is.

Whilst we have seen a big reduction in delays in recent years and most of our members are delivering very good on-time departure records- one of the challenges of the Single European Sky is to make costs much more competitive. Landing charges are also very high at airports with good access to city centers.

WAS: What would EBAA recommend US business aviation users say to critics who claim they don’t pay their fair share of the system’s costs?

Humphries: The same as they are saying already. We would not need such a complex and expensive aviation infrastructure as is needed for airline operations. We are therefore no more than incremental users of a system established for other more demanding users and should pay no more than incremental costs. We already pay our fair share of costs- if not more than our fair share in many cases.

WAS: The EBACE annual trade show is coming up early this month and if it’s anything like the NBAA convention- operators will have a few issues on their minds. What will some of those issues be?

Humphries: Issues are likely to be as follows:

• Security and the delivery of proportionate and affordable requirements that deliver a high level of assurance. Here it is very important to remember that one size does not fit all.
• Aviation and the environment and ensuring that the minuscule contribution of business aviation to overall emissions is properly recognized in any market-based economic measures that might be introduced- such as emission trading schemes.
• EASA and the rules it will be introducing over time for non-commercial and fractional business aircraft operations.
• Ensuring that the ‘Single Europe Sky’ makes adequate provision for business aircraft- both fixed and rotary wing- and is not designed solely for the airlines and their gate-to-gate concept.

WAS: How important is an event like EBACE to furthering the cause and development of business aviation in Europe?

Humphries: Huge. The numbers of business aircraft in Europe stayed plateaued at around 2-000 aircraft throughout the 1990s. Since EBACE started in 2001 the Fleet has grown by 25%. Of course some might say there is an element of ‘chicken and egg’ here- but we believe that EBACE has undoubtedly been an important catalyst for business aviation growth in Europe.

WAS: For business aviation to reach its full potential in Europe- what regulatory changes need to happen?

Humphries: It’s not so much what needs to happen- but rather what must not happen!

We do not want to see identical rules for airlines and business aviation- as some are suggesting- because rulemaking must be shown to be necessary- proportionate and affordable- and we already have an absolutely outstanding safety record- so do not need a new and heavier hand- that would in any case be impossible for the already stretched authorities to oversee.

We need also to keep fair and equitable access to airspace at more affordable costs. And finally we do not want- or need- to be hamstrung by inappropriate security rules that do not increase safety and security but hobble efficiency. Given all that- we exist to ensure business aviation in Europe has a continued bright future.

WAS: Is there a role for EBAA in fostering the growth of private aviation in general that would foster further growth in business aviation on the continent?

Humphries: Our remit does not really extend beyond business aviation- but I am pleased to say that we work closely with our fellow associations like IAOPA and other national GA associations to ensure that whenever possible we are on the same sheet of paper and where there are common interests we speak with one voice to the Authorities. This is the best way we can all deliver continued success for our members.

WAS: Thanks for taking time to talk to us.

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