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True to a tradition that began in the 1980s- the International Operators Committee of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convened its comprehensive and highly informative annual conference (known through the community as simply the IOC) to discuss issues of importance to crews flying business aircraft globally.
Nearly 600 aviators and aviation suppliers converged on Tampa- Florida on March 17th for four days of seminars focused on worldwide activities affecting international operations. Each presentation was conducted by an individual personally knowledgeable in the area under discussion- thereby differentiating the IOC from other NBAA conferences that feature professional speakers and published authors associated with the topics under discussion.
Presentations by practitioners in the art and science of international operations created a program of great authenticity and value. Based upon their personal experiences and those of their associates flying into areas where rules and norms differ from typical U.S. operations- speakers provided insightful perspectives and sound advice.
ICAO and Differences
Day One’s agenda presented an overview of best practices- international regulations- operational protocols and safety. Of particular note was the presentation of Kurt Edwards- Director General of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC).
While U.S. operators are most familiar with the Federal Aviation Regulations- many nations throughout the world use the standards offered by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Edwards gave an excellent overview of global standards and practices recommended by ICAO regarding safety- air navigation- security- the environment and facilitation of aviation globally.
He emphasized that the laws and regulations of the state responsible for the airspace being transited take precedence- regardless of the nationality of the aircraft entering- flying in or departing the airspace. In practice- determining which regulations an operator must follow is complicated- he said.
While ICAO Standards are intended to have global application- individual countries (referred to as “States” in the nomenclature of ICAO) are expected to transpose the international body’s wording into its own national law or regulation. If it chooses not to do so- the State files its “difference” with ICAO- and those differences between ICAO and State (i.e.- national) regulations are published by ICAO and the State. In part because the U.S.A. has the world’s longest established and most active aviation system- it has numerous differences between ICAO standards and FARs.
When flying within its national airspace- operators of aircraft registered within that State must adhere to national regulations (e.g.- N-registered aircraft use FARs when operating in the US). IBAC’s Director General Edwards emphasized that when the operator is flying internationally- “differences” that apply when operating “at home” do not apply. “Differences cannot be exported”- he said- adding that “operators who [fly internationally] are strongly advised to equip their aircraft in line with ICAO Standards.”
Continuing his explanation of how ICAO oversees international aviation- Edwards described Supplementary Procedures (given the acronym SUPPS). He noted that SUPPS- which are established by regional groups (known as PIRGS) in coordination with ICAO Headquarters and all of the “user States” involved- have the authority of regulation.
In essence- he noted- the use of the word “procedures” is a misnomer since a SUPPS is a regulation.
Capping his informative presentation- Edwards noted that international standards for aircraft equipage can be found in ICAO Annex 6 Part 1 (International Commercial Air Transport Operations)- ICAO Annex 6 Part II (International General Aviation Operations)- ICAO Annex 10 (Aeronautical Telecommunications)- ICAO Regional Supplementary Procedures (Document 7030)- Reports of Planning and Implementation Regional Groups (PIRGS) and State Aeronautical Information Publications (AIPs). He recommended international operators access websites offered by ICAO- Eurocontrol and the FAA.
Days 2- 3 and 4
NBAA’s International Operators Committee- organizers of the IOC- structure their activities into eight subcommittees each focusing on eight regions globally. Steven K. Thorpe- Assistant Chief Pilot for Merck & Co.- Inc.- chairs the International Operators Committee- and Amway’s Christian Strand is Regional Lead Coordinator. Following Day One’s coverage of subjects applicable to all international operations- independent of the region of flight- subsequent days provided a venue for operators who are intimately familiar with regional conditions to describe their experiences and offer helpful suggestions.
Interspersed between presentations by operators with local knowledge of the eight regions were relevant topics such as security uniquely applicable to international operations- avionics mandates and implementation strategies- medical issues for domestic and international operators- catering considerations- fatigue risk management- and international trip planning and execution.
Each year the International Operators Conference provides a wealth of essential information as well as practical tools for conducting safe- efficient and successful operations throughout the globe. With today’s expanding use of business aircraft for international commerce- NBAA’s IOC is a “must attend” event.