Flying, Democracy and Safety 6.

space shuttle launch during nighttime
Photo by Edvin Richardson on Pexels.com

One of the News stories of the week was that of UK Prime Minster (PM) Johnson spending £900,000 to paint a RAF transport aircraft with Union flag colours. Red, white and blue. I imagine that money will be spent in the UK. It’s good to see that Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge has reduced the Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) emissions of its huge paint shop[1].

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and decline of air traffic on European aviation has got worse in recent weeks[2].  Rebuilding it will require new measures to be put in place. Now, the aviation industry is nervous that these will be imposed in an uncoordinated way. National quarantines are an example of such measures as they are an impediment to recovery especially when they are introduced on political grounds. There’s quite a lot of that going on at the moment.

UK PM Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, were in communication last Monday[3]. There was much talk of giving the on-going UK-EU negotiations new momentum. We are told, people are searching for agreeable compromises. The real possibility of a collapse in the talks remains, with some speculation that this would be exploited to distract from criticism over the UK Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a taster of what the ratification of any new agreement might involve, a report has been published by the European Parliament (EP)[4] with recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the UK.  This report does have a few mentions of civil aviation, notably:

  1. Considers that the envisaged partnership should include an ambitious and comprehensive chapter on air transport which ensures the EU’s strategic interests, and contains appropriate provisions, on market access, investment and operational and commercial flexibility (e.g. code sharing) in respect of balanced rights and obligations, and should include close cooperation in aviation safety and air traffic management;
  2. Stresses that any possible granting of some elements of the so-called ‘fifth freedom’ (freedom of the air) should be limited in scope and needs to include balanced and corresponding obligations in the interests of the EU.

Even though this has been rejected by UK Government Ministers, the EP continues to support the participation of the UK as a “third country” observer with no decision-making role in the EU’s Agencies, such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Also, the EP still wishes to see UK’s continued participation in the Single European Sky (SES) and technology initiatives like: Clean Sky I and II, Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR), Galileo, Copernicus and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).

Today, the indications are that the UK Government has rejected such technical participation. However, it does seem that one or two plans are being changed as we go. It’s reported that the UK is scaling back plans for rival to Galileo satellite system[5]. Ambition is being shaped by practicalities.

Whatever is the case, it’s certain European civil aviation will use both Galileo and EGNOS in advanced forms of navigation and surveillance. The future is being made, tested, and put into service as we speak.

[1] https://marshalladg.com/insights-news/marshalls-clean-air-unit-paints-an-even-cleaner-picture

[2] https://aviationweek.com/air-transport/airlines-lessors/pandemic-impact-european-aviation-worsening-iata-says

[3] https://www.cer.eu/insights/eu-uk-negotiations-no-need-panic-yet

[4] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-9-2020-0117_EN.html

[5] https://www.ft.com/content/50c3b6dc-2d2f-4bb4-aa9b-b24493315140

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