IAOPA, Michael Erb in Interview

On Air, Issue 19: The EASA General Aviation Roadmap

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) supports more than 400000 pilots and its present in around 80 countries worldwide, can you tell us more about its role? 

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) is a non-profit federation of 79 autonomous, non-governmental, national General Aviation (GA) organizations. IAOPA has represented international GA aviation for more than 55 years. The combined total of individuals represented by these constituent member groups of IAOPA is over 400,000 pilots, who fly general aviation aircraft for business and personal transportation. Today IAOPA has 30 affiliates in Europe, which is the most active IAOPA region in the world.

Some of the main IAOPA objectives are to facilitate the movement of general aviation aircraft internationally, for peaceful purposes and to coordinate with other international and national organizations to promote and represent better understanding of general aviation's requirements. Furthermore we also encourage representatives of national general aviation member groups to meet with and work with their national authorities in the interest of general aviation; the collection from ICAO Contracting States and dissemination by ICAO of information, data and statistics relating to general aviation to provide a meaningful base for development of technical programs.

In general, what is your relationship with EASA and other regulators?

I think “constructive criticism” describes the relation between an authority and an association best. The most valuable asset IAOPA can offer in such a relation are cooperation, the provision of expertise, and in general an honest feedback. For this purpose we are active in many of EASA´s Rulemaking Tasks and Advisory Committees. Some years ago it was evident that our honest feedback was not much appreciated, but instead considered as a disturbance and clear evidence for ungratefulness. EASA was very successful in regulating airlines and commercial aircraft manufacturers, but all too often was applying a “one size fits all approach” that led to over-regulation of general aviation in Europe.

In a democracy it is normal that an interest group wants to have a say on how it is regulated, especially as there are international benchmarks, which clearly showed we were not doing well in international comparisons. But the economic prosperity and the safety of our sector clearly go hand in hand. Only in a prospering environment with sufficiently low operating cost private pilots can afford a sufficiently high number of flight hours. And proficiency of pilots clearly increases their safety. Only if the general economic expectations are good, new investment into new safety technology is made. If not a dangerous downward spiral starts: Increasing cost lead to less flight activity, less flight activity decreases pilots proficiency and increases the cost for operation even further. GA is very sensitive to the level of regulation, in some states GA is prospering, in others it is clearly not, although the objective economic data give no reason for such a disparity.

Most rulemaking officers love their jobs, so they write rules. But they need to withstand the temptation to come up with more and more rules during their careers, because finally the rules still need to be understood and accepted by their target audience.

What do you think about the achievements of the EASA GA roadmap and what does this mean for the future? Can you talk about the challenges lying ahead?

The achievements of the GA Roadmap are very remarkable, even our colleagues from North America envy us a bit for the progress we made, which clearly hasn´t been the case some 10 years ago. The climate between EASA, AOPA and other GA associations has significantly improved, and as a consequence the outcome of the GA Roadmap is very showable.

The big challenge today is the implementation of what has already been achieved within the GA Roadmap: There are many opinions like the Part M Light that were agreed upon in Rulemaking Groups, but they became seriously delayed within the EU Commission. There are many competent authorities which still haven´t fully adapted the new regulations yet, but also many maintenance shops and of course also pilots haven´t fully digested the positive changes yet. Rules are often difficult to understand and consequently open to interpretation.

The light end of GA appears to be already very well covered by the GA roadmap, but we also need to focus on the small commercial enterprises within GA. To give one example: For pilots within commercial parachute and commercial sight-seeing-operators as well as flight schools, the Commercial Pilot Licenses are too burdensome to achieve today. Their theoretical exam requires about 80% of the ATPL knowledge, which is too much. The solution could be a light/competency based CPL, following the example of the Competency Based Instrument Rating.

Apart from flexible risk-based rulemaking and certification, what is the role of Safety Promotion? And which other tools should be implemented in General Aviation to improve safety?

Safety promotion is most important. Rules that are not well known do not help to improve safety at all. Instead, the authorities and the associations need to reach out to the community, explain the new legal framework and support the pilots in improving their attitudes and skills. Our association does invest a lot into flight safety promotion: AOPA-USA is the shining example with the Air Safety Institute and a plentitude of freely available online courses and videos. But also here in Europe we do what we can in order to reach out to our community: We offer various Flight Safety Seminars, Flight Instructor Refreshers, Safety Letters covering many critical subjects, Flight Safety Training Events bringing together trainees and flight instructors, Upset Recovery Trainings, Sea Survival courses, etc. We negotiated with Insurance companies, and several of them do give discounts as incentives for pilots who attend flight safety events or install collision avoidance systems.

Michael Erb is 50 years old and since 2001 Managing Director of AOPA-Germany. He has a diploma in Business Administration and a doctor´s degree in Politics. Michael is an active GA pilot with a Private Pilot License, Instrument and Multi-Engine Rating. Since 2017 he is also the Chairman of the European AOPAs and Senior Vice President of IAOPA worldwide. At EASA he is the Chairman of the GA Committee and member of the GA Task Force.