GA flying to Europe

Getting airway and airport slots for almost anywhere on the Continent has become more difficult but bizjet trips to the EU are still easier than ops to China, Russia, India or Africa. And TCAS 7.1 certification is necessary.

By Grant McLaren

Development of TCAS version 7.1 was initiated by Eurocontrol after discovery of 2 safety issues with TCAS II. Having TCAS 7.1 is mandatory for ops in EU airspace, unless a series of exemptions can be obtained.

Although Europe can be a more complex flying environment than North America, from the standpoint of regulatory mandates, operational flexibility and airway management, that region is an easier part of the world compared to China, Russia, India, or Africa. While airway and airport congestion is on the increase, it's still manageable – in most cases – to fly when you want and to land and park where you wish. From time to time, however, certain challenges present themselves to GA operators, although these potential operating complications are not of nightmarish proportions and can normally be addressed via proper contingency planning.

"Over the past year or 2, slots have been harder to obtain at many airports, parking issues have been daunting at times, and European airspace has become more and more congested," says UAS Regional Ops Mgr Duke LeDuc. "Labor strikes continue to be issues but there are ways to mitigate potential impacts. When operating to some smaller airports in the region, you may face limitations in terms of services, language, credit, and GSE equipment. So, unless you operate to Europe on a regular basis, we advise working closely with your international support provider (ISP) and/or local ground handler to avoid mistakes and enhance operational flexibility."

TCAS 7.1 certification now necessary

Avfuel Account Exec David Kang points out that equipment considerations still trip up some operators. He declares, "One of the big issues we've run into is operators not having required equipment to operate to Europe – lack of TCAS 7.1 certification in particular. While the US does not require TCAS 7.1 until 2020, the EU fully mandates this unless you're able to prove extenuating circumstances and obtain waivers for each country you'll overfly or land at. We had a flight recently from South Africa to the US where we had to get creative with routing to avoid European airspace as the aircraft did not have TCAS 7.1."

The good news, according to Universal Weather Associate Trip Owner Adriel Wilson, is that despite differences and potential complications, Europe is a welcoming and manageable GA operating arena. "For 1st time international operators, Europe is pretty easy compared to other areas of the world, and there are always ways to make your preferred schedule and itinerary work. But still, airways can be unpredictable at times, parking can be difficult at certain locations and parking charges can be horrendous at others.

Europe, in many ways, is a relatively stricter operating environment than the US. Stateside, for example, you have the ability to make routing diversions and to be re-cleared mid-flight. But Eurocontrol is stringent on routings, they'll revise your routing if they don't like what you've proposed, and rules on flight diversions are much stricter."

Charter considerations

TCAS version 7.1 improves resolution advisory (RA). To operate within EU airspace without the latest version, operators must apply for exemptions from each county to be overflown or landed at.

These days it's become easier for charter activities to obtain the necessary approvals needed to operate to and within Europe, in part thanks to EASA's recent third country operator (TCO) mandate. It can take 2 months or so to obtain a TCO certificate, but once you have it you're able to set up charters with minimum fuss and lead time. Previously, if you wanted to fly a charter to France or Germany, for example, you'd need to go through rigorous qualification procedures requiring all sorts of documentation and the same 2-month lead time. Today, once you have your TCO, you may operate fairly spontaneous charters to all EU destinations.

With a TCO you still need to request landing rights for each individual landing but this is normally a 3-day process, with landing approval often possible within 24 hours.
ISPs recommend planning ahead and getting your TCO if you have any possibility of doing a charter to Europe over the next year or so. "There's no cost associated with applying for a TCO and if you don't have one you won't be able to do a short notice charter to Europe," says Kang. "The only cost is in obtaining landing permission for every individual country prior to a flight, and each country has its own procedures and fee schedule for this."

Cabotage (follow-on flight after 1st landing)

Cabotage is still a concern in the EU, but there seems to be less confusion these days among operators on what is and is not cabotage. Note that there are 2 types of potential cabotage: (1) transporting EU nationals internationally within Europe and (2) transporting EU or local nationals within the same country. Generally, there are more cabotage considerations and risks to be mindful of when moving local nationals within national borders.

"The EU is trying to cut back on the 'grey charter market' and each country has a slightly different interpretation of cabotage and how they apply the rules," says Jeppesen ITP Account Specialist Jason Cornillez. "This is something you absolutely need to explore and understand if you plan on moving local nationals within country."

In the case of charter, you will not get landing permission if you submit a schedule considered as cabotage. And for private operations it's always best to confirm any possible cabotage issues with your ISP and/or local handlers prior to day of operation.

Parking options

Overnight and extended parking at major centers in Europe can be challenging at times. Some locations, such as London and Rome, have multiple airport options available. Others, Paris for example, really have only 1 airport serving GA. When multiple airports are available, it's best to consider all options rather than just going to the location you're most familiar with.

"LTN (Luton, London, UK) is always popular but they've been trying to reclaim as much land as they can for commercial traffic and it may cost you $15,000 to park a GV for a week," says Jeppesen Global Supervisor Vendor Relations Mark O'Carroll. "But parking costs are often dramatically less expensive at other London airports."

Where you choose to land in the London area will involve trade-offs between cost, access issues and curfew considerations. "FAB (Farnborough, UK) and BQH (London Biggin Hill, UK) can be a lot cheaper than LTN, and they're less congested. Curfews, however, need to be considered. FAB operates Monday through Friday 0700–2200 and weekends 0800–2200 local with no airport overtime available. BQH operates Monday through Friday 0630–2100 and weekends 0900–2000 and it may be possible to obtain airport overtime, but just 1 hour before or after curfew and only with prior arrangement," says Wilson.


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