The following articles where written by Frank Hofmann, IAOPA representative to ICAO and a COPA Director for Quebec.

  1. COPA as member of IAOPA
  2. COPA, IAOPA and ICAO Part II
  3. COPA, IAOPA and ICAO Part III

COPA as member of IAOPA

You may not have known it but as a member of COPA your aviation interests are also represented in another morsel of the “alphabet soup” - IAOPA. The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA), yes, the ‘C’ is left out for brevity, is the consortium of some 72 “COPAs” around the world, a kind of ‘über AOPA.’

There are pilot and owner associations in almost all States in the world where personal aircraft are flown and they vary in size from 200,000 in the case of the USA to as few as 4-5 in the case of fledgling associations. China is one of the newer members of IAOPA but already it boasts hundreds of members. Our COPA President, Kevin Psutka, is the North American vice-president of IAOPA. The current president of IAOPA is Mark Baker, who is also the president of AOPA USA. Additionally IAOPA has a Secretary General, Craig Spence, who interacts directly with the various AOPAs and who sees to the principles of the association being enacted.

IAOPA was formed in 1964. Several AOPA presidents at that time realized that representation at the world rule-making body the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), was important if regulation governing aviation was not going to be the sole purview of Commercial Aviation (ICAO is a United Nations organization). General aviation had to have a presence at the table if it was going to be heard on such matters as access to airspace and equipage requirements. Since the ICAO constitution permitted only States and International Organizations to be members, a core group of five AOPA’s formed IAOPA and then applied for observer status. That was granted on the basis that they represented AOPAs from around the world.

Ever since IAOPA has been recognized at ICAO and it has a privileged place on the Air Navigation Commission (ANC), the technical advisory body within ICAO. All technical matters dealing with the 19 Annexes of the Chicago Convention are deliberated in the Commission before the decisions are passed on to the ICAO Council for final approval. The Commission is IAOPA’s opportunity to provide expertise on General Aviation, to ask questions about proposed regulations, and to help assure that regulations are proportional to the risks presented - in other words, one size does not necessarily fit all. IAOPA meets every two years somewhere in the world to review its activities and to pass resolutions which set out the objectives of the association. It provides the opportunity for the leaders of our pilot and owner associations to get to know each other, to trade strategies, to swap ideas, to recognize common problems and, perhaps above all, to be assured that the path each is pursuing respectively is in fact quite common in the world.

Our leaders are sometimes accused of not coming up with novel tactics or of continually harping on the same topics. But the reality is that the problems we are facing in personal aviation are not new – access to airspace, airport numbers, fuel availability, costs, regulatory burdens - to name a few. As each generation of pilots, owners and regulators arrive on the scene they each have to go through a learning process. If it were not for the permanent existence and unrelenting work of our associations, who would carry out that work? These World Assemblies are the occasion where the energy to continue our efforts are renewed and are therefore crucial to our continued freedom to fly. The next World Assembly will take place in China where general aviation is about to blossom. COPA will again have an occasion to compare its own activities and strategic initiatives with other organizations and to exchange understandings of the status of General Aviation.

I intend to write again on some of the inner workings of ICAO and of how IAOPA interacts with that bureaucracy. Stand by.

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If you are still with me after last month’s explanation of COPA’s interaction on the world scene as a member of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilots Associations (IAOPA), I will add one more ingredient to the alphabet soup. ICAO. The International Civil Aviation Organization. Together, ICAO, IAOPA, and COPA work to create our flying environment.

ICAO, formed in 1944 and headquartered in Montreal, is a United Nations (UN) organization charged with developing rules by which international civil aviation may take place in a safe and orderly fashion. Civil aviation as we know it today includes General Aviation activity. In 1944, GA barely existed, consequently the aviation rule-making body, ICAO, directed its concerns primarily to international commercial aviation. A principal reason IAOPA originally was formed was for AOPAs (including COPA), which represented the growing GA sector of aviation, to be able to take part in that rule-making process. However, an early glitch, as it were, was that voting membership in ICAO was made up only of the signatory countries (States) to the 1944 Chicago Convention that created ICAO. This meant that international organizations such as IAOPA who later joined the rule-making body were to be considered “Observers”. This role, however, has evolved through time, as I shall explain later.

All members of ICAO agree to live by the 1944 Chicago Convention – an international air transport treaty - and to operate their aviation system according to rules developed on a consensus basis. These rules are called Standards and Recommended Practices, SARPs, and are augmented by Procedures of the Air Navigation System, PANS. The SARPs are in continual evolution and thus far have acquired a series of 19 Annexes or special subject categories covering all aviation activities from Licensing (Annex 1) to the most recent addition (Annex 19) - Safety Management Systems. Typically, national aviation authorities (in our case, Transport Canada) take these SARPs and PANS and apply them (sometimes with some modification) to create Air Regulations specific to that country - in Canada, CARs.

Once the State receives the SARPs it is important for the national AOPA (in our case, COPA) to assure that any effort on the part of the State (Transport Canada in Canada) to modify the ICAO SARPs is not detrimental to the interests of GA in that State. To assist the national AOPAs with this endeavour, IAOPA’s Representative to ICAO – besides actively participating in the rule-making process at ICAO via recent mechanisms implemented - acts as liaison with the 72 national AOPAs around the world, including Canada’s COPA. If modifications are made to the SARPs, States must ‘file a difference’ to any SARP subsequently modified and must publish the differences affecting flight operations in that country’s “Airman’s Information Publication” (AIP). With this hierarchical system of rule-making in place, it is important to the AOPAs of the world that they be represented at ICAO in the initial drafting stage of rules. It is then they best can assure that GA interests are served from the outset, before the SARPs are adopted by ICAO for later implementation by the 192 States. Whereas, in the beginning, IAOPA only could observe proceedings in ICAO’s rule-making chamber, and lobby in the hallways, there now are mechanisms in place that allow your Representative to participate actively in spirited debate concerning a wide spectrum of subjects pertinent, both directly and indirectly, to General Aviation.

To understand these mechanisms better, it is necessary to discuss the “Air Navigation Commission” – the technical advisory body to ICAO Council. (The latter vets the ANC’s recommendations and, taking into account the 192 signatory States’ economic and political constraints, translates the document into the six official languages and issues final approval for implementation). The Air Navigation Commission (ANC) is composed of 19 individuals, all experts in their own fields, who are seconded to ICAO by their sponsoring States. Which States contribute experts are subject to change. Typically, each expert is provided for a three year tour of duty.

These 19 are joined by the ANC President, two Vice-Presidents, a précis writer, six translators who sit in glassed-in booths behind the participants and provide simultaneous translations in the six official languages, and eight permanent international organizations’ Observers, of which IAOPA is one. All meet regularly in the Commission Chamber, a large formal room where – as in the UN Headquarters in New York City – participants sit in a circle. Each desk is equipped with a headset for translations and a microphone, on which one pushes a button to ask to speak. Only when recognized by the President of the ANC is one permitted to make concise and thoughtful interventions.

Participants are expected to come prepared to contribute their expertise to Working Papers (i.e. those final proposals submitted by the Secretariat to the ANC for technical approval and wording). “Being prepared” means each participant must read much ANC literature, for each recommendation being discussed has gone through a series of detailed consultations – in so-called Champion Teams, Study Groups, Working Groups, Panels and with States in the form of State Letters. These various sub-committees have been formed, some only recently, in recognition of the complexity of aviation in its totality and the diversity of needs existing in the world.

IAOPA’s Representative has been invited to participate actively in these various consultations, advocating the need for GA to be protected from inappropriate rules generated from before the rise of the GA sector. ICAO was, and still is, understandably, commercial aviation centric, although the 1944 Convention talks of aviation – all aviation – and not only commercial air transport. IAOPA seeks to ensure that regulations are proportional to the risk presented by and to General Aviation operations. ANC Chamber meetings are the final occasion during which IAOPA has the right to present its thoughts formally to ICAO and to seek to eliminate detrimental legislation or to better one which is being created.

With the growth of commercial aviation subsequent to World War II, and concurrently the growth of General Aviation, it has become increasingly important that a voice exists at ICAO to remind participants that the needs of GA are not the same as those of air carriers and that the SARPs, in many cases, need to be scaled to the needs of GA. Which SARPs should be scaled, to what extent, and using which wording is a constant preoccupation of IAOPA as it works to maintain GA’s access to airspace, within the parameters of workable regulations.

If you are still with me, I will next try to describe the somewhat tortuous route any new regulation takes as it navigates the ICAO halls. Again, stand by.

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Your family, as does everyone else’s, has ‘rules.’ Those rules have at their root some standard, be it the Ten Commandments or some health or other standard. Similarly aviation has rules, referred to as ‘regulations.’ As promised last month, this month I am going to walk you through the tortuous path of creating or modifying an air regulation at our world’s rule-making body, ICAO. But first, we need to review a few basic principles related to the process:

  1. Each country writes its own aviation regulations, but – as discussed in last month’s instalment on the inter-relationship between COPA, IAOPA and ICAO - the regulations all are generated by and often are identical to the so-called Standards and Recommended Practices, SARPs, agreed upon by the 192 signatory countries which are member States of the United Nation’s ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization.
  2. It is ICAO’s responsibility to create and sometimes to modify standards to ensure safe and efficient international air travel. It must be made clear, though, that SARPs generated at ICAO are developed on a consensus basis. This means that the majority of the 192 States must agree on setting any particular Standard. However, the sovereignty of individual States is always respected, with the result that States may opt out of implementing a particular SARP. That action is called ‘filing a difference.’
  3. Any modified national rules may be either less strict or indeed more exacting than those demanded by ICAO’s SARPs. Typically States with less developed economies strive to have simpler (and therefore less costly) rules to adopt whereas highly developed countries with complicated airspace structures moving millions of people, such as European countries, may raise the ICAO Standards even further.
  4. Filing differences, however, is done with hesitance, since doing so can have negative effects. One such effect could be to be refused entry when flying from a country with more relaxed regulations into a country with stricter regulations. Conversely, any State implementing stricter rules than those of ICAO makes access to aviation in its own country more difficult and more costly, both of which create a negative impact on aviation.
  5. To help assure that the standards are properly in effect among the 192 signatory States, ICAO audits all 192 Civil Aviation Authorities to determine that the various national regulators have put the means in place to enforce the agreed upon Standards.
  6. The route to either creating or modifying a SARP is a complicated one. The process typically requires a minimum of 3 years and, more often than not, more.

The process in general

The creation of a Standard usually is triggered by a need expressed by several States or else evolves out of a long accepted recommended practice. The formal process starts with a request by a State or an international organization (such as IAOPA) to the ICAO Secretariat (some 55 Technical Officers) which explains the logic for the requested SARP and often comes with a suggestion for its wording.

In the event of an organization requesting a new SARP or a change to an existing SARP it is very useful if one or several States also support the suggested change or addition. That step is sometimes somewhat political since some States which might not have the means or need to implement a new SARP or a change to one will resist supporting such a request. Once a request is recognized as important in the initial stages and it has gained some support, the request is presented to the Air Navigation Commission (the approval body for all technical matters) which, after discussion, may agree to place the request on its order papers. At this point the request is formal and ‘in the mill’.

Now, as promised, let us examine a concrete example of having a SARP modified, using one of IAOPA’s current initiatives.

In about 1996, after a significant battle with entrenched interests such as trade unions and firefighting equipment manufacturers, Canada dropped its requirement to have rescue and firefighting (RFF) equipment on all public airports. To do so, Canada filed a difference to the ICAO Annex 14 Part 1 Standard which required all public airports to have RFF on the field in order to be declared open. Canada boasted a substantial GA community for whom the cost of having RFF on every airport would be prohibitively high and would lead to the imposition of landing fees, a situation Canada was unwilling at the time to accept. Other countries with strong GA activity – USA, Australia, and Britain among others - also filed similar differences to the ICAO Standard for airports serving mainly GA. Continental European countries, on the other hand, did not file a difference and therefore were not and are not permitted to operate without RFF on the field, even if the field serves only GA.

Just over four years ago, the AOPAs of Continental Europe asked IAOPA to attempt to have the ICAO Standard requiring RFF changed so that States could not, without an adequate cost-benefit analysis, automatically point to the ICAO requirement and impose RFF. Believing the request to be important, IAOPA began immediately to work with ICAO to attempt to change the requirement. (And so that you do not think that Canada is now free and clear of the requirement, I regret to tell you that a renewed attempt is being made in Alberta to re-introduce the requirement at a GA airport).

IAOPA presented a paper at ICAO’s 2010 Triennial Assembly asking that the RFF requirement be modified. Fortunately, Australia, which had already filed a difference to that ICAO Standard, supported IAOPA’s request. Therefore, the request was supported by a signatory State and was assigned to the ICAO Secretariat for action. The Secretariat in turn prepared a paper to be submitted to the Air Navigation Commission, ANC, in which body IAOPA has Observer status. This body deals with all technical matters. The ANC, after some deliberations, adopted the paper and put the request on a list of priorities. Knowing that ICAO modifies its Standards based on consensus of its member States, it became important for IAOPA to establish if there was vigorous support world-wide (and not just within European States) for the demand to change the RFF Standard within its own IAOPA community. IAOPA collected data on GA from around the world to help boost its argument. It also surveyed its then 70-member AOPA affiliates to identify their GA RFF requirements on airports. All data collected unanimously favored removing the RFF requirement.

The ICAO Secretariat countered with a survey of its own to its States. Only 22 of 192 States replied, only one of which was a developed GA State. All 22 opposed change. They stated that the Annex 14 Standard decreed RFF on the field so therefore they did not support a lesser requirement in the Standard. Their response was not surprising, as States generally are reluctant not to apply all Standards. They know that their own regulators are audited to ICAO Standards and, not always understanding the flexibility ICAO has built into its system, they fear their State may lose operational privileges if not all Standards are in place. Facing an impasse, IAOPA needed to find a different route to pursue the matter. IAOPA turned to present its case to Annex 14’s Airports Panel and its RFF Working Group, and reiterated the need for change.

In the meantime IAOPA continued gathering data to use as ammunition. Among points of some significance that surfaced in the task were the huge costs involved in having RFF on the field, and the fact that there are almost zero instances in any country where a life has been saved in a GA aircraft by RFF being in place on the field. Because it has been ascertained that the burn-through time of a GA aircraft is 17 seconds, and the required ICAO RFF response time is 3 minutes, it becomes clear that RFF presence is of no help to GA activity.

As well, the fact that a significant number of States with GA activity already have opted out of applying the RFF Standards for GA airports bolstered the evidence presented by IAOPA that the Annex containing the Standard is flawed and needs to be modified. The advisory bodies of the Airports Panel and its RFF Working Group considered IAOPA’s arguments. In the end, these bodies, as those before, supported the status quo and the business interests on airports, and not the interests of the users – its pilots.

To take IAOPA’s demand out of the closed loop IAOPA now was advised to switch from pursuing the matter with those responsible for Annex 14, where it had been focused, to those responsible for Annex 6 – Operations. The rationale for the switch was that ICAO standards decree that it is the pilot’s privilege to choose which airport is safe and suitable for operations.

Annex 14 which contains the RFF Standards is a design Annex, meant to instruct regulators of what the design features of an airport must consist. The design Standard is not meant to tell pilots where they may land. Those pilot-operating Standards are found in the Operations Annex, Annex 6. It is here that a pilot’s right to choose his airport and to accept the accompanying risks is entrenched. It was thought that if the Operations Panel (the consultative body that is focussed on Operations rather than Airport Standards) would support the IAOPA request, the Airports Panel that works within Annex 14 might re-evaluate its stance. (Remember, the RFF requirement is found in Annex 14, and not in Annex 6).

To strengthen its effectiveness IAOPA successfully sought, in collaboration with the Secretariat, to initiate an ICAO GA Study Group to enable that new ICAO body to carry the GA ball from within the ICAO framework, rather than relying only on an ‘outside body’, IAOPA, to push GA concerns. Additionally, IAOPA asked to be, and - once its expertise was confirmed (a recent occurrence) - was nominated and elected as an Operations Panel member, giving it not just the right to be present at all Operations Panel meetings, but to have full voting rights. This was a significant step forward. Having before only Observer rights at the ANC, where IAOPA needed to gain the support behind the scenes of those with voting rights, the new right not only to voice opinions and persuade in the meeting forum, but the right to a vote was significant.

The Operations Panel holds considerable influence. It is a technical advisor to the ANC. Since gaining full membership on the Air Navigation Bureau’s technical panel (its Operations Panel) IAOPA’s request to have the RFF Standard of Annex 14 modified has gained traction. This does not mean that there ultimately will be a favourable outcome, but the RFF issue will not be forgotten either. The issue is alive, and in ICAO parlance, that is a positive step. If the various panels, working groups and study groups can come to terms, the earliest that a change in the RFF SARPs could be published is after the next ICAO Triennial Assembly in 2016. States then possibly could have up to three years to implement the change, or they may still choose to file a difference. Remember - IAOPA began the process concerning RFF requirements sometime early in 2009.

With all the hurdles that must be jumped on any and all issues, events move slowly, but they do move. ICAO itself has over 1,000 important issues it is tackling at any given moment. The issue of RFF requirements at all public airports is just one of many issues IAOPA currently is addressing at ICAO.

When people ask what IAOPA does at ICAO a potential answer could be: maintains its patience.

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