My farewell editorial

It is almost unbelievable how fast 4 years have passed as I am writing today my last editorial as an ECA President. In the past years I had the privilege to work with dedicated staff and volunteer pilots. With my second term coming to an end, I have decided not to stand for re-election at ECA’s next General Assembly in November.

It will be impossible to write about all the issues we worked on, the battles we won and the ones we were less successful in. Maybe, the best known issue is the Flight Time Limitations campaign. FTL is symbolic of our struggle for higher aviation safety levels. Most of you have followed this campaign closely or participated in our battle for safe & science-based FTL rules.

But in the past years we have worked on numerous dossiers, defending flight safety and fair working conditions for pilots. ECA’s contributions to the revision of the EU Occurrence Reporting Regulation, updating aviation Security Regulations, fighting bogus self-employment, establishing new social security rules for crews and the Social Dialogue, to name just a few, are concrete examples of the work done in ECA and how this contributes to safer and sustainable aviation.

There are – and will continue to be – key issues which continue to require ECA’s full attention and swift action. Two of them are particularly important and critical because they concern the way in which the aviation industry will develop in the next years: unfair competition and the emergence of problematic new ‘business models’. These can influence and deteriorate our employment models in the near future and have the potential to destroy our European airlines.

In the past year, ECA worked intensively on the issue of unfair competition and now it will seek support from the new European Commission and EU Parliament to address this complex problem. Regarding unfair competition, we will have to deal with the further expansion of competition from, for example, the Middle Eastern airlines that are sponsored and partly financed by their Governments. In the European Union, State subsidies are restricted. But when “Third Country” operators can offer far lower prices due to their unfair financial advantages this distorts competition and risks pushing EU airlines – and the employment they provide – out of the market. The EU has to address this challenge; otherwise in 5 to 10 years there will be no genuine European aviation industry left.

The boom of “innovative business models” is also a worrying trend, which is high on the ECA radar. We already raised concerns that complex business set ups can have significant adverse safety implications. We just recently saw a clear example that complex, transnational business models combined with shrinking resources in the national safety oversight authorities can lead to dangerous – and potentially disastrous – situations.

In addition to those challenges, ECA has a multitude of other but not less important dossiers. Two of them are covered in this Cockpit News: Crew Resource Management (CRM) Training, and improving predictability in flight paths.

The next ECA President will continue our efforts to find a sustainable solution for a competitive airline industry.  I am handing over a team of committed Board Directors and ECA staff, many experts and volunteer pilots who are dedicated to “Piloting Safety”. I am confident that with the support of ECA staff and Member Associations, the European pilot community will be in safe hands!