EBAA Kicks Into High Gear To Support European Business Aviation

EBAA Secretary General Athar Husain Khan
EBAA Secretary General Athar Husain Khan
Credit: European Business Aviation Association

Europe’s business aviation industry has faced crises before, but never on the unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as it struggles for survival, it has mobilized to provide invaluable help as the collapse of the airline industry has cut movement of medical equipment, patients and aid workers.

Backstopping that effort is the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), which is taking a leadership role to support the industry, provide navigation through ever-changing regulations, encourage politicians to grant financial aid and shape rules for recovery.

“We work with European and global authorities and other aviation organizations to gather, filter and disseminate official guidance and information to our members as it becomes available,” says EBAA Secretary General Athar Husain Khan. “We also advocate on behalf of the business aviation sector, ensuring our industry can continue to operate where appropriate and safety allows.”

This builds on a message not always evident in the past: Business aviation is a lifeline for communities, be it for medical or other transport, and is a tool to help governments and businesses generate local economic development.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads worldwide, business aviation professionals are once again jumping into action to fly stranded citizens back to their home countries, transport medical teams, airlift patients and ship medical supplies,” says Khan. “In the face of heightened challenges such as airspace and airport closures, the industry is rallying forces to support [it in] this global crisis.”

Khan notes that the EBAA is also focusing intently on the future. “The discussions that we’re having with the European Commission are focused very much on what we should be thinking about when we move into recovery,” he says. “That’s very much a work in progress. The same with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). We want to represent the interests of our members to the best of our ability, getting onto the front foot, staying on the front foot and doing exactly that.”

Meanwhile, he says “some of our members are almost on the ropes,” and they need short-term help if they are to have a future.

So what is the EBAA doing?

On an immediate level, its discussions have supported decisions by Eurocontrol to defer air traffic control fees, by EASA to extend pilot license and training requirements and by the EU to delay the deadline to fit aircraft with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast equipment.

It has published two open letters to the European Commission (EC) urging harmonization of rules for recovery across the EU and outlining the role business aviation can play. Many of the safety rules for transportation the EU is considering for reopening borders are already being practiced by business aviation as it carries out humanitarian flights under lockdown restrictions, Khan points out.

On May 14, the EC published guidelines for the safe resumption of air travel in Europe, urging a coordinated and nondiscriminatory implementation at the national level. These proposals are welcomed by the EBAA, says Khan. “We are glad to see that many of the recommendations put forward by the EC are those that have been put in place by business aviation operators on the frontline of the crisis.”

The EBAA also has created the EBAA COVID-19 Resource Center website, updated daily and open to nonmembers as well, that provides a host of financial and operational information including: A 40-page overview of European financial support measures available by country; overviews of aviation-related travel restrictions in Europe and globally; operational guidance and updates (shared via EBAA’s #BSafe newsletter alerts); activities EBAA is undertaking in light of COVID-19; and traffic tracking data from Eurocontrol and WingX.

Khan emphasizes that business aviation can help define the new norm for air transportation by its example of operating safely under the current restrictions. “We want to be the catalysts. We want to be the drivers of that recovery,” he says.

John Morris

John was editor of Aviation Week's ShowNews for nearly two decades. He retired in 2020. His background in business journalism before joining Aviation Week includes stints at Reuters, the American Banker daily banking newspaper and as business news editor at the Milwaukee Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer.