How much control should other nations have on U.S. pilots?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — General aviation pilot who fly frequently to Europe are finding problems that can make flying expensive, as well as more difficult, and are raising questions about just how much United States aviation should be controlled by other nations.

The newest problem is a European court’s ruling on Dec. 21, 2011, that a plan by European regulators to tax carbon emissions from aircraft using European airspace must apply to all operators, regardless of where those aircraft are based, including the U.S. The court’s ruling came after a legal challenge questioning whether the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) was applicable to aircraft based in the U.S.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) was a party to that suit. Emission taxes are levied over the entire route of the flight, not just the part that uses European airspace. This means that any flight from the U.S. must pay the tax from takeoff in the U.S., across the Atlantic, to its point of landing in Europe.

The rule went into effect Jan. 1. U.S. airlines have been fighting the controversial rule, claiming the added expense will cost them $3.1 billion between 2012 and 2020.

NBAA’s president and CEO Ed Bolen says the court’s decision to permit the taxes to go into effect goes against established policy and long-standing practice when it comes to regulation. He notes that such issues are a subject for the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the United Nations. ICAO, which has been working to develop standards for aviation emissions, issued a statement last November urging the European Union not to include flights by non-EU operators in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The U.S. government also has stated its objections to the move by the European Union. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood have warned that the U.S. might be compelled to take “appropriate action” if the scheme goes through. Other nations also oppose the new rule. China, India, Brazil, Russia, and 21 other governments joined the U.S. last September in saying that the unilaterally imposed measures of the EU were inconsistent with international legal regimes.

The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill prohibiting U.S. airlines and general aviation from participating in the EU-ETS if it is unilaterally imposed on them. A similar measure is in the Senate to be acted on.

A group of aviation interests sent a joint letter to the Senate urging action on the bill, which was introduced by Senator John Thune (R-SD). That letter held signatures of almost all of our country’s aviation interests. In addition to NBAA, the letter was also signed by the leaders of the: Aerospace Industries Association, Airlines for America, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, American Society of Travel Agents, Cargo Airline Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Global Business Travel Association, International Air Transport Association, Interactive Travel Services Association, National Air Carrier Association, National Air Transportation Association, Regional Airline Association, and the U.S. Travel Association.

Besides deep concerns about paying unilaterally-imposed taxes, the organizations fear that this action by a single group that affects all aviation could set a precedent that could be imposed on other aviation actions and be adopted by other nations.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.


  1. Anonymous says

    This European law is the result of a green mindset combined with anti USA politics.
    A green mindset formed in laws is the worst what can happen to aviation. For me it is thoughtless and self destroying that some parts of the aviation community are still promoting green goals.
    Since decades I am wondering why the USA is defending Europe and European interests mainly on U.S. costs, allows excessive exports into the U.S. what destroys jobs in the U.S. (see  Autos and machinery from Germany), accepts highly European tax sponsored Airbus as an competitor in the marked, and sets no drastic stop points when American interests are undermined.
    Especially when I see how fundamental critic and how against the USA the position of wide parts of the European population, their politicians, their intellect people and the European law makers are.
    The U.S. should look more for their own interests and stop the Europeans when it`s necessary. Like with this tax law what touches the sovereignty of the U.S. and other countries. That will help the Europeans to master the future too.
    To stop this European development landing right of European Airlines in the U.S. should be questioned. And adequate customs to reduce the excessive German export should be considered. That would help the Europeans to come back on a realistic and fair long lasting way how it is absolutely necessary with friends.

  2. Bjorn T Andersson says

    Thank EU that some nations act responsibly for protecting our future. AOPA needs to realize they have members also over here. Björn in Sweden

  3. Ad8n says

    With all due respect, I think the example you provide of supersonic flight is quite different to the situation described here. The US never tried to prevent all supersonic flight, even those beginning or ending in the USA. It only prevented supersonic overflight of the USA. Concorde, if it were able, would have been free to fly across the country at sub-sonic speeds.
    The difference here is that the EU are imposing a tax on all flights overflying Europe (and not just that portion in European airspace.) Consequently, a flight departing JFK and landing at Heathrow or Charles de Gaulle would have the tax imposed over the full length of the flight whether they like it or not. There is no possibility of adapting their operations to the regulations.
    Furthermore, and most importantly, the EU are imposing their regulations on international airspace over which they should have no jurisdiction. Imagine the reaction if the US imposed US law on international airspace and perhaps you can see why this legislation must be fought.
    This is not a matter of global warming and one’s personal opinion of it, but a matter of legal precedence and sovereignty.
    Just my $0.02

  4. Michel Cornier says

    As a member of AOPA, I disagree with the position taken in my name. The reaction against a European legislation aimed at reducing gas emissions is another sign that this country remains very insular. When Air France and British Airways introduced their commercial supersonic service to this country, they did not try to oppose the US noise regulations, they adapted their operations to them. 

    Michel Cornier
    AOPA 05199411

  5. Ad8n says

    No taxation without representation. The US was created because of “foreign” taxes, and it should fight them as strongly now as it did over two hundred years ago.

  6. Dave Hook says

    Contact your
    U.S. Senators and strongly request that they vote in favor of the ban.  The EU-ETS is particularly bad policy.  As aviators we shouldn’t accept being held
    hostage to ill-conceived efforts to strip revenues from commercial aviation and
    place onerous burdens on general aviation.

    Kudos to the
    U.S. House of Representatives for getting this ball rolling!!!  This is the value of having a G.A. Caucus.

  7. Tony IRWIN says

    I might be wrong, but I feel that the United Kingdom is not a supporter of this measure. We (all private pilots in U.K.) are against it as are the Airlines who are speaking out VERY loudly against it.

  8. Kent Misegades says

    The larger problem is the insane notions that man-made global warming exists, and that CO2, vital to the survival of all living things, is somehow bad for the Earth.   Europeans are, in this regard, KoolAid drinkers.  The solution is simple – revoke landing rights in the US for all airlines based in Europe, starting with British Airways, Lufthansa and AIr France.   That ought to get their attention.

    • RobertOKUSA says

      Kent…A large, global consensus of climate scientists have said that anthropogenic global climate change is occurring. Are you a climate scientist too or did you simply spend the night at a Holiday Inn Express? Melting glaciers cannot lie you know. Regardless…

      I agree with Ad8n that “This is not a matter of global warming and one’s personal opinion of it, but a matter of legal precedence and sovereignty.”

      • Tdwelander says

        Planet Earth has over 1200 active volcanoes spewing toxins and ash into the upper atmosphere, dropping almost anywhere downwind causing hidden sickness and death. Large forest fires and desert dust storms all make a significant contribution to climate change and pollution.  In fact, over 90% of the climate change comes from these sources plus hurricanes and sunamis as secondary transfer agents.  Geologists have shown planet Earth has ranged from a volcanic inferno to a complete ice ball.  Get real. Check out the facts as listed here and stop the charade and stay out of the way of extreme weather, which humanity can do nothing about.  This information is taken from several PBS documentaries on planet earth sponsored by David H. Koch.  Go check it out before you shoot your mouth off any more.  We all know the EU is nearly permanently out to lunch;  clueless on more than a few things.
        Only time, assertions of stalwart scientific facts will eventually get the Europeans off their pie in the sky way of life.  The Europeans believed in spontaneous generation of life for over 100 years before the microscope was invented; proving how out of touch they can be.

      • Tdwelander says

        I apologize for not getting right to the point.  Atmospheric carbon dioxide is around 400 parts per million (ppm).  The toxic level of carbon dioxide for animals and humans is 5000 ppm, Handbook of Physics and Chemistry, 65th edition page D-127.  The atmospheric level of carbon dioxide can easily be ten times the current level of 400 ppm; I repeat 10 times the current level of CO2.  Additionally, the planet will be a very greener place with more carbon dioxide as plants will take in all the carbon dioxide they can get; how wrong anyone is for suggesting limits on carbon dioxide based on the above.  Why in court anyone suggesting a carbon dioxide atmospheric limit will likely not only be denied but ridiculed for such foolishness.

  9. Dennis Reiley says

    Does anyone really think European courts would rule against European laws.

    All this means is there needs to be a world consortium on aviation standards so what is compliance in one country is in compliance in another. The true problem is everyone wants to dance to their own drummer. Either we learn to work together or the world’s economy is going to get worse.

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