2016 was a positive year for the Irish Aviation Authority ("IAA") and for the aviation industry sector, as highlighted in the IAA's recently published Annual Report for 2016 (the "Report"). The IAA is rightly very pleased that Ireland was ranked second in Europe for civil aviation safety oversight, following an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation ("ICAO") in 2016, a year when air traffic activity increased across all areas of the IAA's business.
The Report is a useful barometer of aviation activity in Ireland. The IAA's Chief Executive Officer, Eamonn Brennan, reported that currently, there are almost 1,300 aircraft on the Irish aircraft register and the aviation industry here is continuing to grow.
Key initiatives of the IAA, as highlighted in the Report, are set out below:
1. Air operator initiatives
Most of the main Irish Aircraft Operator Certificate ("AOC") holders are in expansionary mode and Norwegian Air International will begin transatlantic operations from Ireland in 2017 following their successful application for North Atlantic routes under the EU/US open skies agreement. The IAA has also received an application from SAS to establish an Irish AOC and this is being assessed.
2. Support for aircraft leasing sector
The IAA continues to support the leasing industry. A new Article 83 bis agreement was signed with Hungary in December 2016 facilitating the use of Irish registered aircraft by Hungarian air operators. This brings the total number of Article 83 bis agreements signed to twenty. The Aviation lessor community in Ireland continues to request agreements with both EU and non-EU countries. The IAA has indicated that it will initiate such agreements, where appropriate.
IAA representatives were part of the ICAO Article 83 bis task force which provided its final report to the ICAO Legal Committee in December 2015.
There are now almost 7,000 drones and model aircraft on the IAA's drone register. IAA has acknowledged its role in continuing to promote drone safety awareness issues. There is a legal requirement for drones heavier than 1kg to be registered in Ireland.
4. Aviation regulation
The primary EU regulation that governs civil aviation in EU Member States is being updated at present. The draft updated regulation was tabled by the European Commission, for consideration, in early 2016. It has passed through the European Council Aviation Working Group and an agreed text was issued at the end of 2016. It is due to go through the full EU legislative process in 2017.
The draft regulation will extend the role of European Aviation Safety Agency ("EASA") and will present both threats and opportunities to the IAA and the Irish aviation industry alike in the years ahead. The IAA continues to support the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the development of this draft regulation.
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