Published on August 23rd, 2015 | by Jim Lee


New Irish National Aviation Policy launched

On 20th August, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe, launched a new policy for the Irish aviation sector. As an island nation, aviation plays a crucial role in Ireland’s economy. Ireland is far more dependent on aviation than many of our continental neighbours and trading partners and we depend on aviation for our links with the rest of the world, both socially and economically. It therefore not only important, but essential, that we have an appropriate policy framework within which the sector, can continue to develop and grow, to underpin economic recovery and development.

This is particularly true as it is more than two decades since a formal statement of Government objectives for Irish aviation was published. Over that period, there have been major developments in global aviation and significant market liberalisation has taken place, with access being opened up in many regions of the world. In addition many airlines and airports have moved out of State ownership. There has also been significant engineering and technological developments, which have contributed to an expansion of aviation activity at a global level. Here in Ireland, the industry has played its part in those developments and has become a major contributor to Ireland’s economy.

A strong aviation sector is therefore vital to us as an island economy. It is essential for our tourism industry, for our trading relationships and for connecting Ireland with the rest of the world. It contributes €4.1 billion directly to our GDP comprising €1.9 billion directly from aviation, €1.3 billion through the supply chain and €0.9 billion from associated spending by people employed in aviation. It supports 26,000 jobs directly and a further 16,000 in the supply chain. Ireland’s tourism industry, which is heavily dependent on aviation, accounts for a further €5.3 billion contribution to GDP and 180,000 jobs.

With an appropriate national policy framework in place to facilitate a strong aviation sector, Ireland can continue to play a significant part in the development of global aviation in the future. The key question is whether the 94 page document launched by Minister Donohoe provides an adequate appropriate national policy framework.

Clearly the Minister believes it is describing it as, “a robust Policy that will provide a positive pathway for the development and growth of the aviation sector in Ireland, creating jobs both directly and indirectly”. He added that it would also create an environment that would encourage the industry to increase connectivity to and from Ireland for the benefit of the travelling public, Irish tourism and Irish business.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister pledged the Government’s support for the further development of the aviation sector, saying:

“Aviation matters. It matters to the Irish economy, it matters to consumers, and it matters to this Government”. He went on to outline the aviation sector’s contribution to the Irish economy adding that “I’m glad to say that in line with our very healthy economic recovery, the aviation sector in Ireland continues to grow strongly. Last year 25.5 million passengers used Ireland’s airports – up 7% on 2013 and total flights in Irish airspace grew by 2.7%. This trend looks set to continue with a record 15% increase in passenger volume at Dublin Airport reported for the first half of 2015. The sustained growth in Irish air traffic in recent years is very welcome”.

Noting that this is the first time the State has launched a Policy of this kind the Minister went on to outline the main features of the new policy, which includes:-

  • The maintenance of aviation safety as the number one priority;
  • An increase in connectivity, especially with emerging markets;
  • The achievement of a high level of competition between airlines operating in the Irish market;
  • The retention of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports in State ownership;
  • The promotion of Dublin Airport as a secondary hub, with the necessary infrastructure to meet projected traffic growth, and supporting the roles of Cork and Shannon airports as tourism and business gateways in their respective regions;
  • Support the regional airports in line with the recently EU approved Regional Airports Programme, which runs from 2015 to 2019;
  • A commitment to maintaining Ireland’s attractiveness as a base for aircraft leasing;
  • The undertaking of an independent review of the regulatory regime for airport charges by the end of this year 2015 and the future policy on airport charges regulation will be finalised by mid-2016;
  • The establishment of a National Aviation Development Forum in order to consult with the industry on the development of the international regulatory agenda for aviation and to coordinate the promotion of Irish aviation.

Concluding his launch statement, the Minister said; “By 2020, we expect Irish airports will handle in the region of 33 million passengers and the Irish aviation has to be ready not just to deal with the challenges ahead in this changing global environment but to capitalise on the opportunities that will present, such as the shift taking place in the global aviation from the traditional EU-US axis, eastwards to Asia. Contributing to the nation’s economic recovery is at the very heart of the purpose behind the preparation of this new aviation policy. The extensive input received from stakeholders, including experiences in the industry over these past few difficult years, has helped to shape what I believe to be a robust Policy that will provide a positive pathway for the development and growth of the aviation sector in Ireland, creating jobs both directly and indirectly. It will also create an environment that will encourage the industry to increase connectivity to and from Ireland for the benefit of the travelling public, Irish tourism and Irish business. The implementation of this Policy will be a key priority for my Department”.

So how does the new policy document measure up? In short it is best summed up as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Most of the policy statements are safe, and build on current practice and custom, but are nevertheless are worth putting down in a coherent fashion. It is clearly designed to respond to the contributions from the various sectors of the industry and this is most clearly reflected in the compromises in the policy statements on the State owned big three airports compared to the Regional Airports.

Irish National Aviation Policy 2015It is however, a good thing, that the extensive input received from stakeholders, including experiences in the industry over these past few difficult years, have helped to shape this policy document. At the time the process was launched in December 2012, the aviation industry globally was suffering from the crippling effects of the economic downturn. The process was launched with a stakeholder conference in the Convention Centre Dublin. More than 400 participants attended from the aviation industry and from many other associated sectors. Taking account of the views expressed by participants at the conference, the Department published an Issues Paper in February 2013 and invited comments on the main themes and questions covered in the paper. A total of 74 submissions were received. These were analysed and a draft National Aviation Policy was published in May 2014 for further comment. Again more than 70 submissions were received and these were taken into account in finalising this policy document. Continuing this ‘evolutionary process’, the document commits to an independent review of the regulatory regime for airport charges by the end of this year 2015 and the establishment of a National Aviation Development Forum in order to consult with the industry on the development of the international regulatory agenda for aviation and to coordinate the promotion of Irish aviation.

The policy document is organised under the following heading and we shall examine these further in future postings.

  • Safety, Security and Sustainability,
  • Connectivity and Aviation Services,
  • Airports,
  • Regulation and Governance,
  • Aircraft Leasing, Financing and MRO,
  • General Aviation, Education and Training,
  • Statistics and Consultation.

Appendix 1 summaries the key policy actions:-

  • Ireland, as part of the ABIS Group, will seek nomination for election to the ICAO Council for the period 2016-2019.
  • The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will consult with the National Aviation Development Forum (see below) on the development of the international legislative and regulatory agendas.
  • Ireland will input to the proposed EU Aviation Package at an early stage to influence the development of proposed measures.
  • Ireland, through the Department and the IAA, will play an active role in the development of aviation safety regulations at an EU level and in ICAO.
  • Ireland will continue to maintain an independent safety investigation authority for the investigation of aviation occurrences.
  • The Department and the IAA will coordinate the State Safety Programme, including risk management.
  • Ireland will continue to facilitate and promote occurrence reporting in accordance with EU law and ICAO requirements and to meet the highest standards of independent accident investigation.
  • The IAA will establish and monitor appropriate key aviation safety indicators based on the EASA system.
  • The IAA and AAIU will monitor aviation safety trends through ECCAIRS analysis.
  • Ireland will contribute to work at EU level to develop and implement an appropriate EU wide safety regulatory framework for the operation of Remotely Piloted Aviation Systems in civilian airspace.
  • Ireland will allow greater flexibility to industry through the introduction of an outcome focussed, risk-based approach to security regulation.
  • Ireland will introduce a more targeted and comprehensive approach to compliance monitoring and developing requirements for SeMS, similar to the successful approach already implemented in the field of safety.
  • Ireland will place a risk-based approach to security at the heart of our thinking and of our future research. As a first step in this direction we will initiate a feasibility study in 2015, in conjunction with other key stakeholders, on the concept of a “Trusted Traveller” Programme.
  • Ireland will work with European partners to achieve the development of global international standards for market based measures on aircraft emissions.
  • Ireland will develop its aviation emissions reporting capability in support of ICAO’s evolving environmental policies.
  • Ireland will, in consultation with interested parties, update its National Action Plan for Emissions Reductions in 2015 in line with the ICAO 2013 Resolution on Climate Change.
  • Ireland will encourage research and development in Ireland of clean engine technologies and sustainable fuels.
  • Ireland will implement a “Balanced Approach” to noise management at Irish airports in accordance with Regulation (EC) No.598 of 2014 on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Union airports.
  • Ireland will develop an Adaptation Plan for the Transport Sector, which will include adaptation options for airports and aviation services in line with national legislative obligations and the EU Adaptation Strategy.
  • The Department will increase and extend Ireland’s bilateral agreements with other States.
  • Ireland will continue to actively support EU efforts to negotiate full Open Skies agreements with third countries.
  • An overall freight policy for Ireland, covering all modes, will be developed with a view to ensuring the continued competitiveness of the freight sector, and will include consideration of the role of air-cargo.
  • The Department will seek to remove limits on all air-cargo capacity in Ireland’s bilateral air transport agreements.
  • The Department will engage with the relevant stakeholders under the auspices of the National Facilitation Committee on air-cargo. (See below).
  • Dublin and Shannon Airports, in partnership with the other players in the air-cargo industry, will be mandated to develop and publish strategies on air-cargo.
  • The development of Shannon Airport as an air-cargo hub will be supported.
  • The Department will continue to liaise with other Government bodies and the US authorities on the regime for exports to the US in order to facilitate efficient freight operations at airports.
  • The Department will maintain close formal links with the US authorities to ensure the continued delivery and development of US Preclearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon Airports.
  • The Department will encourage Dublin and Shannon Airports and airlines to maximise the benefits to Ireland of preclearance facilities and will promote the development of those airports as preclearance centres.
  • The Department will support Shannon Airport in seeking to increase the number of GA aircraft utilising preclearance.
  • Ireland will continue to encourage investments in modern, technologically advanced, cost-efficient aviation infrastructure, including those that underpin Ireland’s interest in the North Atlantic and the future traffic growth at our airports.
  • The Department will monitor the business development of all airports for evidence that the prevailing network is operating at an optimum level. Monitoring will occur within the framework of developments under EU rules and the structural and capacity reviews referred to below.
  • The Department, the airports and the tourism agencies will continue to work together to increase access to Ireland from high-potential overseas tourism markets.
  • Ireland will implement an EU approved Framework (Regional Airports Programme 2015 – 2019) of supports for regional airports.
  • Exchequer support for operational expenditure at regional airports will be phased out over a maximum period of 10 years, in accordance with EU Guidelines.
  • Exchequer support for capital expenditure will be limited to safety and security related expenditure.
  • Clear business plans will be required from the airports seeking supports. In considering funding to regional airports, the Department will take account of the level of regional involvement, including investment by local authorities and/or business.
  • From 2015, PSO contracts, for Donegal/Dublin and Kerry/Dublin air services will run for two years initially and, subject to a satisfactory review after 18 months, may be extended by a maximum of one year.
  • Dublin Airport will be promoted as a secondary hub airport.
  • The roles of the Cork and Shannon airports as key tourism and business gateways for their regions, and particularly with regard to the development of key niche markets, will be supported.
  • The Department will review the ownership and operational structure of the State airports in 2019 (and subsequently at 5-year intervals). The initial review will incorporate a fresh consideration of the feasibility of establishing Cork as an independent airport.
  • The process to develop the second runway at Dublin Airport will commence, to ensure the infrastructure necessary for the airport’s position as a secondary hub and operate to global markets without weight restrictions is available when needed.
  • The Department will commission a high-level, strategic capacity review in 2018, taking into account wider government objectives and policies for enterprise and tourism as well as developments in the global market. The views of airport users will be taken into account during the capacity review process.
  • Taking account of the high-level, strategic capacity review, Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports will be mandated to carry out reviews of capacity constraints and infrastructure needs at five yearly intervals, the first reviews to be completed before the end of 2018.
  • Access to the airports will be taken into account during the development of surface transport programmes, in line with the Department’s Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport which proposed the prioritisation of improved connections to key seaports and airports.
  • The Department will continue to host the National FAL Committee meetings with a view to better coordination of facilitation activities between Government Departments and relevant stakeholders.
  • The Department will facilitate implementation of the National Air Transport Facilitation Programme 2015 – 2017, and ensure it is reviewed by the FAL Committee every three years.
  • In line with the Department’s Tourism Policy, airports will be encouraged to prioritise investment in visitor reception facilities in order to remove bottlenecks and to create a welcoming environment for visitors.
  • The Department will support the further development of the British Irish Visa Scheme and other enhancements of the visa system to promote growth in tourism and business visits to Ireland.
  • The Department, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality, will encourage airports to streamline passenger flows taking full advantage of the Common Travel Area.
  • An independent review of airport charges regulation will be completed by end-2015. The review will deliver options and recommendations for a future regulatory system for airport charges. The process will involve full consultation with impacted parties.
  • The Department will finalise and publish its policy on airport charges regulation, and make preparations for any necessary changes to legislation, by mid-2016.
  • The organisational arrangements for provision of safety and economic regulatory oversight will be restructured taking account of the review of the appropriate model for airport charges regulation (see Proposal 5.1.1) and of developments and timelines under the SES legislation. In advance of any restructuring options being pursued, there will be full consultation with impacted parties.
  • Ireland will support the EU’s work in examining the implications arising from the growth in new business models and more complex commercial arrangements for employment in the aviation sector and, in particular, the human factors implications of such arrangements.
  • Ireland will fully adopt the Cape Town ‘Alternative A’ insolvency arrangements, and will promote this benefit for aviation finance.
  • Ireland will advocate for the continued applicability of Article 83bis arrangements at EU level and will actively participate in work on developing ICAO guidance on Article 83bis through participation in the ICAO Task Force established in 2014.
  • Ireland will encourage the development of the International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) at Shannon.
  • Ireland will support any regulatory initiatives at EU level to establish a separate corporate aviation sector.
  • Ireland will promote the use of US preclearance facilities and of the Executive Jet Register, particularly at Shannon, by the general aviation sector.
  • Shannon will be designated as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for Business Aviation.
  • Ireland will support the continued development of flight training.
  • Ireland will, through the National Aviation Development Forum, continue to identify courses and post-qualification certification requirements, in the development of technical and business degrees, to meet the needs of the Irish aviation industry.
  • Initiatives between education and industry, industry and/or airport partners will also continue to be encouraged and supported.
  • Ireland will support the development of opportunities for work placement programmes for aviation industry students and for professionals from aviation and other relevant backgrounds to take up employment in the aerospace sector.
  • Ireland will support the continued development of aircraft maintenance training. The IAA will continue to work closely with airlines, MROs and FÁS / Solas to develop and improve the aircraft mechanic apprenticeship and traineeships, to meet the changing requirements of the aviation maintenance sector.
  • Ireland, through the IAA, will continue to work with other European member States and EASA with a view to developing appropriate maintenance licence requirements for light aeroplanes, balloons and sailplanes.
  • The Department and the IAA will continue to work closely with EASA towards the elimination of anomalies in the requirements for pilot licences, including the potential extension of the mutual recognition of licences in EU States.
  • The IAA will work closely with EASA regarding future developments in the EU regulatory regime affecting the GA sector.
  • The Department will publish basic statistical information on its website, including passenger numbers (international, transit, domestic, etc.), new routes, cargo carried and airport commercial movements by end 2015.
  • The Department will develop this dataset in 2016 following engagement with key stakeholders to identify and prioritise additional statistical information required by the industry.
  • As part of that process, a decision will be made before end 2016 on optimal organisational arrangements for the collection and dissemination of the agreed dataset.
  • A review of the range and relevancy of the data published will be carried out by the Department in 2020, with further reviews being carried out every 5 years thereafter.
  • Ireland will establish a National Aviation Development Forum led by the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport and with appropriate representation from across Government and the industry.

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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