More than two decades have passed since the Irish Government set out a formal statement for the aviation industry in Ireland, so the recent publication of a new National Aviation Policy for Ireland (the "Policy") was widely welcomed from industry experts, many of whom believe there has been a lack of clarity in recent years. Development of the Policy began in December 2012 with the final paper including extensive input from various stakeholders and associated industries. It is a significant milestone for the aviation industry as it is the first time that the Irish Government has provided a policy framework within which the aviation sector can continue to grow and develop.
In recent years the aviation sector growth in Ireland has outstripped almost every other industry and today almost 4,000 of the world's commercial aircraft are owned by Irish entities with many more being leased from or through Ireland and almost all major aircraft operating lessors have a presence in Ireland. Further, Ireland's geographical location and island status means that the aviation industry is of vital importance for links, both economically and socially, with the rest of the world.
The objections, actions and guidelines in the Policy enable the Irish aviation industry to build on its strong international reputation and adapt to challenges ahead. It achieves these aims by focusing on the principal goals of:
- increasing Ireland's worldwide connectivity;
- ensuring the continued growth of the aviation sector in Ireland,
- positioning Ireland as a recognised global leader for aviation; and
- ensuring the continued contribution of the aviation sector to Ireland's growing economy.
The Policy addresses the challenges for the aviation industry in Ireland in the following key areas.
The Policy states that Ireland will continue to actively engage and participate in international aviation policy making, influence regulation in the sector and be an active player in any future developments, highlighting Irish input in the proposed EU Aviation Package, consultation with the National Aviation Development Forum and seeking election to the International Civil Aviation Organization ("ICAO") Council in 2016 as the means to achieve these objectives.
Safety, Security and Sustainability
The Policy sets out a commitment to improving the impact of aviation on the environment and working with others to facilitate the sustainable growth of the sector. However, it is stated safety will remain paramount. The Policy looks to the expertise of the Irish Aviation Authority ("IAA") and adherence to EU and other international standards, including ICAO standards, to ensure safety standards are maintained at the highest level.
Connectivity and Aviation Services
The Policy asserts Ireland's intention to extend bilateral agreements with other countries with the ultimate objective of reaching agreement on full open skies agreements - Irish efforts in this area will be co-ordinated with the EU for maximum impact. The benefits of US pre-clearance are emphasised in the Policy with plans to further expand the pre-clearance system to all US bound flights from Dublin and Shannon airports and to promote the development of Dublin and Shannon as pre-clearance centres.
The Policy confirms that ownership of Ireland's three largest airports, Dublin, Shannon and Cork will continue to be retained by the Irish state until at least 2019 and affirms plans to develop a second runway at Dublin airport to deal with the increased passenger demands and promote Dublin airport as a secondary hub.
Regulation and Governance
The Policy provides for an independent review of the regulation surrounding airport charges by the end of 2015, with the results to be published by mid next year.
Aircraft Leasing, Financing and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul
The Policy acknowledges that Ireland has a recognised global status in the aircraft leasing sector and outlines the commitment of the Irish Government to maintaining and building on this by, amongst other things, adopting the Cape Town "Alternative A" insolvency arrangements1 and promoting the adoption of such arrangements internationally.
General Aviation, Education and Training
The Policy confirms the Irish Government's support for any EU regulatory initiatives to establish a separate corporate aviation sector and that it will promote the executive jet register particularly in Shannon, which will be designated as a centre of excellence for corporate aviation. In the areas of training and certification, Ireland will identify technical and business degrees required to meet the needs of this highly specialised industry and the IAA will work with the European Aviation Safety Agency to eliminate any anomalies.
The Policy document, though largely aspirational in content, sets out a clear strategy and support for the aviation industry in Ireland by providing a "positive pathway" for its development and growth. The Policy further acknowledges the value of the industry to Ireland's economy and standing on the world stage and focuses on developing this in the coming years.