Are light aircraft in danger?
Recently the rules for aircraft flying under visual control at Geneva airport have changed. Many light aircraft seem not to obey the new rules: are they a danger to themselves or others?
According to this newspaper, on 1 May 2012, the Airport Management have requested that all aircraft operating in Visual control mode (VFR), including helicopters. must fly inside the CTR (the immediate vicinity of the airport) without activating the aircraft's transponder. The stated reason for this request is "pour des raisons de sécurité" (for reasons of safety).
It actually seems as if many pilots disagree with this new rule, and continue to fly with an active transponder: some Aéro Club pilots at the recent open day for light aviation claimed that they want to do this for reasons of safety (a transponder broadcasts their presence to other aircraft and can signal any possible collision course)!
Amongst the flights of light aircraft, many are aircraft belonging to the Aéro Club de Genève. One, in particular, registered as HB-CHW, is painted to advertise this newspaper! Since the start of June we have detected 25 flights of this aircraft alone, including a takeoff yesterday, 25 June, at 2h42 pm.
I need to say that we cannot always be absolutely sure that these light aircraft are operating in VFR mode from Geneva airport. In fact, light aircraft may be operating from Annemasse or other local small airfields. However, since I actually saw this Tribune de Genève aircraft in the Aéro Club hangar late last week, it seems very likely that it has often flown from here.
It is not, of course, impossible that all of these light aircraft were specifically instructed by the Air Traffic Controllers of SkyGuide to turn on the aircraft's transponder, but to me this does not appear particularly likely! More likely is that the Air Traffic Controllers might be turning a blind eye to this practice, not least because many of them are quite likely to fly small planes themselves.
We appear, therefore, to have a situation under which the airport management has pushed the federal authorities into making rules with which many pilots, including those of the Aéro Club, disagree! One might ask who are likely to be more correct in matters of safety: people sitting in offices or people flying an aircraft?
So what might be the underlying reason behind this controversy? A clue might be in the report in this paper on 14 June, entitled
A Cointrin, l'école de pilotage est en danger
This report states that the federal authority OFAC has just decided that from October 2013 the two runways at Geneva airport (the main one and the grass one) may no longer be considered as separate, because they are not far enough apart (the lower limit is 760 metres separation). We are asked to believe that the airport had nothing to do with this sudden decision: I find this almost impossible to believe, given the very close cooperation between Geneva airport and OFAC.
It can be imagined that this decision, allied with the curious decision on the non-use of transponders, is simply the first manifestation of a desire to force the light aviation to leave Geneva. Once that is done, the next step would be to concrete over the grass runway so as to be able to park more private jets there: part of a big expansion of the area north of the main runway (at around the same time as the new long courrier terminal south of the runway is completed!). In other words, an ever-continuing expansion inside the airport boundary.
As I understand it, developments inside the airport boundary need not be announced at cantonal level. I even doubt that there would need to be any public discussion or environmental study! Partly, this is because I can remember that many years ago the area around the General Aviation Centre was simply grass. In the space of 3 days, and without any authorisation being displayed, all of the grass was concreted over!
By around 2020 will we be talking of Geneva as an airport surrounded by industry and with a city attached to it: a city where everyone will live inside soundproofed accomodation?