"Co-planing", which had previously been banned in France by the Directorate General of civil aviation, has now been authorised by the Council of State.
"Co-planing" – a new phenomenon which sees pilots of leisure aircraft sharing the costs of a flight among passengers who sign up on the Internet much along the lines of the Blablacar carpooling site – and which had severe restrictions put on it last August by the French Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC), has finally been authorised by the country’s Council of State, Les Echos says.
Legal victory over the DGAC
Passenger security was the reason why the french DGAC imposed these restrictions last August, limiting co-planing over French territory to circular flights of a maximum of 30 minutes and a radius of 40 kilometres, insisting that pilots have at least 200 hours' flying experience and also banning them from flights between two airports.
After legal recourse filed by a private pilot, the highest administrative jurisdiction judged that these measures were abusive, and in contradiction of European legislation. The European Air Security Agency (EASA) meanwhile has confirmed that the practice of co-planing has no inherent danger.
New opportunities for private pilots
Pilots of private tourist aircraft can now therefore acquire passengers via the Internet and fly them as if they were friends or family. The only restriction is the ban on commercial activity, meaning that the passengers should only pay for their share of flight costs.
These new opportunities should enable private pilots to increase their number of flights and lead to increased membership of flying clubs.
French online platforms with some catching up to do
While co-planing via the web already represents a growing business in the United Kingdom and Germany, French online platforms – led by Coavmi and Wingly – have some catching up to do.
"We are going to be able fully develop France," said a delighted Emeric de Wazier, co-founder of the site Wingly, which has 1,500 pilots currently on its books. "We are going to contact all of the pilots who are signed up with us to let them know." France is a huge potential market ready to be conquered, with some 27,000 private pilots and several hundred aerodromes.
Validation coming soon from the French Aeronautics Federation?
At the moment, there are no legal obligations, but Internet co-plaining platforms already require pilots to have a minimum level of experience (Wingly for example demands at least 100 hours of flying time), and the availability of a certified maintenance centre, to ensure passenger security.
Youssef Oubihi, founder of the site Coavmi, has however said that validation by a certified French Aeronautics Federation (FFA) instructor will likely be required in the near future, saying: "We will be working with the FFA to integrate co-planing into French flying clubs in a safe and intelligent way."
This form of self-regulation is somewhat surprising in light of how the French aviation sector is so highly policed, but it has been approved by the EASA.
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