EU expects negotiations will avoid all-out war with US over hushkits on aircraft

Although the US is taking steps toward pursuing sanctions over the EU's plan to ban hushkits on aircraft, the European Commission believes the talk of sanctions is merely a pressure tactic and a deal will be struck.

“I think that the US negotiators are starting to understand [the issue of aircraft noise] because of the problems their own operators are having in Europe,” an EC transport official told edie. The US argues that the EU plan to ban hushkits – retro-fitted noise muffling systems used widely in the US to bring older aircraft in line with noise regulations – would introduce an illegal, unilateral restriction on an international industry.

According to the EC, hushkits are a cheap way of upgrading old aircraft to what’s known as Chapter 3 standards. There are very few hushkitted aircraft operating within the EU and an outright ban is due to come into force in May. The EU says that the ban is designed to ensure that changes in the US air industry do not result in hushkits flooding the European market.

The US Department of Trade argues that the ban constitutes “economic injury to US companies” and that it is a backdoor tactic to protect European businesses. The EU, on the other hand, insists that the issue is one of noise and that hushkitted aircraft have a higher average noise level than modern planes that meet Chapter 3 requirements. “The margins between hushkitted aircraft and modern aircraft can be as high as 20 decibels,” says the EC spokesperson, who also asserts that hushkits have allowed the US to delay modernisation of its fleet by “artificially extending the lifespan of aircraft”.

While there are regular debates about airport noise across Europe – the most recent cases erupting in Amsterdam and Brussels (see related story) – there are few officials who are worried about the risk of sanctions from the US, according to the EC spokesperson: “The US hasn’t really closed the door.”

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