US lodges official complaint over EU’s imminent hushkit ban

Last-minute negotiations between the EC's Transport Commissioner and a US trade representative have failed to avert conflict over the EU's plan to ban hushkits on aircraft.

The EU was confident that the US would hold back from lodging an official complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) over the hushkit ban (see related story), but on 14 March the US proved it wasn’t bluffing.

Hushkits are mufflers, which allow ‘noisy’ aircraft to meet ICAO’s Chapter 3 noise standards. The EU says that the hushkitted aircraft are noisier than aircraft specifically built to meet Chapter 3 regulations and it fears that without a ban there would a substantial increase in the number of hushkitted aircraft operating in the EU in the next few years.

With the US complaint lodged, the EU is adamant that it will go ahead with its hushkit ban in May and wait to see what action the ICAO takes. “There are so few precendents in ICAO under Article 84 that it’s difficult to say how this will proceed,” an EC Transport Directorate official told edie.

According to the EC, the US approach to aircraft noise is currently contradictory. “From the US administration there have been clear signals that they are committed to the ICAO work which is ongoing and which will result in new aircraft noise standards by 2001,” says the official. On the other hand, the US International Trade Association seems intent on representing the interests of US hushkit manufacturers despite the evidence that noise standards will inevitably tighten in 2001 and threaten the hushkit industry anyway.

Asked whether the US understands the seriousness with which the EU views the problem of aircraft and airport noise, the official said that the US administration appears to understand but US industry doesn’t. “Maybe Europe will have to institute more restrictions at airports before US industry understands that there are benefits to be gained from harmonisation,” says the official.

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