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AOPA INDIA
Inaugural Address
Distinguished guests, members of AOPA India, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I wish first to thank AOPA India for honoring my wife Margaret and myself with the privilege of participating in the official inauguration of AOPA India. I have learned a little about the significance of the traditional meaning of the lighting of the flames and am pleased we are all here tonight to celebrate the occasion.

I also bring you greetings and all good wishes from my own AOPA in Canada and from both the President, Phil Boyer, and the Secretary General, John Sheehan, of IAOPA.

The flame is lit. To keep it alight, we now have to nourish it to give it energy for growth. Its nourishment, its food is willing people, people of vision; its nourishment is expertise; its nourishment is AOPA India.

General Aviation is Transportation, just as cars, trains and boats are transportation. Some people claim that GA flying is a sport, a recreative activity. They miss the point. Whereas 2/3 of the passengers on an airliner are travelling for personal reasons - for recreation in effect - on the other hand, less than half of the travel in GA is attributed to personal travel. 80% of GA flying is for business: the transport of freight, utility, emergency medical services, conducting surveys, surveillance and for law enforcement activity. GA serves cities which have no scheduled air services, utilizing airports too small for the large airliner aircraft.

GA is a multi-thousand million dollar industry. In Europe, for example, GA activity generated 4 thousand million Euros of revenue in the year 2000 alone. For the same year, GA in the United States produced $42 thousand million of revenue. 90% of the world's 400,000 (4 LAKH) civil aircraft belong to GA. It has been found that for every dollar spent by GA, a dollar of economic activity is generated.

India, I am told, operates only 850 of the world's 400,000 (or 4 LAKH) aircraft fleet. The potential for aviation growth in India is high. It surely must be to the advantage of the people of India to encourage and support this growth in General Aviation vigorously and enthusiastically. General Aviation connects people, it connects industry, it fosters trade, it carries the ill to where they can be made well, it moves valuable goods quickly and safely, and it shrinks the big distances between your population centers.

Aviation is now 100 years old. Consider what 100 years of development has brought -- from personal transport to flights to the moon, and the endless technological spin-offs of aviation. Any country not involving itself in all aspects of the aerospace industry is denying itself the benefits - social, technological, economic, as well as its rightful claim of recognition as a member of a modern world.

I wonder how seriously you would take me if I suggested to you tonight that I did not think that we would have any aviation 100 years from now? Would you think me credible?

If you think that such a suggestion is ludicrous, this must be because you believe in the important role aviation plays in our present world. And if you believe that aviation is important in today's world, then you must ask yourself what role you are playing to assure aviation's continued survival. How are you nurturing that flame?

A nation, in order to advance, must play an active and unfettered role in humanity's journey through the history yet to come. Surely, in modern times, aviation has been at the forefront of this journey. Whole nations have been opened up and developed due to air transport - my own country of Canada is an example. Whole industries have evolved - the lucrative simulator and flight training industry is an example. Aviation Materials Science has produced composite materials. The aviation industry has produced medical instruments (borescopes, for example), and turbines. All have had their roots in advances discovered not by scientists pursuing pure science in their laboratories but by scientists employed in the pursuit of ever better tools for the developing industry called aviation. This phenomenon of new spin-offs -- of new discoveries of benefit to all human kind -- will continue as the frontiers of aviation continue to advance. The flame inevitably will burn ever brighter.

Consider that Canada has about 28,000 aircraft. Canada has 30,000,000 (300 LAKH) people. This translates to about 1000 people per aircraft. Canada directly employs some 200,000 (2 LAKH) people in the aviation industry, earning some $1.2 thousand million for the industry annually. Stated another way, for every aircraft in Canada $6,000 USD in annual wages are earned for each Canadian citizen.

India, if it corresponded to Canada's ratio, would now have 1 Million aircraft, not the 850 it actually has. Considering that perhaps India as a whole is not as well off economically as is Canada, it is easy to see that, if we reduced the proportion to even 1/100th of Canada's numbers, this would paint a picture in India of a presence of some 10,000 aircraft at this time. Given these numbers, one sees that India has enormous growth potential.

So what has India to do if it wishes to keep pace with developments in aviation?

The argument has been made that there are relatively few aircraft in India due to the high cost of owning or flying. Why is that cost high? And are there people who, despite current costs, are in fact willing to fly and to own and operate aircraft, willing to pay the costs, but are kept from doing so due to unnecessary constraints? How can it be that in one of the great democracies of our world people are willing but unable to fly? In whose interests is it to restrict flying, or on what grounds should the people of India be disadvantaged in this way? How can the flames we see before us be fanned and aviation be made to flourish throughout India?

Let me propose that AOPA India be involved intimately in the creation of a strategy for the introduction of a vigorous General Aviation sector in this great nation.

I invite the Minister for Civil Aviation to permit AOPA India to play a major role in the development of General Aviation rules, procedures and standards which are meaningful, appropriate and constructive to General Aviation. Members of AOPA India have good knowledge of operational General Aviation systems around the world. Their expertise should be embraced and utilized. India needs to invest very little to have its aviation industry increase 5 fold. The benefits would reach all sectors of Indian society, as it has in those countries where aviation plays a bigger role than it does now in India.

Let me tell you that in Canada, some 10 years ago, I authored a document addressed to our government entitled "Freedom To Fly". (I have left a copy with the President of AOPA India). This document recognized that growth is not driven by big industry, nor through the actions of the bureaucracy. It comes from the will of the people. Growth comes from the grass roots, the ingenuity inherent in the private sector. My document, adopted by our AOPA, outlined the critical steps which had to be taken in order for General Aviation's flame to continue to burn in my country. To my surprise and delight, my "Freedom To Fly" document was not only taken seriously by Canada's Department of Transport, but I was told that it multiplied like rabbits, copies of it being studied everywhere. Almost every suggestion contained in my “Freedom To Fly” initiative has now been adopted officially by the Canadian government. Indeed, the United States of America, who have for some time looked upon Canada's advances in GA with some envy, have just recently adopted policies which emulate those of Canada's in a policy which they have entitled "Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft". In Canada the advances in the administration of General Aviation matters have come so far that our Minister of Transport is at the point of effectively legislating that our AOPA take over much of the administration of General Aviation - in other words , we are virtually being asked to self-regulate. The Business Aircraft community in Canada has already become a self-regulatory organization - Transport Canada is no longer involved in the administration of Business aircraft.

Allow me to put the power of this Grassroots movement into perspective: In Canada, in the last 25 years, in a fleet of some 28000 aircraft, some 2800, or 10%, are in fact amateur built - built by aviation enthusiasts in their own houses. I personally have built three of these aircraft - the first of which has now been flying without accident for some 32 years. Indeed Canada now even permits certified aircraft to be de-certified so that owners may do their own maintenance on their aircraft, reducing operating costs. Currently the fleet in Canada is made up of 25% uncertified aircraft, and this number is growing daily. In the United States, by comparison, 25000 aircraft are amateur built and uncertified, growing by 1000 each year. That represents 15% of its total fleet. Over the years - and this is important -- the safety record of this uncertified segment of the fleet has shown itself to be no different than the record of the certified fleet. Moreover, the proportion of these uncertified aircraft is experiencing growth as well. The prediction is that in about 12 years from now the number of uncertified aircraft will equal those which are certified. Clearly, the aviation administrations of both these countries, Canada and the US, and there are other countries as well who are following this trend, recognize the economic value of this activity, trust its ability to operate safely, and recognize and appreciate the depth of expertise developed and maintained by this private sector of aviation. Indeed many of the innovations in aviation are coming from this segment. This is clear evidence of the advantage of having a minimum of regulatory intervention as exemplified in the status of the uncertified fleet in Canada and the US. Of course each of these countries also enjoys a strong AOPA and other aviation-interest organizations. These groups assure that safety information is disseminated and that education of its own members, the public and the authorities is taken very seriously and is ongoing. In fact, Canada has a mechanism entitled CARAC, the Canadian Air Regulation Advisory Committee whose purpose it is to provide an open public forum where regulators, private individuals and the industry meet around a table to discuss and resolve issues before they are passed into law. As a consequence much less disputed regulation is brought forward. Let us remember that the Wright Brothers had no government regulation to deal with - only the laws of Physics.

AOPA Canada's regulatory affairs "Checklist" is an example of the approach taken by our organization in its effort to promote General Aviation through meaningful regulation. It challenges:

  1. Is there demonstrated justification for a given regulation or action?
  2. Does a given regulation enhance freedom or accessibility?
  3. Is the regulation equitable - i.e. is it equal to other segments of transportation?
  4. Does a regulation uncomplicate the current status?
  5. Does the regulation reduce unnecessary costs to owners/pilots/users?
  6. Is the regulation enforceable?
Canada's AOPA approaches all regulatory discussions with the Canadian Government with these criteria in hand. It has proven both effective and helpful.

If we had the time right now, it would be an interesting exercise if each of you here were to think a moment and then tell the person next to you what you think are the three most important conditions which would have to be met if General Aviation activity in India had to increase five fold in the next 5 years (that means if it were to attain a goal of operating some 4000 aircraft within the next 5 years). What would really be of interest would be to collect all the responses to see if there is commonality and unanimity. I suspect there would be. In other words, we know what to do. So now we have to find a way to accomplish it.

We in Canada came to realize that excessive and sometimes ill-conceived regulations were stifling our aviation development. Our AOPA Canada therefore worked hand-in-hand with the government of Canada to develop regulations permitting owner maintenance and an “In-Canada Only” Pilot licence, which we call the Recreational Aviation Permit. Unlike the ICAO Licence, this Permit is only for flying within Canada. As well, we introduced the means whereby the GA sector now trains future mechanics and pilots and provides them with employment opportunities as designers, builders, maintainers, sales personnel, support personnel such as fuellers and dispatchers, and as pilots and crew of General Aviation aircraft. These regulatory changes brought about by government and AOPA Canada working together are having a dramatic effect. At a time when all other sectors of commercial aviation have shrunk, the GA sector has experienced growth. India, by virtue of its important stature in the world economy should have several of its own GA aircraft manufacturers competing for the world's aircraft market. Inexplicably it has none of note.

I offer AOPA India the help of IAOPA, COPA and other IAOPA affiliates in assisting AOPA India as it works hand-in-hand with the government of India to develop progressive regulations which would nurture your General Aviation. If you wish it, we also would co-operate with you in the development of the required infrastructure to support such activity. A central policy for the development of aviation, nourished by the expertise inherent in AOPA India, is required.

Government administrators are called to be leaders in the nourishing of this industry called General Aviation, just as we see the flames before us being nourished. As we all know, nothing great is ever achieved by yea and nay sayers. Indeed, I would urge the Minister for Civil Aviation to consider encouraging all his section chiefs to hold a pilot licence, and to become aircraft owners. Such a qualification should be a prerequisite to administering a fleet of aircraft and pilots. Most Canadian senior aviation administrators, because they are required to fill a role of leadership as well, hold such a qualification, a de-facto prerequisite for such positions. So I am being realistic in my suggestion. Since this suggestion may be difficult to implement for a variety of reasons, (lack of an individual's medical qualification being one), I urge all aviation departments to recognize, to welcome, and to include formally the consultative role of AOPA India in their deliberations concerning GA, to avail themselves of the expertise inherent in the people making up AOPA India.

Earlier I invited each of you to think of 3 conditions which would have to be met if GA activity in India were to increase 5 fold within the next 5 years. I shall offer you not 3, but 4, conditions which I believe would create a formula for success.

My formula for enabling the flame of aviation to burn brightly in India would include: 1) a formal recognition by all levels of government of the need for a healthy General Aviation sector ; 2) regulations similar to those in North America, Europe and Australia, which encourage AOPA participation in both the administration and the activities of GA; 3) a formally recognized advisory role for AOPA India in all matters relating to General Aviation; and 4) a policy requiring each city beyond a certain size to have an airport suitable for General Aviation activity.

In closing, my prayer at this moment of the lighting of the flames is that the Government and people of India recognize the important role aviation has played in many countries of the world, and that they embrace AOPA India as a major player in the development of Aviation in India. May the flame of General Aviation in India glow ever more brightly.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for permitting me to encourage you to embrace aviation as a necessary and beneficial activity in your lives.

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Frank Hofmann
IAOPA Representative to ICAO
Copyright © 2003