De Palacio attempts to break hushkits deadlock

Transport commissioner proposes joint EU-US declaration of intent on aircraft noise

EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio has written to her US counterpart in a last-ditch attempt to resolve the dispute over a European ban on hushkitted aircraft due to come into law in May. The commissioner has suggested the two sides sign a joint declaration of their intention to push for stricter aviation noise limits within the International Civil Aviation organisation (ICAO). However, the EU is still only offering a suspension of the ban in return, and not the complete withdrawal demanded by the USA.

Tensions over the EU's plans - which would prevent additional aircraft fitted with noise mufflers from using its airports from 2002 - rose a notch last month when the USA announced it would ask the ICAO to take action over the affair (ENDS Daily 19 January). The US says the ban unfairly discriminates against its second-hand aircraft trade and has already caused losses of US$2bn (euros 2bn). The EU says the hushkits do not reduce noise sufficiently.

In her letter to US transport secretary Rodney Slater, Ms de Palacio now proposes drafting a declaration setting out objectives and deadlines to be achieved in ICAO talks. She does not suggest any targets to be achieved, though the USA has previously promised to work for a "new, more stringent noise standard" and a phase-out of "those aircraft of concern to the EU". However, the commissioner is still ruling out the ban's withdrawal, a stance which caused talks between the two to collapse last year. The USA says a suspension would not alleviate pressure on its industry as it could be reversed too easily.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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