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Aviosuperfici in Italy threatened by new proposed regulation

As many of you know, it’s the aviosuperfici (registered, but usually “unlicensed”, non-AIP) airfields that have kept Italian GA sort of alive over the last 20 years.

A few days ago, a first draft of a new regulation for these aviosuperfici has been published. If it gets adopted in anywhere near this initial version, it will severely threaten the existence of most aviosuperfici, and thus of much of the remainder of light Italian GA.

It is here, but obviously only in Italian.

A few snippets:

  • in the introduction they claim that the current regulation (from 2006) has revealed some safety issues over the years. Do tell!
  • it significantly increases the responsibilities and the tasks of the gestore, i.e. the manager of any aviosuperficie. As an example, he has to maintain a website which informs potential users about all its characteristics
  • the gestore has to assure a system or procedures to keep the airfield from animals, persons, etc. during flight operations. This could lead to mean that a fence is required. This would be too onerours for most aviosuperfici
  • the gestore most obtain a qualification paper from ENAC for this role (!). To be renewed every two years.
  • a digital flight movements log must be maintained by the gestore
  • AFAICS, the survey and documentation requirements regarding the runway, approaches, fringe areas etc. are more detailed than previously and the equipment requirements are higher.

It sounds much like someone is trying to kill off this last bit of relative freedom in Italian aviation. But likely it is just another typical CYA exercise of bureaucrats in Rome.

Here is what (likely) is the background story to all this: the Castiadas accident of 2007 (here).
Castiadas is an aviosuperficie in the southeast of Sardinia (I visited in June 2007 and July 2012), where, in August 2007, a Commander 114B crashed, causing the death of 4 people. In 2021 (a mere 14 years later!), the court ruled that the responsibility was 50% with the pilot and 50% with the gestore, the inspectors of ENAC and the president of ENAC. The gestore, an airline pilot was condemned to several years on prison. I don’t know what happened to the involved ENAC inspectors and its president of the time.

The reasons given where something along the lines that the gestore failed to clearly document the characteristics and the threats posed by the location of this airstrip.

The court ruling along is enough to put off people from creating and running an aviosuperficie. That new proposed regulation is merely the document that is aimed at avoiding any future liability for ENAC and its officials.

Of course, I may be wrong and the Castiadas accident is not the main driver behind this.

But in any case, if this goes through, it might severely “change” the GA landscape in Italy. Let’s hope that there are stakeholders in Italy that will be able to

Last Edited by boscomantico at 19 Jul 08:56
Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany

It’s likely the ENAC employees and inspectors are well covered by state insurance for government workers or civil servants…

This seems like CYA regulation and knee jerk reaction, any reference to the court ruling and how did they go after pilot, gestor & inspector? Also does Italy have some sort of ‘Aviation Liability Act’ in national laws? also prison sentence (not unheard of in Italy), it seems it’s not just about money otherwise the ‘problem’ can be solved by liability insurance paid by some fees…

Last Edited by Ibra at 19 Jul 09:15
Paris/Essex, France/UK, United Kingdom

Some years ago the lovely field of Propriano was closed, whilst they raised the money for and constructed a fence around the airfield. The reason was that a bull had managed to get onto the field. At LFFK the money had to be found to build a fence around the terrain because spectators of the motor circuit next door thought they would get a better view from the grass runway.
These are not the only examples, there are many airfields in France which have now had to be fenced off. But we are still here🙂 The biggest problems are local politicians but they can also the biggest supporters. We live in a world where a significant number of people are anti GA or aviation in general. We need to make sure this doesn’t become a significant majority.

Last Edited by gallois at 19 Jul 10:51
France

Well, what can one do easily? An electric fence is effective against animals and is very cheap. And no fence stops vandals getting in.

I would find out what or who is really behind this and engage with them, even if it is distasteful. In Australia, post 9/11, somebody mandated chain locks around props (50 quid and a bit of hassle, and pointless; better used on a £5k mountain bike whose MTBT (mean time before theft) is about 5 mins).

However, there are always multiple angles. If I had my own strip I would have an electric fence around it. If you can also keep rabbits out, that will help prevent prop strike (pothole) victims trying to sue you. That is a big sleeping dog in the GA scene, especially the grass scene, which nobody wants to wake up. Strip owners like to pretend they are not liable for anything whatsoever, but we all know that unless you drive there beforehand, you never actually know, even if the owner says it is “billiard ball perfect” (as well he might if he has a Maule with tundra tyres). The pothole victims (as I know personally) are afraid of complaining because they will get slagged off within a 1000nm radius; as I also know personally, gossip in GA travels at almost the speed of a HIMARS. Prop strikes are amazingly common but rarely advertised, especially in the UL scene where you just screw a new prop on; no shock load check needed (in theory).

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

[potholes] is a big sleeping dog in the GA scene, especially the grass scene, which nobody wants to wake up.

Maybe that is because the risk is very, very, low? I have never heard of any pothole accident except yours. My club has had its fair share of prop strikes, but for entirely different reasons.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Once you grasp the basic principle nobody but the PIC is responsible for the safety of landing an aircraft on any surface, life is a lot simpler.

Also that no situation is so bad that government can’t expend a lot of effort to make it worse. The description of the aviosuperficie regulatory situation in Italy is insane.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 19 Jul 19:42

Hate to hear this. Is there some initiative to support and avoid these changes? Online petition maybe?

And, what’s up with Italian courts sentencing aviation stakeholders to prison? Batsh-t crazy stuff imho…
Is it some peculiarity of their legal system? When I drive on a private italian backcountry road and flip my car over, is there a gestore who can be deemed responsible and go to prison for years?

always learning
LO__, Austria

@Snoopy regrettably yes: If you hike on a path, slip and break your legs, the owner of the land can be sued – and I know of a few cases where they actually won and the landowner had to pay. It’s crazy. But OTOH there are insurances that cover such cases, so I guess that one would need some kind of insurance.

The italian legal system is regrettably too often based on the principle “See an issue, create a law”. So even if we are talking about “small” problems the law to “fix” it tends to be complicated, expensive and even less controllable. We had such a case a few years ago when they found out that garbage has been put in some rivers in southern Italy. A new law required everybody (!) to register every single transport of garbage (even to the recycling pods). But it didn’t stop people from dropping stuff into the rivers, so fortunately they stopped.

Yet, I think there is still hope. Rarely the laws pass in their first form, hopefully AOPA are on it.

LOWI,LIPB, Italy

This kind of stuff is country dependent. There are standard defences (which can involve practices like signs, stickers, etc) and then there is public liability insurance which is usually not expensive. A good lawyer will quickly come up with advice. Re the Italian legal system, I have no idea, but I have been told many times, often forcefully, by both native-Italians and Italy-lovers, that only they are allowed to post anything critical

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Despite 8 years in Italy, I can’t say too much about the general situation (have only been interested in a few court cases a few times due to my former job, and then it was all about property law, planning law, etc.).

What I can say is that this Castiadas case is as I wrote. I don’t know where to find the sentence itself, but here at least is a short summary (browser translate as necessary).

Aynway, these liabilities, plus all the hassle (as I wrote, any gestore would need an aeronautical qualification certificate from ENAC, to be renewed every two years!) will discourage most people from operating an aviosuperfice in the future.

Of course, the hope is that the final outcome of the regulation will not be so bad, but if, in 10 years time, we find the landscape of GA airstrips in Italy significantly changed, please remember this thread and this draft…

Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany
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