Brussels brings down the last fortress
It seems curiously symbolic that this summer’s celebrations of “Victory in Europe” will not include fly-pasts by Britain’s last airworthy Flying Fortress. For those of us old enough to remember B-17s over the skies of southern England in 1943 and 1944, as they flew out for daylight raids on the Continent, it is poignant that the Sally B… should have been grounded by a regulation from “Europe”. The Sally B’s website tells the sorry tale of how, under EC regulation 785/2004, the B-17 must now be classified for insurance purposes alongside commercial airliners, prohibitively raising its premiums to the equivalent of £1,000 for each hour of flying time. It is painful to read the letters from a British minister and the head of our Civil Aviation Authority, explaining how, since this is a Brussels regulation, they have no power to grant an exemption for the B-17.
(Christopher Booker’s notebook, The Sunday Telegraph 8 May 2005)
EU rule grounds B17 at American tribute
When American war veterans and US Air Force members gather at the American military cemetery near Cambridge to mark their Memorial Day next weekend, the aircraft type that many in those 5,124 graves once flew in, the B17 bomber, will be conspicuous by its absence. The last Flying Fortress in Britain will not be making a tribute flypast because it has been grounded by a new European regulation that puts the B17 into the weight category of an airliner, boosting its insurance premium by an unaffordable 500%.
(The Daily Telegraph, 21 May 2005)
In doing his best to write an emotive piece about a famous World War II bomber prevented from flying because of faceless bureaucrats, Mr Booker’s grasp of the facts has, once more, slid off the end of the runway.
Though Mr Booker refers to “EC regulation 785/2004”, he fails to mention the background behind it: When planes were grounded after September 11, many airline companies found their insurance cover to be inadequate and governments had to step in and assume the role of insurer. To prevent this from happening again, minimum insurance requirements were introduced which all aircraft owners are now obliged to take out. It is implied that the UK had “no power” to grant exemptions for the B-17, yet both articles omit the fact that British ministers and MEPs voted on the legislation.
While it is unfortunate that Sally B has been grounded due to insurance costs, the UK government consulted industry before the regulation was passed. Whether the owners of Sally B were invited to participate, and whether the government took into account their views if they did, is a matter for them.
Quite why Mr Booker or The Daily Telegraph failed to contact the European Commission’s London office to check their story, is a question only they can answer.