When the Argentine Federation of Agro-Aerial Chambers (FEARCA) was created November 2, 1996, the aeronautical authority of our country was directed by a military organization, the Command of Air Regions of the Argentine Air Force. Nine years later March 15, 2007, that military structure was transformed into the National Administration of Civil Aviation (ANAC), an autarchic entity that had to be accompanied and strengthened from the beginning.
FEARCA not only saw ANAC born, but supported it from its beginnings, making true one of the commandments of the Federation that was to, “collaborate with the public and private authorities, and in particular with the ones related to agricultural activities, for the formation and execution of the initiatives for the protection, improvement and progress of the aerial activity in the country and in MERCOSUR group of countries.” In this sense, FEARCA was invited by the aeronautical authority to participate in the Advisory Council of General and Sports Aviation of the Argentine Republic that was founded June 9, 2011 by ANAC resolution Nº 479/2011 and the work commission formed July 17, 2012 by ANAC resolution Nº 467/12.
The close link between FEARCA and ANAC resulted in a significant effect on Argentinian ag-aviation, since it contributed to the solution of numerous problems that were affecting the aerial applications in our country. As an example in 2013, it also contributed to the development of Part 137 of the Argentine Civil Aviation Regulations (Operation Requirements and Air Agriculture Work Certifications) and in 2015 started with ANAC an awareness and prosecution campaign of clandestine aerial operators. Since its formation, FEARCA has organized four international ag-aviation congresses and more than ten training workshops, in all cases with an active participation of ANAC.
In the context of this collaboration, in 2017 FEARCA proposed active measures to help the Argentine government in its fight against drug traffic across the northern border. In that sense, the Federation participated in many meetings with ANAC authorities, the Argentine Company of Aerial Navigation S.E (EANA), the Joint Aerospace Command of the Armed Forces (COAER), the Argentine Air Force (FAA) and the Directorate of Borders of the Ministry of Security of the Nation.
In those meetings, it was agreed to install transponders on ag-aircraft to distinguish them from aircraft operated by drug traffickers which were coming from Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. This helped the Argentine Air Force and National Gendarmerie to pawn their few resources to capture aircraft that were involved in drug trafficking. All parties recognized that the use of transponders proposed by FEARCA was the easiest and most effective way to separate registered ag-aircraft from those operated by drug traffickers.
It is appropriate to emphasize the relationship between FEARCA and ANAC were always developed in a strictly technical level, regardless of the affiliation or political views of successive national administrators. This can be confirmed by Graduate Rodolfo Gabrielli, Dr. Alejandro Granados, Engineer Juan Pedro Irigoin and all political officials that were involved with the ANAC between 2007 – 2017. However, this collaborative environment has been tarnished since Dr. Tomás Insausti has been selected as the new ANAC administrator.
January 11, 2018, a few days after Dr. Insausti took charge, he signed ANAC Resolution N° 25/2018 which imposed the obligation to use transponders by all ag-aircraft that perform operations outside the 29th north parallel 29th south latitude. It was the implementation of the solution proposed by FEARCA a year ago.
Resolution N° 25/2018 was published in the official bulletin of the Argentina Republic January 16, 2018 making the installation of transponders mandatory February 1, 2018. This was only fifteen calendar days (eleven work days) between the publication and the deadline. The compliance term was impossible taking into account the time to purchase, process importation, installation and approvement of the transponders by the same ANAC that imposed this resolution.
After the deadline, ANAC started to reject compliance submissions and re-submissions of all ag-aviation companies affected by the resolution. Because of this, many registered ag-operators simply could not comply and were pushed to illegality. At the same time, an entire year of effort against clandestine ag-operators was lost.
The obligatory requirement of transponders also generates two additional problems. First, it allows EANA, the Joint Aerospace Command and the Argentine Air Force to report all ag-operators in violation per the terms provided by Decree No. 2352/83 (Aeronautical Infractions Regime). Thus, ag-operators without transponders in their aircraft were clearly not complying with the regulation and in violation. Secondly, the non-compliance of the regulation leaves the operators without aircraft insurance. Aircraft insurance policies require that the damaged aircraft complied with all regulations.
We are faced with a big problem that will multiply into a cascade effect as ag-operator certificates of twenty-two companies based outside the 29th north parallel 29th south latitude expire. This is not minor because it involves about 100 ag-aircraft.
The Dr. Tomàs Insausti was informed of this problem at Civil Aviation Advisory Council meetings January 31, 2018 and February 8, 2018 where it was requested an immediate extension of ANAC Resolution N° 25/2018. The same has been formally requested by FEARCA in a letter sent to ANAC February 14, 2018. So far, there have been no solutions to this problem.
It’s time for Dr. Insausti to take agricultural aviation seriously. Our country has the third largest ag-aircraft fleet in the world, following the United States and Brazil. But, unlike these countries, half the Argentine ag-aviation fleet is illegal. In other words, there are as many ag-operators registered with ANAC as ag-operators without registration or ag-operator certificates. The problem is huge, not only from the tax or environmental point of view, but for aviation operational safety, the risk of aircraft without proper maintenance and ag-pilots without licences. And, there is the insurance coverage issue.
ANAC needs to return to the collaboration table that characterized the relationship with FEARCA since 2007. That is the only way to consolidate a productive aviation model that advances the country. Dr. Tomás Insausti needs to understand that without ag-aviation, the agroexport model collapse, only ag-aircraft can seed, fertilize and fight plant pests with the effectiveness and speed that often agriculture requires. The “Aircraft Revolution”, revealed by President Mauricio Macri and Minister Guillermo Dietrich, can’t be focused on commercial transport. ANAC Resolution N° 25/2018 needs to be rescinded immediately! It is far from helping fight drug trafficking. It is only penalizing legal, registered ag-operators.