Written Answers. - Air Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

96 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the procedures in place to ensure that conditions given to planes carrying weapons or munitions to land at Irish airports are observed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2751/03]

As I indicated in my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 785 on 29 January 2003, inspections are not carried out for the purpose of verifying the accuracy of the information provided by airlines when they request exemptions from the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973. In that answer I also referred to the press release in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated: "The United States is a friendly country and we do not seek to board US military aircraft or aircraft carrying US military personnel in order to verify their declared cargo".

Olwyn Enright

Question:

97 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the number of commercial or private flights and military flights that passed through Irish airspace during 2001, 2002 and 2003 to date; the total revenue raised by the Irish Aviation Authority in respect of fees charged to private or commercial flights; the reason no fees are charged in respect of military aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2630/03]

Willie Penrose

Question:

119 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the total amount paid by his Department to the Irish Aviation Authority in respect of non payment of en route charges by military aircraft passing through Irish airspace in respect of each of the past five years; his plans to review this arrangement in view of the significant cost to the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2752/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 119 together.

The Irish Aviation Authority provides air traffic control and communications services to aircraft which pass through Irish controlled airspace, en-route, and aircraft landing and taking off from Irish airports, terminal. I should explain that the Irish Aviation Authority controls some 100,000 sq miles of international airspace in addition to domestic airspace.

According to the Irish Aviation Authority, a total of 465,204 en route civil and 6,895 en-route military aircraft flights flew through total Irish controlled airspace in 2001. The figures for 2002 were 450,022 civil flights and 8,716 military flights. Figures for 2003 to date are not yet available. It should be pointed out that a much smaller proportion of military en-route flights fly through domestic airspace with the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs while a smaller proportion again land at Irish airports.

The total revenue raised by the IAA in respect of en-route, terminal and communications charges to civil flights in total Irish controlled airspace was €77.3 million in 2001 and €75.2 million for the 11 months ending November 2002. Figures for December 2002 and January 2003 are not yet available.

Under a Eurocontrol multilateral agreement to which Ireland is a party, various categories of flights – flights under visual flight rules, flights performed by small aircraft, flights performed for the transport of heads of state and search and rescue flights – are exempt from paying en-route charges. In the case of other categories – military flights, training flights, flights performed to test air navigation equipment and circular flights – states have the option to exempt such flights from payment of the en-route charge. In common with most Eurocontrol member states, Ireland exempts all such flights, including military, from payment of the en-route charge. Because of this arrangement the IAA costs in relation to military flights are met from my Department's vote.
Ireland also exempts military aircraft flights from payment of the communications charge and the IAA costs in relation to those charges are also met from my Department's vote. In relation to the terminal charge for air traffic control services for military aircraft, this is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority. The amounts, not including VAT, paid to the IAA in the years 1998 to 2002 inclusive in relation to all exempted flights other than flights under visual flight rules are as follows:

1998

1,600,238

1999

1,466,250

2000

1,139,283

2001

1,377,560

2002

1,642,541

While it is not possible to provide an exact breakdown of these totals between military and other exempt flights, it is estimated that the latter comprises a very small proportion of the total payment.
Efforts to collect the communications charge in the early 1990s were unsuccessful and, following advice from the Attorney General, debts then outstanding were written off with the agreement of the Department of Finance and a decision taken to cease charging the communications fee to military aircraft. I am aware also that attempts by other European states to levy en route charges on military aircraft have not been successful and such charges have proved to be uncollectable.