10 Sep 2013

Interview with Pierre Duval, President of the FAI Environmental Commission

Frenchman Pierre Duval, 50, is the new President of the FAI Environmental Commission (EnvC) since his election by the Delegates during the last annual meeting of the Commission in February 2013. He tells us about his position, his aims, his objectives and the challenges the EnvC is and will be facing.

Could you let us know about your background?

After 25 years of operational management in large international IT groups, I created my own advising company for aeronautic investors and the defence industry in 2008. We work in France, USA and Africa for private clients and government bodies. Alongside my professional life, I have dedicated myself to the defence of general aviation through writing columns and articles for the “Info Pilote” magazine and participating in the activities of the Aéro-club de France. Having built and renovated several old planes, practiced a little bit of parachuting, obtained my gliding pilot licence at the age of 16 and piloted microlight aircraft, I appreciate the strong social bond linking enthusiasts of all sport aviation specialties together.

Where does your interest for environmental issues come from ?

I have always considered that environmental protection is not limited to the “politically correct” attitude of adding “green” to all our activities. This is necessary but far from sufficient to ensure good integration of our passion in a technical, natural and human environment which has become very complex and less tolerant toward us. Therefore I created more than 10 years ago the Regulation, Security and Environment Commission of the Aeroclub de France with the aim of addressing, together with the relevant administrations and associations, the entirety of the issues in relation to the acceptance of our activities. In France, we are lucky enough to benefit from an extraordinarily rich infrastructure for historical reasons and from an administration that shares our concerns. This implies that we define the best ways to “live together” in many sites, and that we are exemplary in terms of safety and disturbances in order to allow the civil aviation administration to help us without compromising themselves.

What motivated you to accept the role of President of the FAI Environmental Commission?

When I attended my first Commission annual meeting, I saw that the duties and powers of the Commission were restricted to the protection of wildlife and, to a small degree, of the human environment through the problem of noise pollution. It seems to me that the principles that we successfully defended in France on a national level deserve to be upheld internationally: the future of our activities is at stake. Moreover, everyone’s experiences are extraordinarily rich and I am very interested in sharing opportunities for sports and countries.

What are the three biggest challenges that air sports are currently facing in terms of environment and sustainability?

First and foremost, we must manage our image in these fields. Even if we are only responsible for a tiny fraction of the damage to the environment, the general public, the local population and the authorities expect more from us than from most sports because we are visible and less protected than in the days when aviation pioneers were held in high regard. We must demonstrate that we take seriously the problem of noise pollution, that we evaluate new fuels and that we reduce as much as possible the impact on the natural environment wherever our activities take place. All in all, nothing new but the necessity to strongly communicate our efforts, to promote good practice among air sports participants and to collaborate with our administrators in order to obtain their support. However the most important thing is to convince: the new generations of young enthusiasts to spend time with us; the authorities to let us use the aviation space that we need and to protect us against lobbying by local groups of all kinds.

What measures can be taken in the short and medium terms?

The first measure - not new, but necessary - is to fight wherever needed and where possible against noise pollution caused by air sports activities (revision of the approach procedures and fly-over rules, use of suitable propellers and exhausts, limitation of airfield traffic patterns, winching or new towing systems for gliders, etc.) The second is to create environmental specialists in all our air sports sites with the aim of developing dialogue which has often been forgotten in some countries. The third is to have for each of our events a communication strategy that is geared specifically to environment issues– our image must indeed be valued and protected.