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View from the cockpit

Release date:
June 2021
View from the cockpit with Kyprianos Biris, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Hellas
Kyprianos Biris, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Hellas, talks general aviation and aerial tourism in Greece, as well as fuel taxation and island gems


Did you always set out to pursue a career in the aviation sector?


I actually come from a family of architects, so although I have always been interested in aviation, I decided to focus my career on architecture and kept flying as a hobby. I worked for about seven years as an architect before an opportunity arose as the manager of a steel plant, near Athens, which is where I am now. However, flying has always remained a passion and about 10 years ago I was able to form and aeroclub with friends who shared my passion and purchase a Socata TB20 aircraft that we now fly. Flying is like a therapy for me, I describe it as the best medicine if ever I need a pick me up!


How did you get involved with AOPA?


I joined AOPA as a board member about 12 years ago and became president just over four years ago. I juggle my role with AOPA around my normal working day and am well supported by my AOPA colleagues. The association currently has around 250 active members comprised of aircraft owners and private pilots. AOPA operates essentially as a union that promotes, supports and represents the interests of general aviation (GA) pilots. We also cooperate with the relevant government agencies to develop modern regulations and procedures for the GA community in Greece.


How do GA members benefit from AOPA?


Members benefit from being part of a wider body of pilots and aircraft owners. Together we present a much stronger voice when it comes to tackling regulatory issues. One of the issues we’ve addressed recently is the high cost of ground handling fees for GA aircraft. In all Greek airports, even the smaller airfields, GA customers are obliged to accept the services of a handling agent where available. These services can cost up to €300 per flight and include marshalling for aircraft parking and escorting all crew and passengers to the terminal as a safety and security measure. AOPA successfully campaigned on behalf of our members to get these fees reduced to around €120 per flight.


Another initiative we are currently working on is calling for the Greek Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure dedicated space for general aviation customers in every airport, relative to the number of GA customers using that facility. So, if 95% of the traffic is commercial aviation and 5% is general, then we would like to see the respective airport allocating 5% of its aircraft parking space to GA customers.


Can you tell us more about the aerial tourism programme you’ve been working on?


Following the pandemic, we have been promoting aerial tourism in and around Greece. It’s about showcasing the country’s attractions and the beautiful islands most of which have airports or aerodromes and are easily accessible for GA customers. It’s also about promoting pilot training in Greece - the costs involved, where the different training academies are located and what they offer. In addition, we offer a quick six step guide to help those planning a flight to and around Greece, as well as an email support service for visiting pilots.


How are you engaged with Air bp?


We have a great working relationship with Air bp. Communication is key and we often collaborate on projects such as new fuelling locations, as we are seeing increasing demand for additional fuelling locations particularly in and around the islands. And it’s great to hear from our members how much they appreciate the expertise of Air bp. GA customers understand that when they refuel with Air bp it’s not just aviation fuel they’re paying for, but quality assurance. They know they’re getting a fuel that has been specifically designed and is safe to use in their aircraft.


What are the challenges for Greece’s GA sector going forward?


We need to address the heavy taxation on aviation fuel. It’s not the fault of the suppliers, but because aviation fuel is considered a luxury consumable, it is heavily taxed by the state and that’s something I would like to see being reconsidered. Airport operational hours are also something that need addressing, especially during the winter months when many regional and smaller airports operate on restricted opening hours. I would like to see airports accepting GA traffic outside of published operational hours as the only airport staff required during these times is security/ police personnel – something that’s required for airport security anyway – for apron access control.


Which Greek islands are you hoping to visit this summer?


I love to get away from the bustle of city life by escaping to the islands, some of which are easily accessible for smaller aircraft. Kythera (LGKC), Syros (LGSO), Skyros (LGSY), Milos (LGML) and Astypalea (LGPL) are some of my favourite islands to fly to. They all offer an authentic Greek experience and all have airports or airfields catering for GA customers.


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