EASA and FAA extend safety regulatory harmonisation

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A new transatlantic treaty will introduce sweeping changes in air safety arrangements between Europe and the USA with the most immediate impact the exchange of foreign aircraft ramp inspection data.

The pact, known as the bilateral aviation safety agreement, extends the reciprocal acceptance of certificates issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The pact covers the 27 European Union member states to include reciprocal acceptance of safety findings in aircraft design and manufacturing, continued airworthiness and repair station oversight, and broadening the scope of future US acceptance of European aeronautical products.

Speaking at the Transatlantic Aviation Issues conference earlier this week, European Commission air safety chief Roberto Salverani said future co-operation on quality assurance in inspection and enforcement represented a "huge step forward", especially in terms of exchanging aircraft safety data, which he termed "the backbone of any safety organisation".

FAA acting administrator Bobby Sturgell says that while there were still some issues to solve, the shorter product approval procedures and the mutual acceptance of product tests as well as the reciprocal use of US/EU airlines' approved repair and maintenance facilities was an example of regulators "doing their part in reducing costs" at a critical time for the industry. "We are at a point where the word crisis characterises the situation the industry faces," he says.

Tony Fazio, US Federal Aviation Administration director for Europe, says that the FAA had delayed signing the pact for a year due to the lack of transparency over controversial changes in EASA charging regime, forcing the two regulators to agree to build into the pact a comment period for any future change.

He proposes that extended US representation within EASA working groups could also prevent such problems in the future. "We are reaching a critical juncture of our relationship. More discussion upfront would lead to fewer problems as EASA expands its remit to operations," he says.

In October, the EC plans to pursue the same approach with Canada, boosting safety in the entire North Atlantic area.