Protests from Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration about specific European Aviation Safety Agency certification charges seem likely to have the desired effect, according to an initial EASA reaction. Boeing gave EASA notice that it would withdraw certification in Europe of its 787-3, the short-range variant of the manufacturer's Dreamliner, and EASA has called the manufacturer's response "understandable" and predicted that issue may be resolved soon.
Boeing says it wrote to EASA confirming that recent fee structure changes, set by the European Commission, are the reason for the withdrawal. Under the new rules, manufacturers will pay a flat rate annual fee linked to EASA's average costs to certificate or validate an aircraft or powerplant based on its weight, size or engine thrust. Previously, EASA charged an hourly fee to validate the certification of foreign-built equipment by agencies such as the FAA, with which it has a bilateral agreement. FAA administrator Marion Blakey has said the new EASA fees do not represent the actual costs of the work being done, and this issue could stand in the way of a new US/EU bilateral safety agreement.
EASA says it recognises Boeing's objection to the idea that the validation of the 787-3 variant should be charged at the same rate as for the original 787-8, explaining: "Concerns regarding the charges for variants are understandable, and we very much hope that this can resolved."
EASA and FAA officials are meeting in Prague for their annual harmonisation convention. This year's meeting is expected to finalise the details of a new joint safety accord, which should be ready for signature in a ceremony at the Paris air show, says the European agency. EASA says the new document should reflect the convention's theme, which is about improving data exchange between the two agencies. European Commission officials take an active part in the meeting, says EASA, so they will be in a good position to resolve any anomalies in the way the bilateral agreement will work before the anticipated ratification at Paris.
Though the 787-3 is not due to enter service until 2010, airframers typically work with foreign certification officials early in a programme. The first flight for the 787-8 is set for this summer.
Blakey points out that the FAA does not charge fees for validating European-certificated aircraft because most of the work is completed by EASA. "On the A380 we validated the EASA certification smoothly," she says.
Source: Flight International