Regulatory bodies will never be loved by those whom they regulate, but relationships can be worked on favourably. Respect would be a reasonable target to aim for.

A couple of weeks ago the European Aviation Safety Agency, the US Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada Civil Aviation got together to see if they could make life easier for themselves, for manufacturers and operators, and even for the expert personnel who have to have licences to ply their trade. On the face of it - in the case of Europe and the USA - they were just continuing a long tradition started over 20 years ago when the FAA and JAA used to meet annually. But this time they aim to go further. A lot has already been achieved in harmonising aircraft design and airworthiness, and in mutually respecting certification done by one of the authorities under the rules agreed by both.

But there were also areas - like flightcrew licensing - that had been left untouched by harmonisation attempts, and other areas in which all the good intentions had been destroyed by virtue of a simple failure to set up a joint procedure for co-operation from the start when new regulations, or major amendments to existing rules, were needed.

This allowed these agencies - that had worked so hard to harmonise their existing rules - to set off unsupervised down individual paths that would end up causing headaches not only for the regulators themselves, but also destroying the benefits of harmonisation that the industry had come to expect. At the simplest level, this means going back to the bad old days when a manufacturer - for example, Boeing - would have to manufacture 737s to one specification for the FAA, and another for each European country in which airlines bought the type.

Wouldn't it be nice if Europe and the USA had got together to create the same rules for fuel tank safety, rather than diverging? Wouldn't it be nice if they had co-operated in drawing up ETOPS (extended range twin engine operations) rules, rather than ending up with the complex and heated arguments now surrounding it? Wouldn't it be nice if, having reviewed the pilot licence requirements of all three countries, an equivalent safety agreement could enable them to be mutually recognised? The answer to all three is an unqualified "yes".


Source: Flight International