Europe's JAA is about to be replaced by a new European Aviation Safety Authority

David Learmount/LONDON


Imagine if an aircraft built in one European Union country had to go through separate certification tests in each EU nation. The result could be a different marque of aircraft for each country, dramatically forcing up manufacturing costs.

That is how it was before the Joint Airworthiness Authorities (now the Joint Aviation Authorities) were formed. Now that their basic task is done, however, the JAA is about to be replaced by the new single European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA). Creating a politically acceptable, fully empowered, EASA will be the biggest challenge yet, predicts JAA secretary general Klaus Koplin.

Before the JAA, multiple certification also faced Boeing and other non-European manufacturers when they sold aircraft into Europe, forcing the costs of their aircraft upward. Superfluous certification complexities also faced early international consortia like the British Aircraft Corporation/Sud Aviation alliance, which was building Concorde, in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Now aviation industries are accustomed to manufacturing not only to a common JAA standard, but to concurrent certification with the US Federal Aviation Administration, benefitting from transatlantic Joint Aviation Requirement/Federal Aviation Regulation (JAR/FAR) harmonisation and co-operation.

Disenchantment with the earlier, blatantly wasteful, system led to the JAA's formation in 1970. In the beginning the JAA had been charged with agreeing common standards only for maintenance and airworthiness, but since then the mandate has expanded to include operations and licensing.

The organisation has also expanded well beyond the EU, with 19 states as full members and 10 waiting to join. Koplin remarks: "Today we are seeing it from the end of the system - I mean that when we started we didn't know where we would finish."

The JAA has never had any executive or legal authority. It has always been a forum intended to promote consensus among member authorities and frame it for implementation. The resulting JARs only become law when they are implemented by each of the national aviation authorities.

Assessing achievements

The JAA's informal status is about to end. Koplin, assessing the authorities' achievement as the organisation stands on the threshold of integration with the EU lawmaking system, remarks almost with surprise: "I am pleased that such an informal group could create such harmonised safety rules." His main reservation is that it has taken a long time but, he says: "You start out with a high level of expectation, sometimes unrealistically."

Koplin summarises the JAA's main achievements as:

• development and implementation of comprehensive airworthiness rules despite its lack of legal power or authority;

• massive membership expansion;

• total JAR/FAR code harmonisation for small aeroplanes and helicopters already achieved, and for large aircraft will be achieved by 2000;

• development and adoption of operations (JAR Ops) and licensing rules, most of which have been implemented.

In May this year, when the last of the JARs was adopted, the JAA's basic task was complete. "This is the maximum that a system like this can achieve," says Koplin. Now it will take an estimated five years to frame the JAA's legally empowered successor, the EASA.

In the meantime, he says, the JAA will restructure, and its job will be to help the JAA member states, especially, but not exclusively, those which are non-EU nations, to implement the rules that they have not already embodied in their own regulatory systems. Many states, Koplin says, are still struggling with the problem of implementing, within their own legal systems and language, regulations which will mean what the JAA intended them to. It will also have the task of overseeing the organisation's metamorphosis into the EASA.

Remaining challenges, according to Koplin, include:

• overseeing the implementation of JAR Ops and licensing rules;

• finalising harmonisation with the FAA by 2000;

• helping to develop the EASA;

• harmonising safety priorities strategy with that of the USA and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

When the EASA becomes fully operational it will carry out the regulatory and certification functions for all member states, and supervise the application of rules. The national aviation authorities will carry out "local work", like production facility oversight, and issue licences, certificates of airworthiness, air operators certificates and other permits to operate - all of which imply the oversight of standards.

Koplin warns that it will not be easy to form the EASA. The basis for its creation looks politically sound: the Council of Ministers approved the concept of a single, supreme European aviation rulemaking body in April last year. Although there will normally be a consultation process before the EASA finalises any regulation, Koplin emphasises that it will, in emergency, need powers to implement rules without consultation.

Creating a body with such powers will be politically and legally difficult for many states to digest, whatever the good intentions of their representatives as expressed at the April 1998 meeting. Koplin says, for example, that separating regulation from oversight has no precedent, and some states would require constitutional changes to allow it.

Defining the constitution

He does not think it can be done quickly, although he has no doubts that the objective can be achieved. His estimate is five years: "The hurdle now is to find a [EASA] structure that the ministers are happy with. This is a big hurdle."

This involves agreeing a convention defining the EASA's constitution, task and powers. Koplin believes that this will be signed early in 2000, but then it needs to be incorporated in a treaty, which takes much longer.

ICAO may have institutionalised the concept of prescribing world standards for aviation, but the EASA will be the biggest single step towards applying and enforcing global standards for airworthiness and operations. Meanwhile, in addition to satisfying the industrial and political needs to harmonise regulation within Europe and beyond, the JAA has had a unique opportunity to bring aviation regulations up to date. On the whole it has succeeded in doing this too. It is not on Koplin's list of JAA achievements but perhaps it ought to be.

Source: Flight International