Major concessions following consultation about proposed new European aviation regulations will mean that the new laws governing operations will prove less of a culture shock for the industry than the original proposals would have been, the European Aviation Safety Agency has revealed today.

Reacting to protest from the industry at the original proposals for changes in operations regulation, flight crew licensing (FCL) and flight time limitations (FTL), EASA and the European Commission have agreed to rein in proposals for a major overhaul of existing regulations during the transition from nationally applied rules to pan-European law. Instead the agencies are proposing to draft laws closely based on existing commonly agreed standards.

The Association of European Airlines' technical director Vincent de Vroey says the AEA "welcomes the new approach", claiming that the original proposals were an attempt "to reinvent the wheel".

De Vroey says that the JAR Ops, FCL and FTL were a hard-won set of harmonised rules developed under the EASA's predecessor, the Joint Aviation Authorities, specifically for European aviation, and adds that "the only reason to abandon your heritage is if it is bad." He emphasises that the industry is not opposed to change where it is justified.

In addition, EASA and the Commission have conceded a more generous period for industry application of the new standards, extending beyond the planned April 2012 deadline if necessary in some of the more difficult areas.

EASA executive director Patrick Goudou says: "We have listened to our stakeholders and agreed on an approach that will allow for a smooth transition. Wherever possible our proposals will be based on existing legislation and safety standards."

The agency has also released the following statement: "The EASA management board today adopted a common position by EASA and the European Commission setting out the priorities for the extension of the Agency's responsibilities in the areas of flight crew licensing, air operations, and third-country operators." EASA communcations director Daniel Hoeltgen emphasises that "EASA and the Commission are speaking with one voice" on these regulatory issues.

Major changes to proposals include a division of the operations rules into a larger number of types of operation, which also better reflects the JAR heritage. And for the time being FTL will continue to be governed by EU-Ops Sub-Part Q legislation, says EASA, but new FTLs will be in place by April 2012. Further study is to be conducted on issues like fatigue risk management.

EASA admits that the regulatory task "is extremely ambitious", so it has adopted rule priorities to enable the new rules to be prepared and published "in a phased way". Top of the list are FCL and commercial air transport operations. All EASA opinions will have been published "by mid-2011 so they can be adopted by April 2012".

The implementing rules for EASA's "second extension", which will expand its powers for the first time into two new areas, will be published for air traffic management/air navigation services by the end of 2012 and for aerodromes by December 2013.

Source: Flight International