New safety body expects other appointments to follow as it prepares to take on European certification role

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) expects to install four key directors before the end of the month as it gears up for a major expansion to enable it to assume responsibility for all aircraft certification and personnel licensing in the region.

The agency, which was formally created on 27 September, has one employee, its executive director, Patrick Goudou, plus around 15 consultants hired to manage the body's start-up phase.

EASA is set to install directors for certification, rule-making, quality assurance and administration and these directors will then hire around 15 managers, including lawyers and accountants.

"Once the directors are in place, other positions will cascade down," says Simon Brain, a member of the EASA transition team responsible for industrial relations.

The agency cannot undertake any technical work until it hires competent staff and it aims to have around 60 people employed by June next year and around 100 by the end of next year, says Brain. EASA had initially planned to have key personnel in place in time for its creation, but the appointment of Goudou was stalled by over six months due to political wrangling.

The US Federal Aviation Administration expects to sign a memorandum of understanding permitting European national aviation authorities to retain competence for certification until the FAA conducts its own audit of the EASA. It recommends the US State Department replace the 11 existing bilateral airworthiness and safety agreements (BASA) with one with the European Commission.

The USA and the EC made an exchange of diplomatic notes in mid-September, in a last-minute deal. The EC had envisaged dissolution of existing BASAs on day one of EASA's existence, but the FAA says the new body will not receive US approval until the FAA is sure of its competence, which could require a shadowing process during the first certification procedure, says Doug Lavin, vice-president of FAA international relations.

"We did have concerns at first, but given that the bilaterals still stand and the JAA is still interacting with us, in many ways it's business as usual," says Lavin.

At present the agency is performing a "rubber stamp" role and, over the last month, EASA has already processed over 700 approvals from national aviation authorities, including those to repairs, flight manuals, modifications, as well as supplementary type certificates.

One of the first jobs the technical staff have to undertake is to negotiate the relationship between the agency and the FAA. Barry Valentine, director of policy at the US General Aviation Manufacturers' Association, which has been working with the US Aerospace Industries' Association to advise the FAA, says there are concerns over some countries imposing additional national operating requirements as de facto national safety standards if their certification standards are not included in the harmonised version.

Valentine says he has assurances from the EASA that all future certification specifications will be data-driven, with some evidence that an event could happen during flight, rather than what he calls the existing "European tendency to regulate against something they fear might happen".

EASA is to publish a list of European centres of excellence, to where certification issues related to aircraft or propulsion type will be divested.

Source: Flight International