The European, US and Canadian aviation authorities have adopted a system to prevent regulatory divergence in the future, as well as ensuring that the existing rulemaking harmonisation process continues. Just one potential result of extending harmonisation could be that the countries might accept each other's pilot licences, according to the European Aviation Safety Agency's rulemaking director Claude Probst.

The meeting, held on 1-2 April at EASA's Cologne, Germany headquarters with the US Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), was the first since a new pact on regulatory harmonisation was signed - 18 months ago in the case of EASA and the FAA, and two months ago with the TCCA. The three agencies will have harmonisation meetings twice a year, in April and October, says Probst.

Advantages of advanced rulemaking harmonisation

  • Regarding issues like flightcrew licensing, EASA's rulemaking director Claude Probst says it would be almost impossible to agree on identical licensing process requirements, but he believes that agreement to recognise each others' licences on an "equivalent safety" basis, once differences have been reviewed, is feasible. Probst says that this could, if approved, give airline alliances the option of rostering each other's pilots across their joint fleets within type-rating bounds
  • In jointly reviewing proposed rules before the NPRM stage could prevent the certification complexities caused by divergent regulations in each of the three countries
  • In avoiding duplication of rulemaking effort
  • In harmonising the procedures for granting AOCs to airlines. 
The intention is to extend rulemaking harmonisation where it has not existed before, like flightcrew licensing (FCL). Also, in the certification arena, the agencies could prevent divergences in new rulemaking which can create considerable difficulties. Probst quotes, as an example of the latter problem, the significant divergence that developed between the US extended-range twin-engine operations (ETOPS) rules and Europe's long-range operations (LROPS) requirements for aircraft that fly routes far from suitable diversion airports. Another example, he says, is the considerable differences over ways of ensuring fuel tank safety.

Probst remarks that if a new - or amended - rule gets as far as the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) stage without transatlantic (and now tripartite) consultation and broad agreement on the issues, "it is already too late because divergence has taken place". EASA product safety director Yves Morier says there is room for improved rulemaking co-operation on ageing aircraft, drafting guidance on human factors considerations for cockpit design, ice protection and detection systems, and rules governing very light jet certification and operations.

Meanwhile, Probst says, major efficiencies can be achieved by eliminating duplication of effort. This might involve allowing one of the three agencies to draw up a new rule that they all agree is required, then iron out any differences at the draft stage. They can also learn from each other's rulemaking processes to identify best practice, provided it fits into all the agencies' legal mandates, he says.

Finally, according to Probst, all the agencies could harmonise their processes for granting airlines an air operator's certificate, making them safety-equivalent even if not identical.