David Learmount/LONDON

EUROPEAN UNION (EU) airports might be empowered to carry out safety checks on foreign airlines in the same way that EU ports already check ships under the port state-control system, says the European Commission (EC).

The safety check is one of several proposals, which the EC is examining, to tighten up safeguards against foreign carriers which do not adhere to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety standards. It follows similar proposals made by the 33-nation European Civil Aviation Conference (Flight International, 10-16 April).

According to the EC Transport Commissioner's office, a German proposal, accepted unanimously at the EU Council of Transport Ministers in March, set the programme in motion. Now, the EC has prepared a working paper for the heads of EU member states' national aviation authorities, which met to discuss options on 25 April. A second meeting will draw up recommendations for the June Council of Ministers meeting. Legislation could follow before the end of the year.

At the March Council meeting, German transport minister Matthias Wissmann maintained that the 6 February Birgenair Boeing 757 crash near the Dominican Republic, which killed 180 German tourists (Flight International, 27 March-2 April), illustrates the necessity of better safety oversight of those foreign airlines which use EU airports.

Wissmann proposes that the EU should maintain a "black list" of nations which do not meet airline-safety oversight obligations, but EC air-transport directorate (ATD) head Frederick Sorensen says, that this would be untenable under international aviation law.


The US Federal Aviation Administration, however, operates a public "black-list" type of system under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme, which invokes safety clauses in its bilateral air-transport treaties with individual nations. The European ATD says that writing such a safety clause into EU national bilaterals is one of the options proposed in the working paper. Other proposals include:

authorised checks be made on an agreed percentage of foreign aircraft and their crews operating through EU airports;

EU airports be required to maintain trained staff with a legal mandate to inspect aircraft and crews which are suspected of substandard operation;

a common reporting point be set up in each EU state to process air-transport safety-information reports from all sources, to help identify substandard operation.

The FAA has added Morocco and Surinam to its list of 23 states judged to operate unsatisfactory airline-safety oversight systems. Under the FAA's IASA programme, Surinam has become the fourteenth state with a Category 3 "unacceptable" rating, and Morocco is the eleventh to be labelled Category 2, or "conditional". Effectively, Surinam-based airlines are banned from operating to the USA, while Morocco is allowed US flights, but under heightened FAA surveillance until "shortcomings" have been rectified, says the FAA.

Source: Flight International