The UK is to dramatically increase the number of ramp checks it makes on foreign aircraft - to 600 in 2008 and 1,000 by 2009, compared with just 193 in 2006.

The move comes as the European Commission is expected, early in 2008, to announce minimum requirements for the number of foreign aircraft that are inspected to ensure their compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards.

Some countries fall far below others in the number of aircraft they inspect, according to figures gathered under the pan-European Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft programme, and internal sources indicate this is considered unsatisfactory. The UK's 2006 inspection numbers fall far short of France's total of 1,285 and Spain's 1,083. Coincidentally, the Commission's plans are expected to announce a deadline for states to meet a set of minima by 2009 for inspections carried out under SAFA.

The inspection programme will, in due course, be managed by the European Aviation Safety Agency, which is already responsible for holding and monitoring the combined SAFA database. The agency says that if the number of reports were increased as a sample of air movements, safety trends by airline, country and aircraft type could be monitored more effectively.

The UK Department for Transport says SAFA checks include inspections of documents associated with an aircraft or flight, crew licences and the aircraft's certificate of airworthiness evidence of proper flight planning checks on the serviceability of safety equipment inspections to ensure the cargo has been loaded properly and inspections to check there are no obvious defects in the airframe, undercarriage or engines.

Source: Flight International