EASA's powers are increasing dramatically. Executive director Patrick Goudou explains what this means for the industry
From next year the European Aviation Safety Agency will begin exercising its newly conferred - and quite draconian - power to ban foreign airlines from European Union airspace if they fail to pass a compulsory EASA inspection.
This considerable extension of its EU legal remit is just one part of the long-planned widening of the safety agency's rulemaking authority beyond airworthiness into operations and flightcrew licensing (FCL).
In the longer term, EASA's remit will extend to covering the safety regulation of airports and air navigation service providers.
Meanwhile, EASA executive director Patrick Goudou explains that, although the agency was formally authorised on 8 April to extend its powers into operations and FCL, the transposition of the existing Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) into their EU legal form has yet to take place. This, he points out, is an ongoing process that remains subject to consultation through notices of proposed amendment (NPA). Until superseded by the new EU Ops and EU FCL laws, JARs still retain their status.
EASA's deputy director rulemaking Eric Sivel says there is an ultimate date - 8 April 2012 - by which all the JAR Ops and JAR FCL rules are required to have been transposed into EU law and full compliance achieved.
The EU parliament and European Commission have provided four years from 8 April 2008 for the transition, Sivel says, requiring that within this time "all the provisions of the extension [of EASA's remit] must have been implemented". Goudou, however, is quick to point out that "of course, they will have been implemented sooner".
Sivel says the agency has an order of priorities, revealing that "the first NPA will be on flightcrew licensing, which is due in May". He adds: "There are three other NPAs that are due between May and early July and those are authority requirements - which tell authorities how to do what they are charged to do. Then, by late June, there will be an NPA on management systems, which implements the International Civil Aviation Organisation's recommended standards requiring aviation businesses to run safety management systems."
By July, Sivel says, the NPA on EU Ops will be published, and this includes all sections of the former JAR Ops - those applicable to fixed wing, rotary wing and other categories. Exceptions will include microlights, home-built aircraft, small unmanned air vehicles and historic or vintage aircraft. These will continue to be regulated nationally.
By the end of July, the NPA proposing EASA's relatively draconian new powers on the operation of foreign airlines into the EU is expected to have been published, along with another NPA that transposes into law the JARs specific to each aircraft type. The latter takes the existing requirements set by the JAA's Joint Operations Evaluation Board, covering issues such as minimum equipment lists and training, and makes them compulsory.
Goudou and Sivel point out that airlines and other operators already applying the original JARs will scarcely notice the difference. Those who will feel the change include two distinct categories: businesses and organisations that have not been operating according to the JARs, and foreign airlines that do not meet ICAO standards.
The former will be forced to comply, and if the latter fail the compulsory EASA audit, they will find themselves banned from EU skies.
This measure goes beyond the US Federal Aviation Administration's long-operated national aviation safety assessment programme that rates states' national aviation authorities (NAA) as "pass or fail" for their compliance with ICAO standards for safety oversight, but EASA will assess individual airlines, rather than NAAs, for their compliance.
Meanwhile, Sivel says, there will be a radical change in the way EU Ops is framed compared with JAR Ops. JAR Ops was divided into self-contained sections for fixed and rotary wing, for example, whereas EU Ops will have a base set of rules that apply to everything that gets airborne, from balloons and gliders to the Airbus A380 - like the rules of the air.
In effect, he says, these are the rules that the light aircraft general aviation sector has to follow. But beyond that, there will be additional, scaled rules applying specifically to commercial operators. This, says Sivel, is the way Canada framed its rules, and EASA was impressed by the system's simplicity. Sivel puts it this way: "The hymn book has changed, but the hymns are the same."
This is nevertheless a change in format, if not in the rules, and it has led some sectors of industry to call for delayed publication of the NPAs.
Goudou points out, however, that any delay in publication reduces the amount of time available for stakeholders' transition to full compliance, since the 8 April 2012 deadline is absolute.
There will continue to be room for flexibility within EU Ops because EASA will maintain the principle of acceptable or alternative means of compliance, says Sivel, and local variations that contain operational limitations, like the simplified national private pilots' licences adopted by France and the UK, will continue to be permitted.