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Comment: EASA must stay clear of politics to meet its mandate

This week's interview with the European Aviation Safety Agency's new rulemaking director Jules Kneepkens shows EASA to be an eager proponent of change for the better. Of course what "better" means will always be up for debate, but the agency definitely sees its mandate as a duty to review all the existing legislation that it inherits from the Joint Aviation Authorities for its relevance to aviation today.

That is no bad thing, but it will be hard work and, as usual, the question arises as to whether EASA has the resources to do the thorough job it intends, or whether it will be forced to cut its coat according to its cloth. The latter could lead either to dropping its ambitions for reform or pushing back rulemaking deadlines set by the European Commission, which would not go down well in Brussels.

Meanwhile anybody who thinks the debate about flight time limitations (FTL) will be settled by the European Union-mandated, EASA-commissioned independent scientific and medical report on fatigue debated in this column last week (Flight International, 27 January-2 February) has another think coming. Intense lobbying is going on behind the scenes as EASA decides what to do with the report's conclusion that the outer limits of the existing FTL (EU Ops Subpart Q) are dangerous. EASA cannot ignore this, but neither can it change rules without a regulatory impact assessment.

The Association of European Airlines maintains that the report is flawed, and it is appalled at the additional costs its members would face if the report's recommendations were transposed straight into new FTLs. The association argues that European carriers would be so disadvantaged - particularly on long haul - that their trade would go to non-EU competitors.

Brussels - and in the end that's where EASA's recommendations on FTL will be processed before they become law - will be listening.

Pilot associations are worried - justifiably - that at best EASA's recommendations will be subjected to the bureaucratic equivalent of filibustering by the Association of European Airlines, and at worst the European Commission will cave in. Well, it might. But if EASA deems the report's science well-founded it must stick to its mandate and leave politics to Brussels.

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