US regulators will probably need to create a "dual track" regulation system covering areas such as aircraft maintenance and airworthiness within the UK in the coming months unless its future relationship with European Aviation Safety Agency is clarified, a Federal Aviation Administration official has acknowledged.
Kate Lang – FAA director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East – said during a panel discussion at the Airport Operators Association's annual conference on 31 October that it was "important to mitigate" the potential impact of the UK's EASA status being "extinguished" as a result of Brexit, and that some form of dual recognition would likely need to be put in place.
She says the FAA has set a deadline of December/January 2018 to decide whether it was likely that the UK was going to remain a part of EASA or not and to plan appropriately.
In particular, Lang says there is concern around the regulation of maintenance providers based in the UK "because half the repair stations (for example) in Europe are in the UK and today carry the EASA certificate".
With time "burning down" ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU in March 2019, FAA teams have already begun technical discussions with counterparts in the UK's Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority, with a view to putting in place contingency plans.
Lang foresees "pretty serious" consequences if clarity on these issues is not achieved.
"If there is no arrangement in place, I guess the fail-safe arrangement is frankly that the FAA has to take over inspections of repair stations in the UK," she says. "UK repair stations will have to pay for that."
She says the FAA has already done a "quick assessment" and that the "good news" is that an "old bilateral safety agreement" remains in force with the UK.
However a "gaggle" of around 20 safety agreements covering areas such as maintenance, flight safety simulators and airworthiness require clarification.
CAA chief executive Andrew Haines says that most of the regulation under consideration is centred on N-reg, or US-registered, aircraft being maintained in the UK.
He says "substantial" and "live work" is being conducted to to mitigate the issues.
"What we then need to do is satisfy Kate that we have the competence to comply with that EASA system rather than a new UK one," he says.
Haines points out that third-party countries can adopt EASA rules.
"So what we are saying to the government is to make it clear that we are not about to reinvent a whole new rule system," he says. "If you have that as your underpinning line, then your contingency planning will work from that point."