The UK government has warned that if the country leaves the EU without an agreement, certificates issued by the country's Civil Aviation Authority under the European Aviation Safety Agency regulations might not be valid in the bloc after March 2019.
Today, CAA licenses and approvals for aerospace manufacturers, aircraft operators, maintenance providers, crew members and training organisations are issued under EASA regulations and have validity across the EU and those non-member states that participate in the EASA system, such as Norway and Switzerland.
In a series of technical notices published on 24 September, the UK government says that in a no-deal scenario, EU aviation safety legislation will be "retained and applied by the UK as domestic law" through the European Union Withdrawal Act approved by the nation's parliament earlier this year.
The government intends to keep EASA certificates for UK-registered aircraft – whether issued by the CAA or other EASA member states' regulators – valid for a transitional period up to two years.
"At the end of two years (or sooner if the certificate expires during the intervening period), new certificates issued by the CAA under UK legislation would be required," says the government. But it notes that "the EU has indicated that it would take a different approach to the UK", and that "certificates previously issued by the CAA before exit day would no longer be automatically accepted in the EASA system after 29 March 2019".
The government adds: "The UK encourages the EU to take reciprocal action in recognising UK-issued certificates."
Regarding certification of aircraft parts, "UK-registered aircraft can still be fitted with new parts certified in accordance with EU rules prior to exit day" during the transitional period. But as it currently stands, "parts manufactured and certified by organisations approved by the CAA could not be installed on EU-registered aircraft".
The government notes that "affected organisations could be approved as third-country production organisations by EASA", but adds: "EASA has yet to provide the details for how and when it would process applications from UK manufacturers in advance of the UK leaving the EU."
EASA pilot licenses will remain valid for operation of UK-registered aircraft for the transitional period, though the CAA "must validate such a licence for it to be used in the international operation of a UK-registered aircraft".
However, "pilots wishing to operate an aircraft registered in the EASA system must hold an appropriate licence issued, or validated, in an EASA state".
Similar limitations would apply to cabin-crew attestations and maintenance licenses.
Citing statements by the European Commission, the government says: "Existing [cabin crew] attestations issued by a CAA-approved organisation would no longer be valid for use with EU operators after exit day. Cabin crew working for EU operators would need to hold a valid attestation issued in an EU country."
Maintenance licences issued by the CAA will "no longer be valid in the EASA system after exit day", says the government. "This means that UK-issued Part-66 licences would no longer be valid for the performance of maintenance on aircraft registered in an EASA member state."
If the UK were not part of the EASA system after Brexit, the CAA will be responsible for ensuring oversight of aircraft designed and manufactured in the UK and for providing other nations' regulators with relevant information.
The government acknowledges that "elements of this function have formally been assigned to EASA" today, but asserts that "the CAA has maintained capability in this area and is actively building the resources, systems and processes to perform these functions".
In a no-deal scenario, EU operators will become foreign carriers under UK legislation, while UK airlines will become third-country operators in the EASA system.
EU carriers will require a Part-TCO safety authorisation to fly into the country, the government says. But it adds that the CAA would – "in principle" – consider "a valid EASA Air Operator Certificate… as having met the qualifying requirements to hold such an [Part-TCO] approval".
Meanwhile, the government asserts that "EASA has yet to provide the details for how and when it would process applications from UK airlines in advance of the UK leaving the EU".
It adds: "The UK… would expect the recognition of equivalent safety standards to be on a reciprocal basis."
The government insists that negotiations with the EU are "progressing well", and that a no-deal scenario "remains unlikely given the mutual interests of the UK and the EU", but it is "our duty as a responsible government to prepare for all eventualities, including 'no deal'".
It argues that it has "always been the case that as we get nearer to March 2019, preparations for a no-deal scenario would have to be accelerated [and that] such an acceleration does not reflect an increased likelihood of a no-deal outcome.”
The objective is to "minimise disruption and ensure a smooth and orderly exit in all scenarios".
UK aerospace trade association ADS has reiterated its view that "the best outcome for air passengers, airlines and businesses across the aerospace sector is for continued UK membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency, as set out by the prime minister [Theresa May] in March".
ADS chief executive Paul Everitt states: "Failure to agree a deal will threaten jobs and investment, damage prosperity and disrupt aviation connectivity. Preparations must be stepped up, including discussions between regulators, to make sure we are ready and able to maintain connectivity and vital supply chains in the event of a no-deal Brexit."