EASA takeover of rulemaking process to delay approval

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has taken over the much-disputed notice of proposed amendment (NPA) process on single engine instrument meteorological conditions (SE-IMC) operations in Europe from the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). The move means rule making on the controversial subject is in limbo until late 2007/early 2008 when EASA’s authority is extended beyond airworthiness into the operations arena.

The delay comes despite the fact that the process (NPA OPS-29) was well advanced by the time JAA work on it was suspended, says the SE-IMC working group.

The row between the industry and three of the national aviation authorities (NAA) still continues, having started in 1993, but deliberations at EASA seem more likely to produce a result for European operators, says SE-IMC working group member Bob Crowe.

The operators want approval for commercial flights in IMC by specific single-engine turboprop types with enhanced navigational systems, basically on the grounds that the aircraft’s accident statistics are far lower than most of the twin-engined aircraft currently operating commercially. But objections by the three NAAs opposed to approval – Germany, Italy and the UK – have prevented agreement at the JAA. Crowe says approval is now on the cards at EASA, and he has accused the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of being reduced to the use of filibustering tactics at the JAA by citing rulemaking technicalities.

The CAA’s group director safety regulation Michael Bell wrote to Crowe conceding that accident statistics are favourable compared with older types, but that it is committed to improve further. When Crowe challenged Bell to spell out how much better, he replied: “The CAA is not tied to any particular fatal accident rate.”

Although EASA seems likely, according to the last draft of NPA OPS-29, to approve commercial SE-IMC across Europe, there is an area still in debate. This is whether the single-engine types must use a routeing that places them within gliding range of a suitable area for a forced landing, or whether they may be allowed a total “risk period” of 15min on any given flight outside gliding range. The CAA says it does “not accept the concept of an in-flight risk period”.

Source: Flight International