The General Aviation Manufacturers Association is urging the European Union to unify rules for general aviation operations rather than leave regulation to individual member states of the EU.
“The issue of how or if the EU regulates GA is the single largest challenge facing GA operations in Europe,” said GAMA senior v-p of operations Ron Swanda at the annual U.S./Europe International Aviation Safety Conference. “Without a uniform set of operating regulations for GA, members of the EU could find that interstate and international commerce is hindered and that safety oversight is not uniformly applied.”
Although he lauded the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) for adopting safety regulations and oversight systems for the certification and production of aircraft, Swanda argued that safety regulation and oversight of GA operations within the EU is in its infancy. With the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) replacing the JAA, the EU is apparently undecided on whether it should undertake work related to GA operations.
Definition of General Aviation
Complicating the decision are the varying perceptions–and lack of agreement–in Europe on what constitutes general aviation. Under GAMA’s definition, GA includes all operations of all certificated aircraft except those flown in scheduled commercial service or by the military. And GAMA’s definition of GA includes nonscheduled commercial operations, often known as “air taxi” or “charter.” Typically, these aircraft have fewer than 19 seats.
Swanda further explained that GA can include turbine-powered airplanes with intercontinental range seating up to 19 people or two-seat aircraft with reciprocating engines used primarily for training–and everything in between, including balloons, gliders and rotorcraft. It even includes homebuilt aircraft and historic military aircraft. “You might say that GA is the ‘all other’ category,” he said.
The GAMA official told the safety conference that the U.S.– which accounts for 80 percent of the world’s GA aircraft and pilots–contains geography and operating environments similar to every area of the world, and the FAA’s operating rules for GA have been written to safely accommodate these operating environments. In addition, he said the FAA’s operating rules have been in place for many years and are well understood.
“Therefore, to promote safety, EU operating rules applicable to GA operations should be closely aligned with U.S. operating rules,” Swanda suggested. “Essentially, it all boils down to how best to ensure that GA remains safe, or gets safer.”
GAMA has outlined five essential steps to be considered by the EU. These are:
• Create a single authority responsible for regulating all GA flight activity and GA pilot certification performed within the EU.
• Ensure that GA accident prevention is part of future aviation safety activities in Europe.
• Appoint a single body responsible for investigating and determining the probable cause of GA fatal and serious accidents that occur within the EU.
• To improve GA accident trend analysis, and integrate GA accident data from the EU with the majority of the world’s GA fleet, the EU should adopt the U.S. definition of GA and the primary-use categories.
• Implement an annual survey of GA activity, using methodology similar to that used by the FAA.
Swanda reminded the group that every nation has GA aircraft based within its borders and most tabulate statistics on GA accidents. In many parts of the world, intercity travel via general aviation aircraft is the only option available, other than walking or dogsled, especially during the winter. Accordingly, every nation has an interest in keeping general aviation a viable travel alternative, while keeping it as safe as possible, he said.