New EASA Director Sees Agency on Firmer Footing

 - November 4, 2013, 11:05 AM
Patrick Ky, who formerly headed the Sesar Joint Undertaking, took over as EASA executive director in September. (Photo: Thierry Dubois)

The new executive director at the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Patrick Ky, sees the agency’s role paradoxically heightened by national budget cuts. During a recent interview with AIN near EASA headquarters in Cologne, Germany, he explained that most member states–even Germany–had seen nationwide monitoring missions severely affected. Countries such as the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have cut jobs in administration, he added.

A widespread lack of resources is making governments realize they can no longer accomplish their missions in civil aviation alone and therefore need the EASA’s resources, said Ky, who formerly led the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) Joint Undertaking.

Ky expressed relative contentment with the EASA’s €130 million ($180 million) 2013 budget and staffing of approximately 700. Although those numbers have consistently increased for 10 years since the agency’s establishment in 2003, he lamented that the EASA sometimes allots too little money to pre-rulemaking research. For example, it can’t afford a study on electromagnetic interference caused by mobile phones, he said, forcing it to await U.S. reports and decisions.

“We’d like some research and technology budgets to be partly redirected to aviation safety,” Ky stated. The bulk of current EU-funded aeronautics projects target environmental friendliness. Ky would like some of this money directed to topics such as in-flight icing; the EASA would then define the work program, he suggested.

On a possible convergence between Sesar and the U.S. NextGen ATC modernization effort, Ky sounded relatively downbeat. He emphasized that controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC), central to Sesar, will enter service in Europe this year, while the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has not scheduled full implementation until 2025. For example, 4-D operations, in which ATC sets a time constraint for aircraft to arrive at a given point in space, rely on CPDLC. Ky also noted, though, that the agencies do agree on subjects such as improving aircraft trajectories with continuous descents.

On the prospect of expanding the EASA’s remit, Ky, although not actively pursuing such expansion, would not oppose it either, provided it makes sense, he said. “If member states are willing to do something more at the European level and we have the right technical skills, why not?” he said. For example, the EASA could oversee certification of UAVs for civil airspace, he hinted. Ky said he wants the agency to make “fewer rules but better rules.”