EASA moves into new German headquarters

 - January 26, 2007, 11:05 AM

Relocated from temporary offices in Brussels to a new building across the Rhine in the city of Cologne, Germany, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is set to become the cornerstone of European Union (EU) policy to contribute to “cleaner and safer” aviation in Europe and the rest of the world.

Like the new building it now occupies, the European agency is not yet complete. Although it officially became operational on Sept. 28, 2003, it still has to beef up its muscles, by hiring more experts and expanding its competencies in the various fields of aviation safety.

Some 500 industry delegates attended the official opening ceremony of the EASA’s new headquarters. Attendees included Airbus chief Noël Forgeard, senior representatives of national aviation authorities, such as FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, and employees of the European agency. Among VIP guest speakers were European Commission representatives, including Jacques Barrot, vice president and commissioner for transport; Günter Verheugen, vice president and commissioner for enterprise; and Manfred Stolpe, Germany’s federal minister for transport.

Barrot said, “It is high time to guarantee a high and uniform standard of civil aviation safety for the citizens of the European Union. Safety is an essential factor in the internal market.

Looking for Industry Support
“Given the shortcomings of simple intergovernmental cooperation [a reference to the JAA’s compromised structure—Ed.], the community method of adopting and enforcing common rules is clearly a superior way of achieving this objective,” he added.

To achieve this result, the commission initially adopted the regulatory basis required for certification operations. For the time being, the agency is responsible for the airworthiness and environmental compatibility of aeronautical products, two fields in which the European Union now has exclusive jurisdiction.

The EASA’s third meeting with industry representatives took place in November. More than 200 experts attended the one-day event, which was held at the agency’s new headquarters. Industry meetings are part of EASA’s transparency initiative to communicate its activities to stakeholders and to reinforce its links with the industry.
Attendees debated such issues as the agency’s fees and charging policy and the new regulation on operations and licensing. This forum helped to clarify issues linked to the implementation and interpretation of rulemaking procedures, and the EASA intends to organize similar events in the future.

“From the outset, the industry understood what the benefits of the commission’s project would be. Nothing is better than common rules to avoid the distortion of competition and to prevent unfair practices within the internal market under the cover of national regulations. Only common rules can simplify certification operations for products at community level and reduce overall costs. Nothing is more effective than common rules to enable mutual recognition at the international level and thus to boost trade in aviation products and services with our principal partners,” underlined EC vice president Barrot.

As a result, EU member states recognize all certificates and approvals issued by
the agency without any further requirements or technical evaluation. The common rules apply to everyone and no derogations are allowed without valid justification. The Commission will carry out continuous monitoring and is ready to overturn measures that contravene the common rules.

International Agreements
To facilitate international trade in aviation products, the EU will conclude agreements for the mutual recognition of certificates with its principal partners. The commission is already conducting negotiations on this subject with the U.S.
and Canada. It will start negotiations with Brazil shortly, and discussions with other nations will follow.

The agency, for its part, might adopt working arrangements, in the form of technical cooperation agreements specific to certain products, with its principal partners outside the EU. It has already signed such agreements with Canada, Brazil and Russia and is preparing similar arrangements with China, Japan, Australia, Israel and New Zealand.

Furthermore, it is also of the utmost importance for the Commission to maintain and strengthen pan-European coherence with regard to civil aviation safety rules. Therefore, the benefits of the “EASA system” can be extended to non-EU countries through specific agreements. The Commission is already involved in negotiations with Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. In fact, Switzerland is expected to join the EASA by early next year.

Building the European Agency
Patrick Goudou, the EASA’s executive director, reported that “the start-up phase can be considered behind us.” However, Goudou acknowledged that in many cases the workload of the agency staff has been excessive and the pressure too high. He added, “I am not sure that 2005 will be less demanding. But I know that I can rely on the agency staff to accomplish new miracles.”

Indeed, in less than 15 months of operation, the agency, which is organized around four directorates (rulemaking, certification, quality and standardization and administration), has already issued 13,000 certificates. Many of those requests related to minor changes (4,309) and minor repairs (3,530), but the agency has also already issued 32 new type certificates.

New experts continue to join the agency, and the EASA keeps recruiting via its Web site (www.easa.eu.int). The agency is currently operating on a skeleton staff (it is expected to grow to 400 in the future), so extra work has been delegated to the national aviation authorities, especially those of France and Germany, where most of the requests are coming from. However, officials from the UK CAA recently complained publicly about the slow progress recorded in the negotiations with the EASA to reach a similar agreement by this month.

Future Challenges
The challenges the agency will face in the years ahead will be to establish a stable funding policy for its activities and to continue to attract the best experts, according to Goudou.

In addition, the EC’s intention clearly is to cover the entire field of aviation safety through common rules implemented by a single regulator. With this in mind, the Commission will present a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council to extend the common rules, and thus the agency’s powers, to include air operations and flight-crew licensing. In this way, nearly all the JAA rules will be incorporated in community law and will be applied uniformly throughout the EU.

In principle, it is understood that the new legislation will cover all categories of pilots, provided that exclusions are made for certain categories of aircraft or activities (such as sport and recreational). The JAR-FCL system will serve as the basis for pilot licensing with some difference for a private pilot license with restricted privileges.
The category of air operations refers to both commercial and non-commercial activities, although some argued that EU regulations should not cover non-commercial operations. The “Implementation Rules” (IR), which cover requirements and the means of implementation, will be based on the JAR-OPS 1 and 3 for Commercial Air Transport (CAT), and on JAR-OPS 0 and 4 for commercial activities other than CAT (aerial work). For corporate aviation, it is suggested to base the IR on the JAR-OPS 0 and 2, at least for the most sophisticated aircraft.

The commission will also immediately initiate work to subject airport operations and air traffic management to EU law. This work will be carried out in collaboration with Eurocontrol, whose experience and expertise in this field are essential.
The agency will therefore be responsible for the proper implementation of the “Single European Sky,” which is intended both to increase air safety and improve the flow of traffic.

Financing Certification
The EASA receives no public financing for its certification work, so applicants will pay a fee for certifications and approvals. The fees will be levied for the initial issuance and renewal of certificates and related oversight functions, the provision of services (publications, training and so on) and the processing of appeals.

The fees will contain a fixed price to cover the agency’s overhead, though some tasks also warrant a variable (hourly) fee, notably product certification. The fees and charges regulations are expected to take effect early this year. It will be the first time that a common charging system will be applicable to different EU countries.

The EASA is also implementing a system that allows it to keep track of the resources devoted to different activities. However, several industry representatives have already expressed concern that the total cost for the aviation community could be much higher than it is now. Goudou asserted that the charges and fees system put in place by the agency will be completely transparent to users of the system.

The next U.S./EU annual safety conference will be held at the EASA headquarters in Cologne from June 7 to 9 and will provide the agency a good opportunity to take stock of its progress.