Euro SECIFR approval delayed until next year

 - March 22, 2007, 9:56 AM

European authorities have again delayed approval for single-engine commercial operations in instrument meteorological conditions (SECIMC). Operators expected clearance this month, but at least 10 months will pass before such flights (roughly equivalent to U.S. SECIFR operations) win approval.

Following continued discussion among member states, Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) officials last month were revising proposals that will go for three months’ public comment starting on June 1. Plans to modify JAR OPS 1 to accommodate single-engine all-weather operations will accompany the revised notice of proposed amendment (NPA). The earliest date for formal approval of any JAA regulation-division recommendation is now next February.

Current regulations prohibit commercial single-engine operations at night or in IMC (except under special visual-flight clearance), although some countries permit cargo-only operations under exemptions. SECIMC clearance is sought for the Cessna Caravan, Socata TBM 700 and Pilatus PC-12, whose manufacturers have retained former JAA secretary-general Ron Ashford and ex-FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond to argue their case.

Once adopted, JAA states could implement SECIMC regulations immediately. UK Caravan dealer Bob Crowe believes that clearance will generate a significant number of sales of such aircraft in Europe.

Denmark, Finland, France, Green- land, Norway, Spain and Sweden now allow SECIMC cargo operations. Needing to sustain PC-12 production, Swiss manufacturer Pilatus formally protested two years ago that the JAA had “failed in its obligation to assess the safety of all aircraft.” Simultaneously, Switzerland approved domestic passenger/cargo operations by Swiss companies flying Swiss-registered aircraft.

To limit exposure to power loss, the NPA defines an overall “risk period” of 15 minutes, during which aircraft are outside still-air gliding range of an airfield or acceptable landing area in a single flight. The latest changes seek to clarify this period, which can comprise accumulated shorter periods (not exceeding 15 minutes in total). Previous proposals required flights always to be within reach of a landing site following loss of power.

Proposed changes to JAR Ops 1 introduce guidance to establish SECIMC takeoff RVR and visibility minimums, covering aborted takeoffs or continued flight to altitude minimums following critical engine failure.

Potential approval next year of SECIMC operations assumes acceptance of NPA changes (and no further objections to previous content). NPA procedures that invite comment on the whole document have led to industry fears that intransigent national regulators might continue to stonewall.

JAA officials recognize the continuing industry frustration, but say they’ve made progress. Regulation director Yves Morier told AIN, “We hope [comments] will be limited to the recent changes.” In practice, dissenting nations could add a rider to the NPA before its formal approval.