JAR OPS 2 rules could be in place by year-end

 - March 26, 2008, 10:14 AM

Next month, after several years of seemingly circular internal arguments, Europe’s Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) finally expects to issue draft proposals for the new JAR OPS 2 operating requirements governing corporate operators of European-registered aircraft. The provisional rules will be made available for several months of informal industry consultation with a view to issuing a formal notice of proposed amendment (the JAR OPS structure replaces existing national rules) before year-end.

According to JAA officials, the grouping of European national aviation authorities has accepted the case for taking a light touch in regulating corporate (U.S. Part 91 equivalent) operators. If this thinking is reflected in the draft rules issued next month, it should dispel years of suspicion and concern in the European business aviation community that they would face the much heavier Part-135-style approach of the already-implemented JAR OPS 1 regulations for airlines.

Driven by Safety
JAR OPS 2 will be founded on the so-called JAR OPS O general operating rules drawn up as a generic text for the whole of general aviation. Where possible, it will be driven by specific safety objectives, rather than always taking a “prescriptive” approach (such as outlining broad goals for operators to achieve, rather than prescribing precisely how they should be achieved). The safety responsibility will stay with the operator, not with the regulator, JAA officials told AIN.

The thinned-down JAR OPS 2 draft document is expected to cover  organization of the corporate flight department; operational control; registration of the operator (not the same as certification); training; maintenance; and operations manuals.
In what will likely be viewed as a victory for the European business aviation lobby, the registration process could be founded on the IS-BAO (International Standards for Business Aviation Operations) code of best practice that is now being finalized by the Montreal-based International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). IS-BAO has been drawn up under the guidance of manufacturers and operators from four continents and is based on ISO 9000 quality principles.

Generic Backbone
IS-BAO registration will entail an initial evaluation of a flight department’s operating manual and safety procedures. According to Business Aircraft Users Association chairman John Batty, who also chairs the IBAC committee that drafted IS-BAO, this process will take a day or two, with subsequent follow-up audits every three to five years. IS-BAO will give operators a generic operators manual drawn up by other corporate flight departments on which to base their procedures.

However, the IS-BAO-based process is considered to be excessively onerous by operators and regulators in some European countries. They would prefer to see the sort of automatic registration allowed for flight-training schools under the new JAR-FCL rules. In this case, a flight department would simply declare itself to be JAR OPS 2-compliant and the onus would be on the regulator to prove that it does not meet the standards.

Despite the fact that the JAR OPS rules are supposed to ensure a common regulatory approach, it could be that some JAA member states may opt to implement the automatic registration process, while others insist on the full IS-BAO-based procedure. According to JAA sources, some member-state civil aviation authorities have concluded that safety regulation of non-commercial operators is a lower priority than for the airline sector and so have become more inclined to accept a lighter regulatory structure for business aviation.

Lack of resources may also oblige some authorities to settle for random sampling in their follow-up auditing of operators. Safety experts generally feel that data-driven auditing, based on detailed analysis of incident and accident statistics to identify areas of concern, is preferable. Auditing all operators will be even more time-consuming for the regulators.

The draft proposals will likely suggest that corporate operators with aircraft registered outside the JAA states may still find themselves required to adhere to JAR OPS 2 standards if authorities decide that their “place of operational control” is in a European country. For example, a U.S. corporation with an established European flight operation would need to operate its Europe-based aircraft under JAR OPS 2 rules, even if the aircraft displays an N-number on the tail.

Operational Control
Similarly, the “place of operational control” factor in the JAR OPS 2 jurisdiction would also make it hard for flight departments from one European country to register their aircraft in another state, in the belief that they would face lighter regulation there. JAA officials will probably not be willing to settle for a “paper office” and a registration of convenience because true operational control would not be based at that location.
Separately, UK overseas territories–such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands–are currently trying to decide where their registered aircraft stand in relation to the new JAA operating rules. Many corporate operators have resorted to registering their aircraft in these locations for a variety of tax and certification issues.