September start targeted for EASA

 - May 7, 2008, 9:16 AM

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is scheduled to start operations next September in Brussels, Belgium, following a September 27 ruling that gives its promoters in the European Commission the green light to actually create the agency.

Initially, the EASA will have powers limited to aircraft certification. In the future, this competence is planned to extend to all aspects of air-transport safety. Ultimately, the EASA is destined to replace today’s Joint Aviation Authorities, and the EC is expected to name the EASA’s first executive director by next month.

The agency plans to start granting certificates next September or October. These will include aircraft type certificates, maintenance facility approvals and design organization approvals. The Airbus A380 will probably not be the first aircraft certified by the EASA, but the jumboliner will actually be “its first big certification job,” a source at the air transport directorate within the directorate of general energy and transport of the European Commission told AIN.

In the meantime, much has to be done to make the agency operational, the source stressed. This includes creating a consultative body of interested parties, drafting an administrative chart, hiring people and establishing financial rules. More important, the creators of the EASA will have to design procedure rules that guarantee transparency when technical rules are written.

So far, it is the EC that has worked on creating the agency. The actual EASA team is expected to take over “as soon as possible,” the source said. Setting up this team will begin in January.

The main improvement over the current JAA will be the power of the EASA. Whereas the JAA releases recommendations, the EASA will write rules–formalized by the Commission–and member states will simply implement them. Each member state will still have its own government aviation body but will have no choice but to enforce EASA’s rules.

Plans call for the EASA to replace the JAA using a phased-in approach. The JAA would not change as the EASA begins operations, but in a second phase the EASA would start swallowing the JAA.

The EASA will have real power within the EU, but matters become more complicated when non-member nations want to come under the agency’s umbrella. External states have to sign bilateral agreements for handing over some power. Ratification of such an agreement is thorny, the source stressed. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland have already started talks with the EC. But reaching the JAA’s 36 members could take years.

After a competence in certification matters, the EASA will assume authority on aircraft operation and flightcrew licenses. The EC should make a proposal on these aspects by next summer. Eventually, airport and ATC safety will also be part of EASA’s domain.