The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has agreed to extend discussion of the most contentious points arising from its proposed new rules for aircraft operations and has indicated that it could permit greater flexibility for business aviation on issues such as flight- and duty-time limitations (FTL). At a meeting with the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) on July 9, EASA officials acknowledged that the new operating rules need to allow latitude for business aircraft operators to comply with safety requirements in a way that fits the day-to-day realities of their operations, rather than expecting them to adhere to a model established purely with large airlines in mind.
The comment period on notice of proposed amendment NPA 2009- 02a-02g covering air operations officially ended on July 31. The EASA has said that it will spend the next seven or eight months conducting detailed analysis of the responses and adjusting its draft rules accordingly before publishing all the responses in the spring of 2010. It will then allow another two months for further comment from the industry before beginning the political phase of the consultation leading up to the final rules being approved by the European Commission’s Council of Transport Ministers. This approval had been set for October 2010, but the EASA’s desire to make the operating rules suitable for all categories of operator seems to indicate that it is willing to extend the consultation if necessary.
Under the original timetable, the draft rules could have been put before the European parliament as early as next month. But the EASA now sees further discussion with industry on issues such as FTL continuing throughout the fall and into December.
The new rules under which EASA is to assume responsibility for aircraft operations in Europe will replace the existing EU-OPS structure enforced by national aviation authorities, which itself was derived from the former JAR-OPS 1 Amendment 13 (covering commercial fixed wing operations), JAR-OPS 3 (covering commercial helicopter regulations) and JAR-OPS 2 and 4 (covering private aircraft operations).
Broadly speaking the airline industry has been pushing to have the content of EU-OPS incorporated almost word-for-word into the new EASA rules, including Subpart Q covering FTL, for which the large carriers believe they got a favorable settlement when it was debated back in 2003.
But the business aviation community has argued that the EASA needs to resist the temptation to just cut and paste EU-OPS into the new rules and should avoid burdening it with disproportionate requirements for the scale of its operations. In particular, it believes that the duty-time limits imposed by Subpart Q are wholly unrealistic for its operators who do not fly predictable scheduled services.
So EBAA is advocating that while most of EU-OPS could be adopted for the new rules, which could be then introduced according to the existing timetable, some aspects such as FTL could be set aside for further refining and introduced at a later time.
EBAA chief operations officer Pedro Azua indicated that this approach has lately received some backing from within the European Commission since some European Union member states now believe that the new EASA rules are “too big a project” to be rushed through. This has prompted EASA officials to start talking in terms of “phased implementation” and an EASA management committee meeting was due to be held just before the end of last month to agree this new approach. The idea seems
EBAA chief operations officer Pedro Azua indicated that this approach has lately received some backing from within the European Commission since some European Union member states now believe that the new EASA rules are “too big a project” to be rushed through. This has prompted EASA officials to start talking in terms of “phased implementation” and an EASA management committee meeting was due to be held just before the end of last month to agree this new approach. The idea seems to be that by approving some essentially interim measures on issues such FTL the basic legal requirements of the proposed new operating rules could still be met.
“Business aviation needs performance-based rules for FTL,” said EBAA chief executive Brian Humphries. “Unlike the airlines, we are not facing political battles with the union [over flight duty and rest times] and we have been developing rules based on fatigue management. We don’t want to lose all flexibility on this.”
In the meantime, some progress has been achieved with another set of EASA proposals, NPA 2008-22a-22e covering authority and organization requirements. The main issue with these draft rules was the introduction of mandatory safety management systems (SMS) for operators.
Working with the International Business Aviation Council, EBAA has already developed an SMS toolkit to help smaller operators to adopt the process and it has also been running workshops to prepare the industry. The association did achieve some compromises from the EASA, such as avoiding the need for small operators to have separate safety and quality manuals.
In conjunction with FlightSafety International, EBAA has also introduced an online SMS training course.