The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is changing its voluntary operational evaluations to mandatory operational suitability (OS) approvals for new aircraft designs. This appears as an extension of type certification, at additional cost to manufacturers. The new rule will take effect in 2012.
In doing so, the agency is taking into account the needs of helicopter manufacturers, according to Jean-Marc Sacazes, head of the operational evaluation board’s rotorcraft section. The operational evaluation board (OEB) manages the existing program of voluntary evaluations.
The OS regulation’s philosophy is to study the aircraft in the environment in which it will actually operate. For example, if a helicopter is marketed for mountain operations EASA test pilots will fly it in the mountains. In addition, the agency will evaluate the special operations for which a helicopter is intended, such as EMS, external load and so on.
The idea is to close the gap between aircraft design and operations, Sacazes explained. This means ensuring that the aircraft can be operated safely. The EASA intends to ensure “all necessary information is available before entry into service.” The process will involve the manufacturer and the certifying authority.
The OS approval will include minimum syllabi for pilot, maintenance technician and cabin crew training. It will also include reference data for simulators.
A major benefit for a helicopter manufacturer, according to Sacazes, is training harmonization around the world.
Just as type certification is followed by a continued airworthiness process, OS approval will be followed by continued OS. For example, before an STC is issued, the agency will consider its effect on the OS. In addition, the EASA will be able to issue directives to correct deficiencies in the OS approval.
The draft of a comment response document will be issued early this year, with the final version scheduled to be released this summer. The opinion for Part 21 (rules for design and production organization approvals) will follow in May 2011. Finally, the European Commission is expected to adopt the new OS rules in April 2012.
So far, the “segment between airworthiness and flight operations” is represented by the OEB, which assesses pilot training and design compliance with the EASA’s OPS/FCL rules. Special focus is placed on procedures–normal, abnormal and emergency. “We are trying to ‘helicopterize’ the common procedures document,” Sacazes said.
For a new aircraft, the required operational evaluation may be conducted in parallel with its type certification. Otherwise it is a catch-up process.
Operational Evaluations Performed
• Sikorsky S-92
• Guimbal Cabri
• Eurocopter AS 350B3, AS 355
• AgustaWestland AW139
• Bell 206, 407 and 412
• Eurocopter Super Pumas (EC 225, AS 332 L1/L2)
• Bell 429 (with the FAA and Transport Canada)