EU security standards face likely delay in UK

 - March 30, 2010, 10:37 AM

Final agreement over the way the European Union’s new “common basic standards for aviation security” are implemented in the UK will not be achieved by the existing April 29 deadline and could well be delayed at least until late June due to the country’s general election, which at press time is widely expected to be held on May 6. The EU is requiring all 27 of its member states to implement the new security standards through a National Aviation Security Program (Nasp). It remains unclear how consistent these will be among countries as each makes the changes on a different schedule.

Steve Marshall-Camm, assistant director for aviation security with the UK Department of Transport’s Transec division, told the March 9 annual meeting of the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) that the consultation process is taking longer than expected. He also indicated that, subject to detailed risk assessment, UK officials will exercise the latitude they have to allow some groups of operators to adhere to more flexible alternate security measures (ASMs) rather than the full EU Nasp requirements.

The European Commission (EC) has relaxed the requirement to comply with the full standards so that it will apply only to aircraft with a mtow of more than 15 metric tons (33,068 pounds). National authorities are permitted to allow ASMs to apply to aircraft in appropriate categories up to a weight limit of 45.5 metric tons (100,308 pounds, a figure that includes all purpose-built business jets). The threshold for the full new security rules had been set at just 10 metric tons (22,046 pounds) and for aircraft with 19 or more passenger seats. A Cessna Citation X (approximately 16 metric tons) falls at the lower end of the new weight thresholds; the Gulfstream GV (41 metric tons) is at the higher end.

Marshall-Camm told BBGA members that the EC has given national governments considerable latitude in regard to the form the ASM requirements take and he assured them that it will not be a case of “one size fits all.” For different classes of operator, these could range from something close to the full Nasp standards to fairly minimal detailed requirements. It is these differences that the UK government is now trying to clarify, and it seems probable that other EU states are facing similar challenges given the lack of firm guidance from the EC.

One BBGA delegate close to the discussions told AIN that the EC has “pushed the difficult decisions onto the national governments.” However, the EC has indicated that the new security rules do need to take into account significant variations in risk levels and operational circumstances among the member states. In fact, national governments are free to impose tougher security requirements than those in the standard Nasp template if they see fit.

Existing Rules in Force

Until the new rules are finalized, the UK authorities will continue to enforce existing aviation security regulations. The final form of the new regulatory framework for the EC requirements will have to be approved at ministerial level and, regardless of the outcome of the UK election, it is highly likely that the Department of Transport’s political leadership will change in the next few months.

BBGA has been lobbying Transec for many business aircraft operations for which the person booking a flight and/or the passengers are known to the operation to be exempt from the full Nasp security requirements. “This looks like it could create a model for applying ASMs for small general aviation operations and airports,” acknowledged Marshall-Camm. However, he also said that it could trigger complaints from airlines, which might argue that they too know their frequent-flier passengers.

Andrew Haines, newly appointed chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, addressed the BBGA conference for the first time since the restructuring of the agency last August. The CAA is adjusting its role, largely to account for the widening powers of the EASA.

Haines, who comes from the rail industry, said that while quality and safety standards in aviation are “staggeringly good” the industry’s attitude toward risk management is “not as mature as it needs to be.” He said that in the future the CAA will place a greater emphasis on the need to use data to assess risk analysis of operations and regulations.

For example, he said that the long awaited decision on whether or not to allow single-engine commercial IFR operations will be made purely on the basis of analyzing safety data and not “according to the prejudice of a regulator or a community [of aircraft operators] who want change.” The UK is widely regarded as having been one of the staunchest opponents of allowing single-engine commercial IFR operations.

On April 1, the CAA gets a new group director for safety regulation. She is Gretchen Burrett, current safety director at British ATC provider Nats.