EASA Extends Certification to “Operational Suitability”

 - March 2, 2014, 2:15 AM

The EASA has published a new requirement in certification–“operational suitability data” (OSD)–mandating that aircraft manufacturers, including those building helicopters, submit data the EASA considers important for safe operations. OSD covers pilot, maintenance staff and simulator qualification; the master minimum equipment list (MMEL); and possibly other areas, depending on the aircraft’s systems. The EASA hopes OSD will contribute to “address[ing] the recommendations investigators make in accident reports,” EASA certification director Norbert Lohl said during a conference in December.

The process begins when the aircraft manufacturer proposes what data the EASA will evaluate against the new rule for approval, Peter Corbeel, initial airworthiness manager at the EASA’s rulemaking directorate, told AIN. Like the airplane flight manual, OSD is approved as part of the type certificate, he said. Since the holder of the type certificate is the owner of OSD, the manufacturer has to keep the data current.

Users affected by the new rule (operators and training organizations) will find that OSD has both mandatory and recommended elements, Corbeel said, and national aviation authorities will determine whether users must comply with a recommendation.

Pilot qualification sits at the heart of OSD. It defines a minimum syllabus for a type rating, as well as “training areas of special emphasis.” It factors in credits for recent experience and qualification on type variants. It also sets standards for line checks.

The simulator data outlined is not the entire data package needed to design a full flight simulator, Corbeel explained. “Rather, it is the selection of the data used to verify that a simulator reflects the real aircraft,” he said. Simulator data is required only if the manufacturer refers to the use of such a device in defining pilot training.

The EASA has provided a transition period for the industry to comply with the new requirement. MMELs for in-production models, for example, must be approved by Dec. 18, 2015, or before the aircraft is operated by an EU operator, whichever is the latest.

The mandatory OSD succeeds the voluntary operational evaluation board (OEB) process. Existing OEB approvals may transfer to OSD relatively easily, according to the EASA. Most in-production AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters (including the AW189 and the EC175) and Bell models already hold OEB approvals, as does the Sikorsky S-92. OEB approvals for the S-76D and the EC145 were under way last month.