The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has extended the comment periods for three key notices of proposed amendments (NPAs) under which it will assume
responsibility for regulating aircraft operations. The deadlines for the industry to respond to both NPA 2009-02a-02g (air operations) and NPA 2009-1 (operational suitability certificate) have been pushed back by two months to, respectively, July 31 and June 30, 2009. A further six weeks, until May 30, 2009, has been allowed to comment on NPA 2008-22a-22e (authority and organization requirements).
“We have listened to the reactions of our stakeholders and have come to the conclusion that more time is needed to become familiar with our proposals and our NPA procedures,” said EASA rulemaking director Jules Kneepkens. “We will continue to fully inform industry of our proposals in dedicated workshops and online-information.”
The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) welcomed the move as “a step in the right direction.” However, it indicated that it may push for further concessions in the approval process for the new legislation following further consultation with national aviation authorities.
As things stand, the legislation through which the new operational requirements will become European Union law is not expected to be finally approved by EU transport ministers until October 2010, having first been introduced as new legislation to the European Parliament before the end of September 2009. This would give operators less than 18 months to be fully compliant by the April 2012 implementation deadline. In its April 1 statement, EASA gave no indication as to whether this legislative timetable can be adjusted to allow more time.
The new rules have had a long gestation period despite the fact that they are largely based on existing draft rules such as EU-OPS, 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). Most of these had been under development by EASA’s predecessor the Joint Aviation Authorities. Fundamentally, they are based on the structure of ICAO’s Annex 6 rules.
EBAA president Brian Humphries told EBACE Convention News that the association is glad that EASA has, in theory, agreed that existing industry standards for aircraft operations can be accepted as the basis for compliance. It is now seeking confirmation that the agency accepts that the International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations, drawn up and enforced through the International Business Aviation Council, will be the established means of compliance.
“The indications are that EASA will say that if you operate to satisfactory industry standards, and you have been audited and registered against that standard then that’s all they need to know,” said Humphries.
What EBAA has not been happy about is the structure of the proposed new operating rules. EASA has reorganized the requirements across three separate sets of rules. This has resulted in the industry having to study more than 1,000 pages of draft regulations in order to be able to provide informed comment on the NPAs. Humphries complained that this creates an excessive bureaucratic burden on operators at a time when they are struggling to stay in business.
An EBAA specialist on the safety management system, which will form part of the new operating rules, has been consulting with individual operators on whether they work for small operators. The association is coordinating all responses to the NPAs through small working groups that are studying specific segments of the regulations.
At the British Business and General Aviation Association conference at St. Albans on March 3, Jean-Marc Cluzeau, EASA’s head of flight standards, acknowledged criticism that the new rules are too complex in that they are spread across three sets of requirements that also encompass topics such as flight crew licensing. But to simplify matters, EASA has produced a handbook to bring all the operational requirements together. Operators can also access a new set of digital e-tools to support implementation through the agency’s Web site (www.easa.europa.eu).
According to EASA, the e-tools will help operators in their day-to-day application of the new regulations by making it easier for them to understand which sets of requirements apply for any given flying activity, for example, according to aircraft class and purpose of flights. For commercial operators, the new rules will consist of the following elements: organizational requirements and management system, operator training, minimum equipment lists, operations manuals, a security program and flight time limitation and rest requirements.
Meanwhile, Cluzeau reported that EASA has received no fewer than 11,000 comments on the NPA covering new rules for flight-crew licensing (FCL), for which the agency is also assuming responsibility. This comment period closed on February 27 and EASA officials have had to inform the European Commission (EC) that they will need an additional month (on top of the standard three-month period) to review the comments. It is expected to make its proposed legislative changes to the European Parliament in October 2009, so the final rule on FCL will probably not be adopted before the summer of 2010. Cluzeau confirmed that representatives
of flight training organizations had met with the EC transport commissioner to voice their concerns about the envisaged new FCL structure.