MAA Pushes Pan-European Military Standards, Justifies Increased UK Scrutiny

 - January 24, 2014, 8:24 AM
The first Rivet Joint SIGINT aircraft for the UK Royal Air Force arriving at RAF Waddington last November. Like other aircraft that are new to the UK military register, it is subject to a safety scrutiny process led by the Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA). (Photo: Bob Archer).

The UK Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA) is taking a leading role in a forum that aims to harmonize requirements within Europe for military airworthiness. The move would help the aerospace industry design future pan-European products. But although the forum is basing the requirements framework on European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations, there is no intention to create a pan-European regulatory agency for military aircraft, according to Air Vice-Marshal Martin Clark, the MAA’s technical director. “Regulation will remain a national responsibility,” he told AIN.

In the absence of such a scheme, Airbus and the nations procuring the A400M sought EASA civilian certification of Europe’s new airlifter. This was achieved last March, but now the aircraft must pass examination by the national military airworthiness authorities of each acquiring country. In the UK, the entry into Royal Air Force service of the Voyager tanker/transport was delayed last year, as the MAA sought assurance that the military modifications to the Airbus A330 were fully understood and assured. The two supplemental type certificates (STCs) that Airbus Military obtained “did not cover the full extent of the military modifications nor their operation,” Air Marshal Dick Garwood, the director general of the MAA, told AIN.

Clark said that the MAA is “reasonably confident” that it will be able to issue a military type certificate for the A400M. This will be a first for the MAA, which was set up in 2010 in the wake of the Nimrod MR.2 crash in 2006 and a subsequent review that criticized the safety oversight of British military aircraft. Some new platforms entering service in the UK since then have been delayed “because of the need to have a more in-depth understanding of airworthiness,” Garwood said. He is unapologetic about the increased scrutiny. “The review called for an independent regulator that fosters continual improvement in safety culture, regulation and practice,” he told AIN. “It’s not acceptable for industry to have sole intellectual ownership of airworthiness, for aircraft on the military register,” Clark added.

One of the delayed platforms is the Thales Watchkeeper UAV for the British Army. But Clark noted that the MAA issued a statement of type design assurance (STDA) last October. The UAV still needs a release to service (RTS) authorization, but that is the responsibility of the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organization, he added. Regarding the Rivet Joint SIGINT aircraft for the RAF, Garwood admitted that “complex work” must still be done before the 50-year old airframes can be cleared for service. The first one has not flown since it was delivered to the UK last November. Garwood noted that the initial operating capability date for this aircraft is still 10 months away. Work is being done by the DE&S and user community to provide safety evidence to support RTS,” he added.