EASA Pushes for Expanded Remit

 - April 5, 2016, 9:00 AM
EASA executive director Patrick Ky (Photo: Thierry Dubois)

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) wants to expand its remit and has targeted 2017 for new powers in areas like production oversight, cybersecurity and data-based accident prevention. The moves should help the agency advance more uniform rules enforcement throughout Europe, executive director Patrick Ky said during a recent briefing in Paris organized by French publication Air & Cosmos.

Late last year, the EASA requested the European Commission allow an “evolution” of its jurisdiction starting early next year. Explaining the need for moving production oversight to the European level, Ky referred to Rolls-Royce’s factories in the UK and Germany. The engine manufacturer has reported difficulty coping with different interpretations of an EASA regulation from the respective countries’ authorities. The EASA today has no way to reconcile them, according to Ky.

Therefore, he would like to build on a well-established practice at Airbus production facilities, where the EASA already is in charge of oversight. There, the agency ensures the rules get enforced in a single way, while subcontracting inspections to national authorities. “We are going to do the same with Airbus Helicopters,” Ky said. He cautiously hinted at the possibility of doing the same with flight operations and maintenance activities.

When a member state does not take swift action on a specific, serious issue, the EASA so far has found its authority limited. As part of the requested changes, Ky would like the power to dismiss the member state.

Ky also said the EASA should oversee cybersecurity: “Who else could do it?” he asked rhetorically. On air transport safety, Ky noted a relative lack of accidents from which to learn. “Therefore, we must learn from incidents and accident precursors,” he said. Big data methods should help identify “risk areas.”

Such procedures would resemble an approach Ky described as “risk-based oversight.” Rather than the enforcement of every detail of a rule, “what counts is safety,” he said. Risk-based oversight would avoid over-interpretation, sometimes by the EASA’s own inspectors, Ky acknowledged. Alain Battisti, the chairman of French airline lobbying group FNAM, praised Ky for the “pragmatic attitude” he has instilled in the agency since taking the helm in 2013. Ky pointed out that, since 2014, those experts who write the rules also enforce them in the field.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is requiring the EASA—as part of a more global cost-cutting policy—to trim its 800-strong workforce by 2 percent a year.