With the UK’s exit from the European Union now less than six months away, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has begun putting in place what it describes as “preparedness measures” and said it will start to process “some applications” for third-country approvals from existing UK approval holders. “We welcome very much that the European Commission has allowed EASA to do this,” Kyle Martin, General Aviation Manufacturers Association director of European regulatory affairs, told AIN. “We have been asking DG Move (the Commission’s transport and mobility directorate-general) for this for more than 12 months.” Martin also noted that several of the trade association’s UK members want to apply for the EASA third-country approval because they maintain operations across the EU or do work for EU entities.
UK-based ADS Group, which represents the interests of the country’s vast aerospace industry, also welcomed the move, calling it an “important step” in the event of a no-deal Brexit. In that case, EASA approvals and licenses held by the UK would become automatically invalid overnight. The European Commission made that point clear in an April 13 notice to stakeholders.
“In the absence of further information from EASA, our presumption is that these applications will be completed as quickly as possible by EASA, and UK organizations which have been processed would be issued with Third Country approvals immediately after [March 29, 2019] in order to maintain business and regulatory continuity,” ADS said. Sooner is not possible because as long as the UK remains in the EU, UK-based organizations cannot hold third-country approvals.
By starting the process now, EASA avoids a potentially unmanageable rush for third-country applications on March 30. Overall, some 1,000 organizations would need a third-country approval from EASA, Martin estimated. About 460 entities in the UK carry EASA-approved Part 145 repair station status. Another 165 companies hold Part 21 Design Organization Approval under EASA.
“At this stage we cannot comment on whether other preparedness measures will be taken,” the Cologne-based EU aviation safety body told AIN, while not commenting on industry concerns it does not employ sufficient staff to process the applications. It stressed the difficulty of arriving at definitive figures on how many applications it expects applicants to submit, because the decision whether or not to proceed with a third country approval application “is ultimately the sole responsibility of the applicant.”
EASA said it does not expect significant technical obstacles to issuing the EASA third-country approvals provided the applicants submit requested documents and existing approvals. The UK issued and maintained the existing approvals UK according to common European standards continuously supervised by EASA, it noted, adding that “third country approval is a routine EASA procedure.”
For now, EASA has begun accepting applications for the following types of organization: Production Organisation Approval (Part 21), Maintenance Organization Approvals (Foreign Part-145), Maintenance Training Organization Approvals (Foreign Part-147), Continuing Airworthiness Maintenance Organization Application (foreign Part-145 and Part-M Subpart G), Flight Simulator Training Devices, Approved Training Organizations (Part-ORA ATO), and Aero-Medical Centers.
The agency pointed out that it launched the initiative in anticipation of a possible no-deal scenario or, in the event of a positive outcome to the negotiations, the need for a transition period to last until the end of December 2020 “during which everything will remain as it is today, and during which current approvals would remain valid until that date or their expiry date whichever comes first.” ADS is encouraging its members to consider applying to ensure they hold a valid EASA approval in case of a no-deal Brexit.
“For companies based in the UK, there is a duplication and each application costs time and money,” Martin asserted.
EASA said it will levy the standard applications fees or charges.