European Bizav Assesses Its Regulatory Headaches

 - September 11, 2020, 8:06 AM

While EASA’s shift towards performance-based regulation has allowed greater flexibility for different aviation sectors, European Business Aviation Association legal experts say the change has yet to spare business aviation from its historic problem of having to adapt to rules developed mainly with large airlines in mind. During EBAA’s September 10 webinar on “Rethinking regulation in business aviation,” Guilia Mauri, co-chair of the lawyers' committee of the group’s Associate Member Advisory Council (AMAC) and a partner in Brussels-based law firm Kadrant, said the regulatory environment continues to be burdensome, especially for smaller companies.

For instance, Joel Hencks, managing director of regulatory compliance consultancy AeroEx, argued that training regulations in Europe still do not take account of the key differences such as the fact that most business aircraft operators do not have their own simulators and instead send pilots to third-party training providers. He also complained that national variations in how EASA rules are implemented are still persisting and that smaller operators, in particular, are not getting the right guidance from officials who do not appreciate that they don’t have the time or the expertise to fully comprehend every aspect of regulations.

Predictably, the threat posed by illegal charter flights was high on the webinar’s agenda. Mauri warned that ambiguities in areas such as aircraft interchange agreements in fractional ownership programs continue to cause confusion over the boundary between legal and illegal operations. “Some people are still doing illegal flights without even knowing it, and this is a big danger,” she cautioned.

According to Hencks, the continued failure to prosecute offenders undermines all efforts to ensure charter operations are legal. “The regulation is a lion without teeth,” he complained. “For EASA it is safety regulation but prosecutions are still based on national legislation and it is still too difficult to apply in the 32 EASA national jurisdictions.”

David Van Den Langenbergh, president of aviation services with aircraft management and charter group Luxaviation, reported that inconsistencies in the way supposedly common maintenance regulations are implemented can mean that it takes up to six weeks to transfer an aircraft from the register of one European state to another. He expressed a hope that the anticipated new single EASA license now permitted for companies with operations in several countries will improve this and other similar difficulties.

Arjen Groeneveld, chair of the AMAC maintenance committee and Duncan Aviation’s regional manager for Europe, said that despite EASA’s Part M rules covering aircraft maintenance, more work needs to be done on harmonizing their implementation because national inspectors still tend to interpret the rules in their own way.

Similarly, Iwona Kowalska, Luxaviation’s continuing airworthiness management organization coordinator, said gaps in regulatory harmonization are made even more challenging because regulators persist in not accepting common documentation formats used by the Camp Systems platform. She explained this requires hours of additional work for staff managing approved maintenance programs because they have to manually complete multiple documents in a way that wastes time and introduces the potential for errors.

On a more positive note, Marc Pieters, co-chair of EBAA’s Airports, Handling and Ground Operations Committee (AHGOC), reported that progress is being made through the work of the International Business Aviation Council and ICAO to have common handling standards as the basis for regulations. “This will require providers to have a quality system and a safety management system, and operators will have to audit their suppliers on this basis,” he explained, adding that the new approach may mitigate against market forces that tend to reduce the selection of handlers to a lowest-bid mentality.

Looking ahead, AMAC lawyers' committee co-chair Frederique Jos, also a partner in the Kadrant law firm, advised Europe’s business aviation community that sustainability and cybersecurity are the next big regulatory changes they will need to ready for. She said that mounting pressure to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint will result in more rules and requirements. Meanwhile, EBAA is preparing new guidelines on cybersecurity in anticipation of new regulations.