Luxaviation has placed its Portuguese operation under the direct safety oversight of EASA in a move that the aircraft management and charter group says is a first step toward obtaining EASA regulatory supervision for all of its European divisions. Establishing a single European air operator certificate (AOC) is expected to result in significant reductions in operating costs for operators, who will no longer need to duplicate compliance requirements in multiple EASA member states.
With operations worldwide, Luxaviation Group manages 235 fixed-wing aircraft and 35 helicopters under 15 separate AOCs (nine of which are in EASA member states). Under the European Union’s 2018/1139 regulation, introduced in 2018, operators have had the option to report to a single competent authority—any one of the 31 EASA member states—for safety oversight and certification.
According to Luxaviation, a typical aircraft operator stands to save around 15 percent through the reduced burden associated with separate administrative and training requirements. It said that it can take six to 12 months to establish an AOC for a single aircraft.
Luxaviation selected its Portuguese operation to be the first adopter of the new process from among its seven other AOCs based in EASA member states (the others being in Luxembourg, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, San Marino, and Malta). Its team worked with counterparts from EASA's headquarters in Cologne, Germany, and also with national aviation officials in Lisbon in a process that constituted a learning curve for both sides.
Luxaviation CEO Patrick Hansen told AIN that the company will now follow the same process until all its separate national AOCs have been consolidated on a single EASA certificate. "This will streamline everything and greatly reduce duplication. It represents true harmonization which is what the European Union has been aiming for over many years," he said.
“We have been working closely with EASA to achieve a single AOC similar to the American FAA,” commented Hansen. “Today we are particularly proud to take a part in this historical moment for European aviation and to start operating under one single EU AOC, which we are confident will apply to all European operating entities of the group.”
Luxaviation’s Portuguese fleet started operating under the European AOC as of October 13. The company also has an AOC in the UK, which will no longer be an EASA state after December 31, but Hansen told AIN that it fully intends to maintain this operation.
“We are pleased that EASA has issued an AOC to a first European business aircraft operator and we are confident that this EASA AOC will help the Luxaviation Group to streamline their operations in Europe while ensuring the highest level of safety,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky.
Within the European business aviation community, Luxaviation has been one of the leading advocates for the adoption of EASA’s new single AOC. During a webinar on regulations organized in September by the European Business Aviation Association, David Van Den Langenbergh, the company’s president of aviation services, explained how inconsistencies in the way supposedly common EASA regulations are interpreted in member states can cause confusion and inefficiency. One direct result of the single European AOC will be that it will be significantly easier for operators to move crew members to work in different states, improving operational flexibility.
Hansen said that the case for achieving cost savings through regulatory harmonization is even more imperative given the very tough trading conditions faced by the business aviation sector. "I've not been optimistic since March [when Covid was declared a global pandemic]," he concluded. "The industry's condition has always directly correlated to the economy and it won't be growing for some time and so nor will business aviation. In fact, I think it will continue going down and so we have to reduce costs as far as possible."
In a statement issued on October 14, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) congratulated EASA and Luxaviation for establishing the first European AOC in a move that it said set "a new milestone in European cooperation and aviation safety oversight."
David Van Den Langenbergh, Luxaviation's president aviation services, is chair of GAMA's European Leaders Steering Committee and both organizations have been working with EASA for several years to advance the plan for the European AOC. "EASA showed that they are passionate about aviation and are willing to innovate," he commented. "Ever since preliminary discussions started with the European Commission and the European Parliament about this regulation, we wre supported by GAMA's European policy experts. GAMA has helped us to realize that we can, and should, actively engage with regulators and I strongly recommend the whole general aviation and business aviation community do as well."
The European Business Aviation Association also praised EASA and its member company Luxaviation for the achievement. "Business aviation is a very international business and the EASA approach to create one pan-Euroepan AOC is a logical step that will benefit our operator members," commented the group's COO Robert Baltus. "Instead of local, and therefore different, interpretations of EASA regulations between member states our industry will now have the option to operate under a true European standard throughout Europe."