With the European Union’s requirements for ramp inspections of aircraft now evolving, the NBAA recently joined other groups and regulators in a RAMP Industry Forum organized by EASA. Participants looked at best practices and how new requirements for Safety Assessments of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) could impact daily operations.
The SAFA requirements apply to both commercial and general aviation aircraft, and of roughly 10,000 inspections a year conducted in EU member states, only around 5 to 7 percent are in the latter category. The forum focused on new aspects of the process such as alcohol testing for flight crew, inspections of fasteners and bonding wires, and the storage of lithium-ion batteries.
Regulators have been working to establish safe limits for how many missing fasteners on exterior panels can be tolerated before a flight has to be canceled. “We recommend anyone flying to a participating member state conduct a thorough preflight [check] to ensure all screws, rivets, and fasteners are in place on exterior panels,” advised NBAA’s flight operations and regulations director, Brian Koester.
In most cases, batteries and the electronic devices that contain them should be carried into the cabin with the passenger’s hand luggage. NBAA is urging operators to review their dangerous goods storage program to ensure they are correctly handling these materials.
Since the EU introduced its alcohol testing program in February 2021, SAFA inspectors have tested 9,000 crew members, generally as part of a wider inspection but in around 10 percent of cases as a standalone process. NBAA advised that the inspectors take crew away from passengers to conduct this testing discreetly.
According to Koester, the inspection process is improving, with EASA showing a willingness to allow specific standards for general aviation aircraft. Until now, inspectors have used the same checklists for commercial airliners as for private jets, despite key differences in their respective operational requirements.
The latest SAFA inspection guidance has now been incorporated into an updated RAMP Inspection Manual. The newest edition explains whether standards apply to commercial or non-commercial aircraft and also whether they are for aircraft based inside or outside the EU.
Member states participating in the SAFA program share data about inspections and what these reveal. The FAA has shown interest in joining the program, which would require inspections for Part 129 operators, but no firm timeline for this change has been confirmed.