Peter Moxham, FRAeS, explains recent developments within EASA.
Love it or hate it, EASA has entered a new era. 2013 has seen EASA FCL Regulations come into force in all member states together with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, and EASA Flight Operations have been finalised for introduction over the next two years. Couple this with a new Basic Regulation for EASA being agreed within the European Commission, a new Executive Director, Patrick Ky, and agreement to move to new offices in Cologne, and it becomes readily apparent that this organisation is continuing to expand and play a more significant role in aviation in Europe, and in Europe’s role as a significant player on the world’s aviation stage.
No one involved in the aviation industry believes that EASA is perfect, it still has a long way to go, but it is changing the face of aviation regulation in all sectors and also learning from earlier mistakes.
One hopes that more and better communication with industry will mean that some of the problems of the past will be avoided. The key is, of course, good communication and discussion between all involved parties. The Authority must realise that discussion and introduction of new Rules, Regulations and Requirements can only proceed smoothly if all parties understand and appreciate the problems of others. I would hope that the earlier good intentions are turned into reality.
Changes The most obvious change will be a new name for the organisation, possibly the European Aviation Agency. The dropping of the word ‘Safety’ from the title must not mean there is no interest in Safety, this is the bedrock of the whole of Aviation Regulation and, I am sure, will continue to dominate the deliberations in Cologne and around the European aviation community .
The introduction of a new Executive Director is unlikely to lead the Agency in an entirely new direction, and Patrick Ky comes with an excellent and experienced background. He will continue to be supported by the other Directors from the existing Board and one would hope for a period of stability over the coming years.
New offices in Cologne will not solve the logistical problems, but it is a fact that the existing building is far from ‘user friendly’, either for staff or the many visitors with whom they meet. The new building will not however come into play for a further two years so one hopes that the agency gets it right.
So what does the industry want of its regulator? I feel a greater degree of consultation and openness would be the first priority. This has to be coupled with a wish to both listen and act. The existing European Commission requirements make the possibility to act quickly to correct errors and reflect change in an ever changing industry are simply too slow and unwieldy. This is not within the remit of the Agency, but pressure needs to be exerted to recognise the need for a better system for change.
EASA has always consulted with industry, this is an absolute fact, and industry often has to take its share of blame when consultation has led to failures in rule making, therefore the system needs to be improved. Proper impact assessments must be made and suggested changes as a result of notices of proposed rulemaking need to be given proper consideration in the formulation of Rules and Requirements, and not tied to impossibly short timescales which are unrealistic. These are changes that can easily be introduced now.
EASA FCL Turning now to the past year we should look closely at the experience with EASA FCL which is now in force throughout all Member and Associate States. I think all sides agree that this document could have been better and, I suppose, that I am as much to blame as others, being a member of the EASA Group that set about drafting the original rules. Looking back it is obvious that too much was attempted in one go – not so much from the actual rules but the need to bring in sectors of aviation that had not been regulated by JAA requirements. These areas have suffered greatly from the changes brought into play, often simply because much of the General Aviation sector is made up of small companies without the structure to encompass all the new requirements.
However, even in the ‘professional aviation’ sector many of the changes have caused greater problems. Greater cost due largely to the impact of not having been seen before the Regulations came into force. Therefore, many of us have had to seek changes, yet, even where the need is accepted by EASA, the time scale to affect change is so long that inevitably some areas have seen considerable impact on their operations. A particular area has been the impact on Corporate Jet operators.
On occasion one feels that the commission is very blinkered in its view of the aviation industry and often seem unable to understand that this is a truly worldwide business and has to be dealt with as such. Certainly EASA is beginning to understand that isolationism cannot work. Nothing is clearer than in the field of Flight Crew Licensing. EASA FCL was not perfect but, given the timescales and complexities, it was a very good effort and this should be recognised. The problem is the lack of a specific process to quickly resolve the errors and difficulties unforeseen in the initial drafting.
An example of EASA failure has been in the Implementation Group for National Authorities and Industry. This is a hugely valuable forum and has done much good work to resolve problems that have arisen over all member States, yet in its wisdom, EASA failed to attend the last meeting and has consistently tried to close this forum, a public relations failure on a grand scale and an EASA Board failure since it is recognised that EASA staff have spent much time helping to resolve the many outstanding issues. This failure needs to be rectified now and frequent regular meetings of the Forum formulated – time is somewhat of the essence! This is a valuable way to ensure standardisation both through the Authorities and Industry.
Flight Operations Now we have to turn to EASA Flight Operations, if anything a more complex situation than FCL. Authorities have two years to introduce the new regulations in this area and I am sure all National Authorities will take the whole two years. However, we should not expect these rules to be without failure either. In such comprehensive legislation, changes which really can affect the whole question of Aviation Safety can very easily arise, and it should be obvious that a process to deal quickly and efficiently with problems ought to be established now. This is by far the best way to ensure standardisation, which is key to the success of the Agency.
So where do we stand today? Certainly EASA has performed as well as possible within its constraints and no one should deny this, but it also has to admit and deal with its failings. Greater openness, consultation and willingness to listen and respond to industry’s problems are key. These same remarks apply equally to the European Commission which is prone to react politically with no idea of cause and effect on this industry. One hopes for a more informed approach from them over the coming years. Certainly aviation should not be a political football which benefits no one.