Peter Moxham provides an update on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
It is 50 years since Bob Dylan recorded this, his third album, and never has a truer expression been repeated today regarding EASA - times are certainly changing! EASA was first instituted by the European Commission on 15 July 2002, established in Cologne in September 2003, and is now firmly established as the European aviation regulator covering most facets of civil aviation throughout the European Union and in other countries who have signed up to the common European regulations.
To many it has been a very quick change and some still feel that the old days were better, but I do not believe that this is really so. We now have in place regulations that are common for the greater part of the continent, allowing the free movement of employees in this highly regulated area. Nowhere is this more important than in professional pilot training.
Yet one has to ask has so much changed? The current regulations were first drafted by the Joint Aviation Authorities at the beginning of this century but then without the force of law. They were an agreed set of regulations but with no ability to be enforced except by local National Authorities, and therefore at the time of the formation of EASA each country actually had a different set of Regulations but with a common theme. Now the Regulations have the full force of law, have been passed through the European Parliament, and therefore have actually a far greater force throughout the continent, supposedly to a common standard, itself controlled by EASA's own Standardisation procedures.
The rules for a large part of the aviation industry are in place and generally accepted as such. It is, of course, impossible to say that these Rules and Regulations are perfect - a point recognised by EASA, but they are being brought to a far better state as time goes by and the drafting errors and omissions are corrected. So now we enter the second phase of the development of EASA.
Change Commencing 1st September the structure of the Cologne organisation changed. We have a new Executive Director, Patrick Ky, who has taken on board the need to move the Agency on. This has led to a significant number of staff changes and re-alignments, particularly as the basic rule-making is now complete and the Agency believes therefore that there is no need for a specific 'Rule-making' department. As this article is being drafted the final blanks in the organisational structure are being filled, and we look forward to a more progressive stance in the next decade, with a greater will for the Agency to listen to and work with industry. One hopes that the European Commission will similarly enable changes to be made more quickly as problems are identified, although it is very true to say that even the Commission has understood the urgent need to introduce changes where the original process has failed.
Thus we have a newly reconstituted Agency led by a new team and, in 2015, located in new offices on the west bank of the Rhine, still in Cologne, but hopefully in a more user friendly environment.
So much for the new EASA establishment but it does not stop there! The European Commission are currently evolving a new Basic Regulation for the Agency. These are the basic rules and requirements for EASA to comply with and these will be the subject of much debate as the Commission seeks to establish even greater commonality amongst the Member States. Could we perhaps see a centralised Professional Pilot Licensing system or even a common Civil aircraft register? Who knows, but these are the subjects for future discussion as a greater commonality is established.
The success of the current situation will only be as good as the Agency's own Standardisation Directorate and this will be an essential and critical task for the next few years - without it there is little point in having an agreed set of rules, and without it true standardisation cannot be achieved.
We are all very used to being able to negotiate with our own National Authority to achieve our corporate aims. Historically this has been the norm, but if there is to be a common set of rules then they must be applied uniformly across the continent - not at all as easy as it sounds! Old habits die hard and persuading the industry to change is no easy task. However, having witnessed the past 20+ years of aviation regulation development I have little doubt that eventually these common standards, Rules and Regulations will be achieved and that industry itself will greatly benefit from this.
Progression If I may digress, it is strange how things come in multiples - in the United Kingdom the Civil Aviation Authority has, in under 12 months, completely changed its own structure, Board and Management to reflect the changing times. The stated aim of the UK CAA is to become more user friendly and their actions to be more reflective of today's requirements. The UK have set up a General Aviation Department to try and bring a lighter touch to recreational flying generally, and has completely restructured its licensing department to become less obstructive. Back at EASA we are witnessing a similar progression with the aim of reducing the bureaucracy and trying to encourage the General Aviation sector to grow and contribute more to the aim of promoting recreational flying - a major improvement for that sector of European aviation.
From a pilot licensing point of view I believe that we will see many more changes, starting with a resolution to the thorny problem of the Central Question Bank and the fact that it is both out of date and unfit for today's generation of prospective professional pilots. Then there is the whole complicated question of the use of evidence or competency based training. This was first introduced with the introduction of the MPL which may have its critics, but the more forward looking see as an initial step to a better and more related licence for the future airline pilot. The system used for competency based training is likely to be the way ahead for all professional licences as we seek to make the regulations and requirements more appropriate to the task.
Another area is certain to be the changes that will lead to a better understanding of pilots regarding stalls - far too many accidents and incidents, often leading to significant loss of life, have occurred in the last few years and this is a large blot on an otherwise greatly enhanced safety record. Better understanding of the problems associated with operating at high altitudes and therefore reduced differences between safe cruise and stall must be brought into the training requirements to reduce this significant toll.
Review It is anticipated that there will be a review of the requirements for Instructors and Examiners - something that industry has been seeking since EASA FCL was first introduced. It is obvious that, when drafting the original requirements, insufficient thought was given to the extremely international nature of training and examining pilots.
In an ever increasing international training industry, a large proportion of which is conducted outside of the European continent, insufficient thought was given to meeting the operating industry's requirement for pilot training. Nowhere is this more apparent than for Type Rating training in the corporate and business aircraft sector, where training is often unavailable within Europe and where the need for very high cost simulators often means that, as new aircraft types are introduced, there is little need to actually locate such equipment within Europe. It has been a constant battle to resolve these problems but, with the active help of EASA these issues have been ameliorated but they have still not gone away. Thus a review of parts J & K of EASA FCL is a real necessity.
There are, of course, many other issues that EASA will face over the coming years but, if the past experience is anything to go by, then these issues will not be shirked and EASA will work with industry to resolve the difficulties. It is therefore important that industry should work with the regulator rather than against them. Nobody will ever get everything that they would wish for, but things have come a long way in the past 10 years and I have little doubt that this will continue to be the case. The new management are under no illusions as to what has to be done and I am certain that their new focus will see a considerably more proactive aviation regulator for Europe.