EASA Changes are in the air

Every pilot is part of the voice of General Aviation. The least I can do today is to re-blog a very good read from AOPA UK; click the link for the original article. There is also a commentary about this issue written by the president of Europe Air Sports (EAS).


AOPA reports EASA Changes are in the air.

From Pat Malone comes a report that there may be significant changes to EASA on the way.

All change for the better.

The landscape of general aviation regulation has made a seismic shift in favour of the industry with European countries unanimously declaring that a more efficient way needs to be found to regulate GA.

A French-led team of experts has been tasked to begin planning a clean-sheet approach to GA regulation, and it has been urged by EASA’s Board of Management to “be broad in your thinking” – even to the extent of comparing GA regulation to that of boats and cars, and looking at American systems of regulation for possible guidance.

The expert group, which will include International AOPA and Europe Air Sports, will be given the job of establishing the ground rules for the regulation of GA, with Matthias Reuter, the European Commission’s Director General for Transport, suggesting: “Maybe the first rule should be that there should be no rules unless safety is affected.”

The new approach suggests a widespread acceptance that current and proposed regulation is stifling the industry unnecessarily, and that standardisation across Europe needs to be less rigid. IAOPA, which has been pushing for years for the European Commission’s own White Paper on a sustainable future for general aviation to be taken seriously, believes the new situation presents opportunities which must be grasped to ensure the future viability of GA. In the meantime, it has been suggested that EASA’s future plans should be put on hold while a new way forward is established.

To begin with IAOPA will be look for:

*the retention of the ‘registered facility’ for flight training instead of the ‘Approved Training Organisation’ system proposed by EASA;

*the unwinding of the CAMO structure for maintenance of non-commercial aircraft, which underpins the Part M maintenance requirements;

*the retention of the UK IMC rating in a more flexible licensing structure;

*rules which are proportionate, and designed solely to increase safety;

*risk-based regulations aimed at specific problems, for which there is evidence of need.

These would be some of the first gains from a whole new perspective on GA regulation which would replace the current idea of “uniform standardisation at any cost” with a looser, more flexible and responsive system tailored to address risk. The change of direction came after AOPA Chief Executive Martin Robinson gave a Powerpoint presentation based on a paper on GA regulation that was put together with EAS to the Management Board of EASA – made up of representatives of all the governments of Europe – in Cologne on March 13th. EASA also made a presentation, described by Martin as “a good critical look at themselves”, in which they suggested that perhaps the Basic Regulation – the EC’s outline document which governs what they do – may have to be amended. The Agency looked at the current state of play, and at its approach to regulations. Originally, their delegate said, the Basic Regulation was not thought to call for the prescriptive approach EASA has taken, but it was decided later to leave less room for flexibility. (This was thought to be a reference to the hold that lawyers have over EASA, which carries no liability insurance and has much of its regulation written in an opaque and legalistic way.)

The IAOPA/EAS paper, put together by Martin Robinson and David Roberts of Europe Air Sports, sought a new approach which clearly differentiated between GA and commercial air transport. Martin’s presentation provoked a surprising response, with country after country recognising that there needs to be a new direction for regulating GA across Europe. Iceland, France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, the UK, Italy and Sweden all supported calls for change. France’s call for action was accepted by all, including the European Commission, and to an extent, EASA itself.

After the meeting Martin Robinson said: “I had to pinch myself coming out of the room. I had expected a fight, with the government representatives defending the current approach and resisting change. Not a bit of it; there has been a sea change across the continent, and IAOPA’s co-ordinated approach of lobbying influential national figures has paid off.”

The Genesis.

At a meeting of the EASA Advisory Body (EAB) – on which IAOPA has a seat – in November, Martin produced a paper which reiterated IAOPA’s concerns at the poor way rules are developed for general aviation in Europe and the need for better regulation. The Part M maintenance requirements, it said, were having to be revisited, which cost both the industry and the regulator time and money – far better to have got them right in the first place.

The EAB agreed that regulation should be evidence-based and proportionate to risk, and the Chairman of the EASA Board of Management, Mike Smethers, invites IAOPA to make a full presentation to the Board. Martin Robinson and David Roberts of EAS worked on a paper, which Martin turned into a Powerpoint presentation to the full Board of Management.

In it, Martin pointed out that ICAO Annex 6 specifically states that GA need not be regulated in the same way as Commercial Air Transport (CAT) and places the burden of safety on the owner-pilot. It says that where there are no fare-paying passengers, the government does not owe the same duty of care to participants as for CAT. Martin quoted the European Commission’s own White Paper on a sustainable future for GA and questioned whether we were going down the right road to deliver on it. He referred to Part M and its problems and spoke of the need for safety data and trend analysis, on which the encouragement of industry best practice could be based. Only as a last resort should regulation be imposed.

Martin made the following notes of each country’s reaction. Some delegates spoke through interpreters, so there may be room for ambiguity in the details, but the overall thrust was the same. Iceland said the Part M regulations were clearly deficient and must change. “Everyone is against it,” the delegate said. “GA is simple, and it needs simple regulations.” France thanked Martin for the presentation and said that French GA took a much more aggressive stance. “The question is, have we taken the right global approach to GA safety?” the delegate asked. “Is it adaptive enough to the real risks? What do EASA’s changes mean with respect to loss of business, and how can we improve the current position? We need to start with a clean slate, look at the US market and compare it to Europe.” The delegate proposed a paper setting out a new strategy.

Ireland said it was supportive of the IAOPA/EAS presentation and backed the French call for a review. “Ireland sees a big shift towards Annex 2 (non-EASA aircraft) with people moving out of the regulated sector because of complexity and expense,” the Irish delegate said. “Part M is too complex and too expensive, and CAMOs are a big issue – Ireland is struggling just to set one up.”

The delegate from Spain supported the French proposal and suggested that most of GA cared little for freedom of movement across borders if it depressed activity at home. Self-regulation and industry best practice should play a greater role. Austria said EASA’s continued airworthiness and FCL regulations were causing problems, and future requirements for air traffic services ignored topographical issues that were important in the Alpine regions. “GA needs room to manoeuvre – it has a special position,” the Austrian delegate said.

Poland said it was wrong to compare GA to CAT, and suggested that the regulation of boats and cars be looked at as a model. The Netherlands said GA needed a special regime which was evidence- and risk-based. “What’s the problem with GA?” asked the Dutch delegate. “Mainly human factors, and how can you regulate human factors? Keep it simple. Do you really need safety management systems for aero clubs?”

The United Kingdom said the French proposal “might be the right approach” and asked whether this meant EASA-Ops would be delayed. Switzerland said every day they received many complaints, and the need for a solution was urgent. The delegate supported the French approach and stressed that whatever came out of it needed to be risk-based. Norway said that its Annex 2 aircraft were under local oversight, through the agency of a national association. “Should GA safety be compared to sailing?” the delegate asked. “There were 120 lives lost at sea last year, somewhat higher than in GA. Self-regulation is better for GA, if there is the political will to do it.” Denmark said Part M was complicated and while they didn’t agree with in the beginning, they thought it was working okay. But, they added, there should be a review. The Czech Republic backed the call for a review to find the right balance. Italy asked why it was necessary to issue a new ARC every year and pointed out that taxes were also killing GA in Italy. Sweden supported the French proposal and said that continued airworthiness, Ops and FLC together represented a ‘total system approach’ which was not fully understood. Part M provided no better control than what went before, and there was a need to find a proper balance for GA.

Safety First.

Matthias Reuter, the European Commission’s Director General for Transport, said an expert group should look at which part of GA we were talking about  – was business aviation to be included? – and it should be informed by the Commission’s White Paper, which recognised the need for sustainable GA, with sustainable fees and charges. He suggested the EC’s ‘micro enterprises’ rules, which markedly reduce the regulatory compliance demands on smaller businesses, might be used to address the issues. “Maybe the first rule should be that there should be no rules unless safety is affected,” he suggested. “But while 27 different sets of rules is not what GA wants, there is a need for a new approach.”

Summing up, Chairman Mike Smethers thanked Martin Robinson and the Agency for the presentations and said that an expert body of no more than about ten representatives, including IAOPA, EAS and EASA, meet to produce a scoping document that set out its aims and objectives, and that this document should be ready by June. He said that comparing GA to CAT was not logical, but it was a better idea to equate it with other activities, as had been suggested.

Over-regulation of GA, he said, could lead to some people operating illegally. He understood, however, that EASA was driven by CAT, and carried GA along in its wake. He suggested that EASA-Ops might usefully be put on hold, and urged the group that is currently reviewing Part M to “think broadly”, look at self-regulation, and to be open to anything. While standardisation had a role, there should be less hard law and more flexibility.

Afterwards Martin Robinson said: “To see the whole Board of Management moving unanimously in our direction was quite refreshing, after all the years we have spent lobbying on these issues. This could herald a new age for GA in Europe, and one that delivers a sustainable future and a growing GA sector, which has got to be good for everyone – Europe, EASA, and industry.

“To start with I’m going to recommend that we look again at the need to introduce ATO requirements when we should be keeping registered facilities as they are, and that we should unwind the CAMO structure for non-commercial operations. And these sentiments certainly enhance our chances of keeping the IMC rating. I’m grateful that the French have taken this on as they seem to have great influence and the desire to get it right, especially when they are backed by all the others.”

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