European aviation safety set for serious reform

Europe’s aviation safety watchdog wants cash-strapped EU nations to surrender some of their powers over safeguarding air travel in their own countries.

The move comes with the publication of Vision 2020: EASA presents its Vision for the Future of the Aviation Regulatory System by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

It is recommending to European transport chiefs in Brussels that when national authorities lack resources or expertise, they should be able to delegate some of their oversight functions to other authorities or to EASA, to prevent safety risks being overlooked.

The proposals which meet what EASA sees as crucial requirements for the future of the aviation regulatory system have now been forwarded to the European Commission as an ‘EASA Opinion’ and represent what the agency says is the result of industry-wide consultations since September.

The agency is also proposing that its scope is extended in new areas such as airport ground handling, RPAS (drones) and security and that member states can opt to have their state aircraft (excluding military) come under EASA’s regulatory remit.

“EASA, that means the agency and its sister national authorities, needs to be prepared for the challenges ahead. With these changes, we will be more proportional, flexible and proactive to increase the level of safety in European aviation,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky. “I believe that although our proposals are ambitious they are also reasonable. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious about safety.”

The proposals will now be sent to the European Commission which will use them as an input to amend the agency’s fundamental rules during 2015.

In an interview given to Air Traffic Management Ky said: “It is not our goal to absorb all national supervisory authorities. But let’s face it, there are some national administrations that are struggling because they don’t have enough resources or because they do not have enough skilled resources. I have met with almost all those administrations and their position has been that they would prefer EASA fulfil their role.”

“Some national aviation authorities comprise only 20 people trying to maintain effective oversight of airports, airlines, pilots, general aviation etc. You can have the best 20 people in the world but they can quickly become overwhelmed by the task.”

Pete Bunce, president and chief executive of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, welcomed the proposal to revise the rules by which EASA operates as ‘the broadest since the inception of EASA over 10 years ago’.

“We are encouraged to see the agency’s focus on proportionate, risk-based regulation being enshrined into law. This is a unique opportunity to reflect the agency’s newfound thinking on the better regulation of general aviation in particular. We commend this vision, and trust the European Commission will strongly develop these ideas when they publish their proposal later in the year.”

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