May 12, 2015

A dozen years after its founding, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is facing significant changes in its basic regulation No. 216/2008, and is taking on a more comprehensive role in overseeing aviation throughout the Europe. The agency has issued numerous documents this year with potential impact on business aviation operations.

“EASA is looking at getting more powers, and extending its reach to new aspects such as research and development, airports, air traffic management, security, and a few others,” said Fabio Gamba, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA). “We would favor an EASA that would be close to the FAA in terms of power, not so much in terms of structure. We wouldn’t mind it becoming an ‘FAA’ for Europe.”

Gamba noted that, in EASA’s current scheme, “Business aviation doesn’t fit in very comfortably. It sits between the commercial and general aviation definition. Each new regulation coming up is dealing with one or the other.”

By August 2016, a new “Part-NCC” regulation (non-commercial operations with complex motor-powered aircraft) will apply to about half of business aircraft operations in Europe. The other half fit into the “Part-CAT” category, which is designed primarily for commercial airlines.

“We’ve identified initial areas where we would want EASA to adopt specific treatment for business aviation: flight and duty time limitations, runway performance and flight crew licensing,” Gamba said. “Our business model is different and requires slightly different legislation than commercial airlines. The EASA process, in essence, requires business aviation to prove that the regulations are not well suited to business aviation needs, so EBAA is conducting research in each area to make their case.”

EASA is also considering:

Ground Handling

A year ago EASA posed the question: Do you see safety issues emerging from ground handling service provider activities not addressed adequately in the current scope of European Union safety rules? The responses were “numerous and nearly consensual” for “filling in a significant gap as there are currently no safety rules at European level to cater for these providers,” EASA reported.

Some operators are concerned about possible overly detailed rules and stringent future certification requirements. EASA said its intent is to “create a well-measured legal and enforceable obligation rather than to introduce technically new requirements.”

Performance-Based Navigation (PBN)

In an opinion issued in March 2015, EASA proposed eliminating the need for most special approval (SPA) paperwork for PBN applications, possibly as early as 2016 in parallel with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Doc 9613, fourth edition, covering Required Navigation Performance RNP 2, advanced RNP, and RNP 0.3.

The SPA requirement “raised concerns related to the perceived huge economic and administrative burden… in particular by basic Global Navigation Satellite System approach operations, which… are not more complex than instrument landing system CAT 1 operations (for which no SPA is required).” To remove the obligation for SPA before flying PBN operations, instrument-rated pilots must be properly trained and checked.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Europe already has more officially sanctioned UAS operators than any other airspace in the world – about 2,500 for remotely piloted aircraft weighing less than 330 pounds. The expectation from EASA’s generic, high-level language in its “Concept of Operations,” issued in March, is that new UAS regulations “should foster an innovative and competitive European drone industry, creating jobs and growth.”

The risk-based philosophy proposes three categories of UAS: an “open” category, which would not require any authorization by aviation authorities, so long as operators fly below 150 meters and away from airports and other defined areas; a “specific” category for operations involving “sharing airspace” and requiring a safety risk assessment and a “certified” category for operations “akin to normal manned aviation operations,” even up to drones the size of a Boeing 737.

Certified UAS ops would require a licensed pilot. Consultation on the fast-track proposal is expected in June, with the final regulatory proposal to the European Commission planned for December 2015.