Jan. 4, 2016

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recently announced two decisions favorable to business aircraft operators in the context of the new third-country operator (TCO) authorization scheme, which takes effect in November 2016. The changes follow discussions with EASA officials and leaders from NBAA and other organizations.

EASA is notifying operators who applied for the TCO authorization that they will not require a change to existing flight data recorder (FDR) equipment, provided the already-installed FDR gear is on an aircraft that received a certificate of airworthiness prior to Nov. 26, 2016.

EASA also clarified that the alleviation does not apply to aircraft that do not have an FDR.

NBAA’s Manager, Operations Brian Koester met with EASA’s Section Manager for Third-Country Operators Sascha Oliver Schott, and other EASA officials to discuss concerns with the TCO program. The conversation focused on FAA-compliant business aircraft that did not meet current ICAO FDR standards. The FAA’s FDR regulations are based on minimum passenger seating configuration, while ICAO standards are based on the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight. Because of this difference, a large number of business aircraft operators were found to be compliant with FAA regulations but not ICAO Standards.

“We have undertaken technical analysis of the topic with a view to what is the current situation for EU-registered aircraft in terms of equipage with FDR, taking a non-discriminatory approach, ensuring a level playing field for all operators. But also with consideration of technical feasibility and the financial impact on retrofit initiatives,” said Schott.

EASA has also created a “virtual business aircraft” category, which will save operators time when adding a new aircraft type to their TCO authorization. Instead of applying for prior re-authorization by EASA, a process that could take up to 30 days, operators may add their new aircraft type through the agency’s online TCO internet portal.

“The operator can notify this new aircraft type by entering the information in our database and use the aircraft of this new fleet for flights to the EU without having to wait,” Schott said. “We will still perform a technical review of new aircraft types which have been added by the operator but this may be conducted some time later.”

The new “TCO Business Aircraft” category encompasses aircraft with these criteria:

  • Not used for scheduled operations
  • Multi-engine passenger aeroplane
  • Operated by multi-crew
  • Does not exceed an MCTOM of 45,500 kg [100,310 lbs]
  • Maximum 19 passengers
  • Holds an EASA type certificate

“It is a simplification of the re-approval process after having made changes and an acceleration to make use of the aircraft without waiting for our formal approval,” Schott added. “It applies to approximately 250 operators worldwide who will enjoy the benefits of this business aircraft group specification by having much more operational flexibility when making changes to their fleet.”

NBAA and the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) are continuing to discuss other operator concerns with EASA, such as safety management system (SMS) requirements.

“EASA is currently working with the FAA on pragmatic proposals for US Part-135 operators engaging in EU operations to establish compliance with international ICAO standards pertaining to SMS,” Schott said.