March 7, 2016
Without an authorization from EASA’s new Third-Country Operator program, the European Union could be a no-fly zone for commercial aircraft from a non-EU State.
Starting on Nov. 26, 2016, if you plan to fly into the European Union (EU) as a Part 135 air carrier, you’ll need prior authorization through the new European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Third-Country Operator (TCO) program. And when you land on the continent, whether you’re a commercial or non-commercial business aircraft operator, be prepared for a random ramp inspection, which may include a check to make sure your traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS) meets the new 7.1 standard for Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS 7.1).
EASA is hoping to better harmonize safety regulations across Europe, replacing sometimes inconsistent schemes of individual states with a more centralized and ideally performance- and risk-based approach. New requirements for TCO, ACAS 7.1, a safety management system (SMS), and other rules for non-commercial operators are just a few of the effects on business aviation from Europe’s evolving aviation regulations.
Apply Before You Fly
“TCO requirements are intended to enhance safety, but not to distort business,” said Sascha Oliver Schott, EASA’s section manager for third-country operators. “We understand our activity as a facilitator of aviation business. By having only one safety authorization, which is valid in 32 EASA-member states, there will be no more national safety assessments that are required to be performed on foreign operators by our member states.”
Schott said the TCO will reduce foreign operators’ administrative requirements when flying to multiple European countries. Currently, operators may be subject to safety assessment procedures in each destination country. Member states will still grant operating permits and traffic rights; however, the EASA TCO safety authorization will serve as a prerequisite.
A TCO authorization is required for refueling stops (but not overflights) and applies not only to the 28 EU countries, but also Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as well as the territories in which the EU Basic Regulation applies.
By having only one safety authorization, which is valid in 32 EASA-member states, there will be no more national safety assessments that are required to be performed on foreign operators by our member states.
Who needs TCO authorization? Any operator that performs commercial air transport under an air operator certificate (AOC) that has been issued in a non-EASA member state or territory. If you file flight plans using the flight types “N” or “S,” then you are conducting commercial air transport operations by EASA’s definition. That encompasses airlines and charter companies, including U.S. Part 135 operators.
Because the TCO requirements are based on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards – and there are some key differences between ICAO and FAA regulations (such as SMS implementation) – some U.S. operators have raised concerns that are being addressed by NBAA.
Schott said, “The TCO system is the EU’s approach to identify, out of a big pool of foreign operators, the few that we should be concerned with from a safety perspective. We take into consideration, also, the quality of the state safety oversight performance of the country that has issued the AOC of our applicant. American or Canadian operators are not a specific safety concern for us. We need to ensure fair and equal treatment obviously, but we should also not forget that between the U.S. and EASA we have a bilateral aviation safety agreement in place which caters to an increased level of confidence in the regulatory systems on both sides. This will be reflected in the decision-making process under the TCO authorization.”
Schott’s TCO team received about 700 applications by the initial Nov. 26, 2014 filing date, 250 of which were from business aircraft operators. EASA had issued more than 200 TCO authorizations by early 2016, mostly to airlines since that was the agency’s initial focus. Applications from business aircraft operators are being processed now. If you met the initial 2014 application deadline, you should receive approval before the November 2016 TCO implementation. But if you have not yet applied, you should do so as soon as possible.
Also, operators should note that although the TCO is not yet fully in effect, EU member states may withhold the issuance of new operating permits to commercial operators if an application has not been submitted to EASA.
Some Relief Already Granted
A couple of issues that initially concerned business aircraft operators about TCO have been resolved. One potential issue was FAA requirements for flight data recorders (FDR), which are different from EASA’s requirements.
EASA told applicants in December 2015, “…for the purpose of TCO authorization, EASA will not require third-country operators to change their existing FDR equipment in order to establish compliance… and will accept already-installed FDR equipment on aircraft with an individual certificate of airworthiness first issued before 26 November 2016.”
However, compliance with EASA’s application of ICAO Annex 6 flight data analysis program requirements “remains fully applicable for the purpose of TCO authorization” for all aircraft in excess of 27,000 kilograms (60,000 pounds) maximum certified takeoff mass (MCTM).
NBAA is concerned that the EASA requirement is more restrictive than the current U.S. one.
“The FAA’s Part 5 SMS requirement does take effect until March 2018, and it covers only Part 121 carriers, not business aircraft operators,” noted Doug Carr, NBAA vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “We hope this difference will be addressed by EASA and the FAA prior to the TCO implementation date.”
EASA recently eased the paperwork burden for operators of mixed fleets. Previously, EASA distinguished aircraft types by their ICAO designator. For every new aircraft type added to its fleet, an operator was required to seek a separate TCO authorization, which could take up to a month. Now, however, EASA has defined “a virtual business aircraft category,” as Schott terms it, which groups most business aircraft types into a single category. Category parameters include:
- Multi-engine passenger airplane
- Not used for scheduled operations
- Operated by multi-crew
- Does not exceed an MCTM of 45,500 kilograms (100,310 pounds)
- Maximum 19 passengers
- Holds an EASA type certificate
“We tried to accommodate the business-model requirements and the operational flexibility needs of operators that engage in aircraft management programs, where aircraft may be changed from one AOC to another rather quickly, and for fractional ownership programs that operate under commercial air transport rules,” explained Schott. “If an operator adds a new aircraft type which is not yet part of its authorized fleet, it can do so within the ‘TCO business aircraft’ category of aircraft, and, upon notification, the operator can start using these aircraft to fly into the EU.”
Collision Avoidance System Upgrade Required
Already in effect as of Dec. 1, 2015, is EASA’s requirement that all aircraft above 5,700 kilograms (12,500 pounds) MCTM be equipped with ACAS 7.1. EASA warns that non-compliant aircraft identified during ramp inspections “may be subject to immediate enforcement action.”
Based on analysis of version 7.0 performance, two key changes were identified to improve the ACAS logic: a new “level off” resolution advisory (RA) and improvements to the “reversal logic” when aircraft continue to converge vertically. Eurocontrol’s recently updated ACAS guide notes that “many cases were found in which pilots did not respond correctly to the ‘adjust vertical speed, adjust’ RAs… the only RA whose aural annunciation does not clearly communicate what exact manoeuvre is required.”
Pilots often increased their vertical rate instead of reducing it, exacerbating the problem. In version 7.1, the “adjust vertical speed, adjust” RA has been replaced with a new “level off, level off” RA, which requires a reduction in vertical rate to zero and “is to be achieved promptly, not at the next standard flight level. When version 7.1 detects that an aircraft is not responding correctly to an RA, it will issue a reversal RA to the aircraft.”
Part-NCC Coming Soon
Another new rule that affects business aircraft is Part-NCC, which takes effect on Aug. 26, 2016. It applies to “non-commercial operations with complex motor-powered aircraft” (similar to FAA’s Part 91, Subpart F) for any aircraft registered within the EASA zone or when the operator’s principal place of business is within an EASA member state. About half of the business aircraft operating in Europe will be affected.
“It’s a big challenge for these operators to implement an SMS, operations manuals, minimum equipment list, and submission of their aircraft to a continuing airworthiness management organization,” said Joel Hencks, managing director of Switzerland-based business aviation consultant Aeroex. “It’s a self-declaration system, so those operators need to declare to the competent authority where they have their principal place of business,” Hencks explained. “It should not be a concern for a U.S.-registered aircraft in which the company’s principal place of business is outside the EU.
“It can be quite tricky, however, if the non-EU company has a European subsidiary which has some control of the aircraft,” continued Hencks. “For example, a U.S. flight department with one or two aircraft based in Geneva might need to declare to the Swiss civil aviation authority that they are operating the aircraft out of Switzerland. They may also need to comply with EASA rules on pilot licensing and other applicable EU non-commercial requirements. An expert should always look at the setup to make sure what rules [an operator] may have to comply with.”
Critical EU Dates