May 28, 2014

The European Union recently released the instructions and application for commercial operators to apply for third-country operator (TCO) authorization.

The new process will relieve operators from having to apply for access into each of the 28 EU member countries, EU overseas territories and four European Free Trade Association states. Legislation passed for the new regulation on April 29, but a 30-day grace period allowed time for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to put the application together.

Operators will be grouped into three different categories that correspond to EASA’s level of confidence into the state of the operator and the operator itself.

The category will determine the assessment methodology applied:

Assessment Category
Level of Confidence Into Applicant
Expected Distribution
Assessment Methodology

Category A
Standard case approx. 60 percent
Simple desktop review of basic operator data (fast track)

Category B
Approx. 30 percent
Detailed assessment including sampling of ICAO compliance and consultation with the operator (video/phone conference, and /or interview in Cologne)

Category C
Approx. 10 percent
Detailed assessment including sampling of ICAO compliance and on-site visit

EASA will assign the categories based on the following criteria, with a strong emphasis on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USAOP) performance of the operator: State of the Operator:

  • ICAO USOAP reports (lack of implementation)
  • ICAO SSC (significant safety concern)
  • EU Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) results (aggregated on state of the operator level)
  • Consultations pursuant to Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No. 473/2006
  • Measures imposed by a member state in accordance with Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No. 2111/2005
  • Accident data (aggregated on state of the operator level)
  • FAA IASA state category


  • Accident history
  • EU SAFA ratio (if available)
  • Size, nature and complexity of the operations
  • Adherence to industry standards

All commercial operators who travel to Europe should submit applications by Nov. 25, 2014. EASA will then have a 24-month administrative processing period, during which operators should continue applying to individual states for admittance. Once the TCO program is in place, new operators traveling to Europe will be required to submit at TCO application 30 days prior to their trip.