Air Transport World

Seeing the light: EU countries face up to the need to increase oversight of non-European airlines operating in their airspace.(European Union)

EU countries face up to the need to increase oversight of non-European airlines operating into their airspace

All hell broke loose when, in September, 1994, the U.S. FAA announced its assessment of how well 42 civil-aviation agencies were meeting ICAO safety standards. The U.S. said airlines of deficient countries had to freeze capacity. at current levels if labeled Category 2 or halt U.S. flights if put in Category 3.

Some Latin Americans charged, unconvincingly, that the agency was just pushing U.S. airlines' commercial interests, rather than safety. West Europeans, though not involved in the audits, found the approach ham-handed, arrogant and the usual other grab bag of adjectives that comes out when the U.S. acts on its own.

Then came the crash in February of a Boeing 757 filled with German tourists off the coast of the Dominican Republic. The aircraft was owned by Turkish charter operator Birgenair, on lease to Alas Nacionales of the D.R. Suddenly, political pressure from Germany galvanized the heretofore critical Europeans into raising the profile of foreign-safety oversight. But as with so much in the still-evolving Europe, the multiplicity of interests involved or wanting to be involved precluded an early solution.

Actually, even before the accident, the Europeans had been making quiet noises about non-European aviation safety. For example, prompted by concerns about the many airlines in the former U.S.S.R., the 33-nation European Civil Aviation Conference had begun studying how to boost monitoring.

Some individual nations also increased their activity. For example, the U.K. CAA, at the request of its Department of Transport, performed several more specific aircraft and airline inspections, and also began joining international oversight teams. …

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