Air Transport World

EASA: Recipe for trouble

The EU's new aviation-safety authority, born in secrecy, is aiming high but is facing a long road to credibility

The last thing European aviation wants is an equivalent to Eurocontrol, the air-navigation agency, for aviation safety regulation. But that may be what it gets if it's not careful. Many involved with the fledgling European Aviation Safety Authority think about the original plans, heave a deep sigh and resign themselves to what will be.

Launched in June at the end of the U.K.'s EU Presidency, EASA is supposed to be Europe's answer to the U.S. FAA and the legal follow-on to its JAA. JAA was created two decades ago to harmonize European aviation safety rules but has voluntary membership and zero enforcement power. It must depend on national authorities to implement its recommendations, a situation that has produced less than uniform results.

Despite JAA's multiplicity of cultures--now up to 27 members--and lack of power, it has made some progress. Harmonization of aircraft design and manufacturing standards came first because companies from important certifying nations already worked together in Airbus Industrie.

Common rules for maintenance have not advanced as smoothly and JAA has run into even worse problems dealing with operating requirements. Though not all members manufacture aircraft, all have airlines. Creating one set of rules has produced an unending series of fruitless arguments.

Along with trying to mesh its own members' rules, JAA simultaneously has worked with FAA to harmonize the two sets of certification rules, JAR 25 and FAR 25. Yet, while the industry continues to demand a single world standard, FAA and JAA have settled for equivalency. An EU bureaucrat says: "Harmonizing is a long and difficult path to mutual recognition. There are other means. You must understand why differences [between sets of rules] exist. Neither side wants to kill people. …

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