Air Transport World

Joint certification: elusive goal; pace of U.S.-European talks on a single document has picked up recently, under the impetus of EC unification.

Pace of U.S.-European talks on a single document has picked up recently, under the impetus of EC unification.

The FAA and European authorities have talked for a decade about a single standard for certification of transport aircraft. Now, as a result of European unification, the pace has picked up. Although a single certification document still may not be possible, the two sides are trying to get as close as possible as quickly as possible. It can't come too soon for an industry beset by escalating costs.

In theory, the task of agreeing should not be difficult. Only a handful of countries possess sufficient expertise to make meaningful contributions to the setting of transport standards. And manufacture of the engines and airframes already is an international enterprise. As FAA Administrator James Busey pointed out earlier this year, there was an estimated 7-9% of foreign content in large U.S. transports in 1980. By this year, that had risen to 2030%. The same is true abroad, where non-U.S. aircraft and engines contain a significant amount of U.S. content. The regulators are the ones behind the times.

Almost from the time he took over at FAA, Busey has pushed joint certification. in March, he told a planning conference in Washington: "We are dedicated to getting the greatest possible commonality in certification and operating standards for international air transport." Three months later, in San Francisco, he let his frustrations show. "We've made some progress since that first meeting [of the FAA and Europeans]. But not nearly enough. Some of the problems that should have been solved by now are still with us. . . . We need movement. We need action. . . . This is not a wheel-spinning, time-passing exercise."

Similar interpretations

Just as important to Busey is that the safety agencies interpret standards in a uniform matter. He wants the rules-certification, operating, maintenance-to mirror each other. "Since aircraft and engines are now being developed on an international basis, we cannot tolerate sharp differences in interpretations of the written standards. That would defeat our purpose."

Busey knows whereof he speaks. He heads an agency whose regional structure historically has made an art form out of conflicting interpretations.

The situation clearly needed resolution. As Craig Beard, FAA director of aircraft certification and service, explains it: "The English would come in and do their number. …

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