EU-Wide Safety Certification Of Non-EU Operators Takes Off

New EASA protocol harmonizes foreign-carrier safety approvals

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), further simplifying the region’s air carrier safety oversight, has issued its first pan-European safety authorizations to non-European carriers operating to any of the 28 European Union member states and four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries that EASA oversees.

The 22 safety authorizations issued July 2 are the first under new Third Country Operators, or (Part TCO)regulations finalized earlier this year. Part TCO replaces various safety compliance procedures handled by each of the 32 EASA member states and enables operators from outside the EU to follow a single process to gain the safety approval needed to serve any of the countries.

“The ‘one-stop-shop’ approach means cutting red tape and reducing administrative costs for airlines,” EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc says. “This new process will lead to a more streamlined and safer aviation policy” in Europe, she adds. “It will take the safety of Europeans one step further by ensuring that third-country operators flying to Europe match the highest safety standards, comparable to those the EU requires from European carriers.”

Part TCO introduces no new requirements. Rather, it follows International Aviation Safety Organization standards and recommended practices (SARP). It also harmonizes an approach that was somewhat fragmented. Until now, SARPs “were applied differently across the EU,” EASA’s Executive Director Patrick Ky concedes, noting that not all member states have the same financial and technical resources. The result: some civil aviation authorities have implemented a more rigorous certification process than others, he notes.

By November 2016, all non-EU airlines seeking to fly to the EU will be required to hold an EASA-issued TCO authorization. Traffic rights and general operating permits will still be issued by individual member states.

Part TCO relies on a risk-based model using internal and external data sources to determine the appropriate assessment methodology for each applicant. The lower the EASA’s certainty about an applicant’s reliability or the less credible the data available for an applicant operator or the state of the operator, the greater the scrutiny. Airlines deemed low-risk may simply undergo a desktop review; those that trigger higher scrutiny may have to participate in technical meetings at EASA’s Cologne, Germany, headquarters.

Some 700 carriers from more than 100 countries have applied for the TCO safety authorization, Ky says.

The new safety authorization system does not apply to EU airlines, which are still subject to safety oversight and certification by national aviation authorities on the basis of EASA standards. 

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