The European Commission (EC), generally signing off on aviation industry-authored recommendations seeking streamlined safety regulations, has included a safety-rule revamp in its big-picture regional aviation strategy.
The new strategy, which touches on all aspects of civil aviation, is designed to help Europe adapt its regulations over the next 10-15 years to maximize competitiveness and maintain—if not improve—safety. On the safety front, the EC’s goal is to build on the experience gleaned from more than a decade of joint regulation under the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and, where possible, improve upon it.
“While so far the process for the development of the European Plan for Aviation Safety has been largely internal to EASA, the time is now right to give it a truly European dimension and ownership notably through stronger involvement of member states and of industry,” the EC explains. “To this end, the process for the development and adoption of the European Plan for Aviation Safety has been revised to incorporate the lessons learned after the first implementation cycles.”
A public consultation conducted by the EC as part of shaping its strategy found strong sentiment that European aviation is very safe, but opportunities exist to boost efficiency. For instance, airlines starting up in member states without significant regulatory oversight experience may find certification more burdensome.
“While aviation safety is the principal objective of this proposal, it is not the only one,” the EC explains. “Beyond maintaining the current safety performance, the main concern of member states and stakeholders is the efficiency and proportionality of the present system.”
More than 80% of respondents say that current rules “are too detailed and prescriptive, and that the current safety levels could be maintained with lower compliance cost.” Officials at the member-state level “largely [share] this view.”
The new proposal seeks to address industry’s concerns. For instance, inspectors and technical staff could be pooled at the regional level and deployed based on resource demands. The EC’s new pitch also takes a run at simplifying regulations.
“This proposal also responds to the calls . . . for a more proportionate and flexible approach to safety regulation and to eliminate rules which can stifle entrepreneurship with too-prescriptive requirements,” the EC says. “It notably proposes to introduce a scalable framework which recognizes the differences existing between the various sectors of civil aviation and the risks involved therein.”
The new rules also introduce “a legal framework for the safe use of drones,” the EC notes.
The EC’s unveiling of the plan kicked off discussion on how to put it into action.
“On the basis of these discussions, the commission will assess how implementation should proceed over the course of the current mandate,” the EC notes. “Some actions—such as the evaluations of existing legislation—can move ahead without delay. Others will take the form of commission proposals and therefore be subject to normal consultation and decision-making procedures.”