FAA, planning for a worst-case scenario, is prepared to take over surveillance of its 180 approved repair stations in the U.K. if a new regulatory bilateral agreement isn't in place when the country leaves the European Union (EU) next year.
The UK government has not announced how it will regulate its aviation industry following the so-called Brexit--its decision to leave the EU effective April 1, 2019. One certainty: the UK will no longer be under the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as an EU member. The UK's options--and the most likely outcome--include adopting EASA's regulations as a non-EU member, similar to what several countries, including Norway and Switzerland, have done. Another option is to use the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations as a foundation and go it alone.
Until a decision is made, however, FAA can't make specific plans on how issues that affect the U.S. agency--such as overseeing the UK shops it approves--may be handled. The agency and its CAA counterparts are holding general discussions about new agreements and associated guidance that would replace the U.S.-EU agreement and replicate its benefits. If the UK goes with EASA's regulations, it is expected to accept EASA's repair station certificate approvals. But with Brexit less than a year away, the deadline may arrive before the US and UK have completed the bureaucratic process of striking a new bilateral.
"If [Brexit] comes and we don't have an agreement between us and them, FAA will take over [surveillance of] the repair stations," said Rolandos Lazaris, FAA's Aircraft Maintenance Division executive officer, said at MRO Americas April 11.
Under the U.S.-EU bilateral, FAA and EASA inspect shops that each has approved in the other's territory for compliance with both agency's regulations. Such cooperation helps the agencies stretch their resources.
Tim Shaver, FAA's deputy director, Safety Standards, said FAA is moving forward as if new agreements will not be in place by next April, meaning FAA won't be able to rely on EASA inspectors to visit UK shops. FAA has proactively assigned inspectors to each UK repair station, for instance, and is working to determine where potential gaps might be in ensuring the shops can continue to legally work on U.S.-registered equipment.
"We're working to understand what is happening now and getting prepared," Shaver said. "We're looking at all contingencies."