European Plan for Aviation Safety chart 2019-2023 European Plan for Aviation Safety

EASA’s New Basic Regulation Re-Prioritizes Rulemaking Plans

To address new technologies and drones, EASA reshapes its rulemaking priorities

Printed headline: Queued


New parliamentary mandates will necessitate a reshuffle of European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulatory priorities for at least the next three years. A recently released plan suggests further delay on several anticipated airworthiness-related decisions, including rulemakings intended to address parts-documentation requirements and the availability of maintenance data.

September’s New Basic Regulation 2018/1139 (NBR) is the product of a four-year negotiation between the European Parliament and European Union member-states. EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky refers to it as the Birth of EASA 2.0: “The new regulation marks a major change in [EASA’s] environment,” says Ky. “It will not only prepare us for new technologies such as drones and artificial intelligence, it also enables us to work better together.”

EASA officials assert the new “total systems-based approach,” unlike its predecessors, does not expand EASA’s scope, but reinforces the system by closing gaps and inconsistencies. It includes new technical areas such as drones, ground handling and cybersecurity, and others that could affect safety such as security, the environment and connectivity.

The regulation seeks to make better use of limited resources and decentralize the agency through the use of performance-based metrics. The NBR also paves the way for a digital transformation by increasing the agency’s dependence on electronic information and allowing it to take advantage of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

European Plan for Aviation Safety

Finally, the NBR unequivocally directs EASA to embrace its “better regulation” performance-based approach. “The changes in technology and the rapid growth of the industry have been showing that the original compliance-based approach is not enough and needs to be complemented with further reliance on risk assessment and performance-based regulation,” says EASA.

The recently released 2019-23 European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS) incorporates several specific mandates set forth in the NBR, including creation of a repository for certificates issued or received by competent authorities, formally requiring member-states to adopt safety management system (SMS) programs and plans, and providing the legal basis for the agency’s big-data project, Data4Safety (D4S), expected to launch in 2020.

To make room for new mandates, the EPAS calls for limiting resources available for new rulemaking tasks and postponing “regular” and “non-strategic” tasks. Several opinions planned for publication in 2018 are deferred until after 2022; new opinions are reserved for issues prioritized as “strategic.” EASA says the postponement reflects a realistic evaluation of the capacities both at EASA and the European Commission to process and adopt rulemaking deliverables.

Airworthiness initiatives afffected by the reshuffle include cancellation of plans to assess the effectiveness of Part 145 maintenance organization approvals (EVT.0005). In its justification, EASA cites anticipated SMS mandates for repair stations and the need to allow those changes to “materialize” before making further revisions.

Rulemakings that would establish principles to mitigate risks in “complex” Part 145 organizations (RMT.0217) and address certifying staff “safety gaps” (RMT.0097) are also “de-prioritized” in the new plan.

Initiatives retained but delayed include proposed repair station SMS requirements (RMT.0251) expected to be published by April, with a final regulation planned for third-quarter 2021. The anticipated publication of Part 147 (maintenance training organization approval) amendments—proposed in response to a February 2018 industry-agency recommendation—is pushed back by a year and is now anticipated for the second half of 2023. Mandates intended to deter cybersecurity risks are rescheduled for 2022.

The new EPAS maintains the year-end publication date for a decision that would require type-certificate applicants to prepare a training syllabus that will be used as the basis for Part 66 type-rating training course approval (RMT.0106). A Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) for that rulemaking was available for notice and comment last September.

Final decisions scheduled for publication this year include rulemakings addressing prevention of incomplete recordkeeping (RMT.0276), streamlining of foreign Part 145 applications (RMT.0096), operational requirements for maintenance check flights (RMT.0393) and the phase-out of halon (RMT.0560).

The timeline for long-awaited action to address parts documentation requirements for U.S.-based repair stations with EASA approval (RMT.0018) has been extended. An EASA opinion intended to provide relief was originally scheduled for publication in 2018; the revised schedule pushes its release to later this year, with formal rulemaking two years thereafter.

An anticipated opinion as a follow-on to a 2018 NPA addressing the availability of instructions for continued airworthiness (RMT.0252) is rescheduled for the third quarter of this year. The 2018 plan indicated the final decision could be issued as soon as 2019; the revised road map pushes the timeline out another two years, to third-quarter 2021.

While new initiatives certainly will impact the EASA’s ability to implement its laundry list of regulatory to-dos, limits on the number of expected rulemakings are a continuation of last year’s “cool-down” period. The agency carried through on its plan to restabilize, publishing only three of 12 anticipated rulemakings—far fewer than previous years (nine in 2017 and 16 in 2016). The 2019 EPAS anticipates a slight uptick in rulemaking activities, with seven new opinions scheduled for each of the next three years. 

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