A recent revision to the aviation safety agreement between the U.S. and the European Union paves the way for increased efficiencies as the entities seek to enhance reliance on each other’s certification systems and minimize redundancies in regulatory approval and oversight.
The revisions to the bilateral agreement have been driven by the validation improvement roadmap (VIR), which was developed by the U.S.-European Union Certification Oversight Board at the direction of the Bilateral Oversight Board. Its objective is a 20% reduction in validation time and cost by 2022. The VIR takes a risk-based, systems approach, putting the onus on the original certificating authority, requiring little to no technical assessment on the part of the validating authority.
Under the revised plan, more certificates and approvals would qualify for reciprocal acceptance (e.g., certain major changes, alternative means of compliance and minimum equipment lists), while those that are not mutually accepted would be evaluated based on risk-based principles rather than a comprehensive review of compliance findings.
VIR objectives drove a safety agreement modification and subsequent Technical Implementation Procedure (TIP) revision that went into effect last spring. The change allows for the reciprocal acceptance of all repair data, a process that has long been sought by industry. A recent amendment to the TIP revision further narrows the validating authority’s role and provides the impetus for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to reduce the fees it charges U.S. manufacturers to validate their design approvals.
According to the EASA, the revisions demonstrate “that both the FAA and EASA fully subscribe to the philosophy that safety in today’s global aviation market depends to a great extent on international partnerships between aviation regulators.” The agencies are pursuing a systems-based approach, in lieu of transactional methods that would eliminate redundant regulatory approvals which have little to no impact on aviation safety.
The VIR also recognizes the need for airworthiness requirement harmonization, setting forth a “supporting” objective for the certificating and validating authorities to agree on a single certification basis. While the agencies take incremental steps toward simplification, the maintenance community continues its call for a systems-based approach to parts documentation. Efforts to persuade the European authority to wholly recognize the FAA’s parts documentation system, which industry argues produces equivalent safety outcomes, has so far been unsuccessful.