The First Frontier Of Mutual Recognition

Canadian and EASA regulators took a step to mutually recognizing component approved maintenance organizations.

Printed headline: A Step To Streamline Regulations

For years, ARSA and its industry allies have been urging aviation authorities to reduce redundant audits, technical determinations, policies and procedures. A key avenue for that work is the Maintenance and Certification Management Teams (MMT/CMT), both of which consist of representatives from the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the U.S. FAA and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA)—the so-called “quadrilateral group.” When industry made its presentation to the MMT authorities during a November 2018 meeting in Brazil, it urged either mutual acceptance or “streamlined” validation of approved maintenance organization (AMO) approvals (i.e., administrative issuance without any technical involvement by the validating authority) when supported by risk-based principles. Industry believed a good place to start was the mutual recognition of lower-risk component AMOs among the MMT authorities.

To understand how this can work and how it is already taking shape among international regulators, we have to first review the global shape of aviation safety.

Convention on International Civil Aviation

The main reason maintenance bears a disproportionate share of regulatory burden is grounded in the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention of 1944. As World War II drew to a close, countries participating in the convention sought to connect the world by providing an international structure for allocating aviation safety responsibilities. The treaty established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as an arm of the United Nations and created today’s regulatory structure, which now includes 192 contracting states.

Under that structure, the States of Registry (SoR) were given numerous responsibilities including initial and continued airworthiness and personnel licensing. Specifically, each SoR must adopt or validate an airworthiness code to use in evaluating whether an aircraft conforms to its type certificate and is in condition for safe operation. Continued airworthiness means the SoRs are responsible for overseeing maintenance and alterations as well as people authorized to perform that work.

Contrast this regulatory structure with how ICAO responsibilities are allocated to the States of Design (SoD), Manufacture (SoM) and the Operator (SoO). Typically, there is only one SoD and SoM for each type of aircraft, engine or propeller. While there are some variations—companies with multiple locations might result in multiple SoDs and SoMs—the general rules apply in the vast majority of situations: The SoD and SoM responsibilities are product-specific, and there is only one of each.

Similarly, there is only one SoO—the country that issues the air operator certificate. Thus, the SoO is responsible for overseeing those operations (with additional responsibilities for “third-country operators”) and resolving any safety issues that arise.

In contrast, there are almost as many SoRs as there are ICAO contracting states, and each has immense regulatory reach. The maintenance industry needs help to mitigate the burdens of this structure. There is no safety value added when one AMO holds 125 certificates to work on articles subject to the oversight of 192 SoRs.

MMT Initiatives

Back to the MMT’s November meeting and its ongoing work: The most important initiative discussed was an agreement between EASA and TCCA regarding component maintenance providers. With the signing of the Maintenance Annex Guide, Rev. 2 on Nov. 1, 2018, the two agencies agreed it would no longer be necessary to obtain a continuation approval to maintain the validity of their AMO certificates. According to agency representatives, the next revision will take this a step further by achieving full mutual recognition of component AMOs.

This is an incredibly important development, even though its impact will only be apparent in the EU and Canada. It provides a concrete example to support ICAO’s larger ongoing work to lay the groundwork for mutual recognition. Would the FAA be willing to accept a similar arrangement with other MMT agencies for component AMOs? ARSA believes that from a technical standpoint, the answer is in the affirmative, although it will be applied on a bilateral (not quadrilateral) basis and rulemaking may be required to achieve it.

It is too soon to know how these issues will play out, but no one should underestimate the significance of the EASA and TCCA agreement and its impact on component MROs. The stated intent of the authorities is clear, and ARSA hopes this first frontier of mutual recognition can become a reality among the MMT authorities in the not-too-distant future. 


Marshall S. Filler is managing member of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein  and the managing director and general counsel of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.

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