New European Regs Protested

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More Costs, More Red Tape...

European GA is facing massive cost increases, more red tape and what some say is an unnecessarily daunting training regimen for many technicians as the European Community's new umbrella safety organization flexes its newborn muscles. But their airplanes will be clean. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is taking over from the Joint Aviation Authority, is bent on removing the 12,500-pound barrier when it comes to certain maintenance standards and record-keeping and we bet you can guess which side of the line they're favoring. And tucked in the myriad of regs is a provision requiring maintenance and repair shops to return customers' planes "clean." The new agency, which takes over in September, plans to implement the changes over the next couple of years and the Aircraft Electronics Association is crying foul. The AEA has about 100 members in Europe and VP Ric Peri said it's too much, too fast, particularly when it comes to getting aircraft technicians ready for the switch. "The proposed timeline for implementation [of regulations] for aeroplanes with a maximum takeoff mass below 5,700 kg. [approx. 12,500 pounds] and helicopters with a maximum takeoff mass below 3175 kg. [approx. 7,000 pounds] is extremely aggressive," Peri wrote in a statement about Part 66, which concerns qualification for maintenance personnel. According to Peri, the new rule would require someone working on single-engine piston aircraft to be qualified to fix such big-iron items as autoland systems, satellite communications and in-flight entertainment systems. He said this one-size-fits-all approach ignores the progressive training and experience model that technicians now go through and puts a tremendous burden on students and the companies that must train them. He also notes that countries that don't heavily subsidize aviation-trades training are put at a disadvantage by the rule.

...GA Maintenance Requirements Change...

Of greatest concern to private aircraft owners is EASA's retooling of the JAA Part M. Essentially, the new rule will require light aircraft (below 12,500 pounds) to have individual maintenance management programs in place, similar to those used on airliners and other commercially used aircraft. GA aircraft are currently maintained according to manufacturers' maintenance programs, and a Cessna 172 is a Cessna 172 regardless of who is fixing it. The AEA claims the new rule will not only drop a huge financial burden on GA owners, it could actually make the GA fleet less safe. "The requirement to individually approve each and every aircraft's maintenance program is administratively burdensome to individual national aviation authorities, extremely costly to individual owners/operators and will introduce a lack of standardization essential to the improving safety of general aviation maintenance and operations," Peri wrote. The proposed regs get into some details that the AEA believes should be left to the discretion of the people doing the work. For instance, the new rules require that maintenance be performed in "proper facilities" while the AEA points out that some jobs have to be done outside and as long as the airplane and the people working on it are protected from bad weather that should be good enough for the government. As far as cleaning the airplane after servicing, the AEA says that shouldn't be a requirement because "the cosmetic appearance of the aircraft is not a safety issue." Rather, it's recommending the section be changed to ensure that all tools and leftover supplies be removed and access panels replaced before the aircraft is signed off.

...Blakey Urged Consultation

So far, the proposed rules would only affect European Union states and neighboring countries that want to do business with them. But aviation, perhaps more than many others, is a global industry and it was only a few months ago that FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, that Europe should be talking to other jurisdictions to ensure there are no conflicts down the road. "Aerospace trade between the United States and the European Community exceeds $40 billion," she said. "There is a lot at stake." What's not clear is if the new rules will apply to very light aircraft that some believe are poised to flood the American market as soon as the new Light Sport Aircraft is approved by the FAA. North American manufacturers are worried that their European competition will be subject to looser regulations and lax enforcement, thus reducing their costs.