Export FAA Operating Regs To Europe?

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For years, the U.S. aviation industry has seen a steady trickle of FAA rule changes move through the regulatory process, designed to bring the agency into "closer harmony" with foreign aviation agencies. The foreign agencies mainly include the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) operated by European Union (EU) member states, plus the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). To a great extent, these changes have been seemingly minor and designed to ensure a seamless transition of, say, an airframe certification in the U.S. to an EU member state, allowing newly manufactured aircraft to be registered in that second country. Of course, exceptions exist and, on occasion, "harmonization" efforts have gone beyond mere certification rules into maintenance and environmental protection. Perhaps the most notable was the mid-1990s switch from longstanding FAA abbreviations to ICAO-standard coding for aviation weather observations and forecasts. This is what gave U.S. pilots the abbreviation "BR" for mist and spawned thousands of decoding cards -- English-to-French dictionaries, one wag called them.

Despite ICAO-standard aviation weather coding, most of the FAA's attempts to harmonize its regulations with the EU's have involved airframe, powerplant and component certification instead of operating rules. In fact, each of the EU member states have their own set of rules, which frequently send U.S.-based pilots into frenzied fits of frustration as they attempt to decipher all of the regulatory nuances involved in getting from Point A to Point B through Country C's airspace. And, its safe to say that EU-member state operating regulations can be much more stringent than the FAA's. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) would like to change that and recently encouraged the European Union to create a unified safety oversight and regulatory system for GA aircraft registered in Europe.

Speaking at the Annual U.S./Europe International Aviation Safety Conference in June, GAMA Sr. Vice President of Operations Ron Swanda stated, "Without a uniform set of operating regulations for GA, members of the EU could find that inter-state and international commerce is hindered and that safety oversight is not uniformly applied." As a result, GAMA has outlined five steps it considers essential for the EU. They include; 1) Create a single authority responsible for regulating all GA flight activity and GA pilot certification performed within the EU; 2) Ensure that GA accident prevention is part of future aviation safety activities in Europe; 3) Appoint a single body responsible for investigating and determining the probable cause of GA fatal and serious accidents that occur within the EU; 4) Adopt the U.S. definition of GA, and its primary-use categories, to help improve accident trend analysis and integrate relevant accident data from the EU with the majority of the world's GA fleet; and 5) implement an annual survey of GA activity, using a methodology similar to that used by the FAA.

"Every nation has GA aircraft based within its borders. In many parts of the world, inter-city travel via general aviation aircraft is the only option available, other than walking or dog-sled, especially during the winter. Accordingly, every nation has an interest in keeping general aviation a viable travel alternative, while keeping it as safe as possible," said Swanda. "The U.S. accounts for approximately 80 percent of the world's GA aircraft and pilots, and it contains geography and operating environments similar to every area of the world. FAAs operating rules for GA have been written to safely accommodate these operating environments. In addition, FAA's operating rules have been in place for many years and are well understood. Therefore, to promote safety, EU operating rules applicable to GA operations should be closely aligned with U.S. operating rules," Swanda added.