Back when the European Union was just forming, I distinctly recall the old days of the toothless JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities), and then in recognition of such tooth lessness, the transition to the more formidable EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). My earliest impressions of the new EASA were twofold; one, that they were intent on not following anyone’s existing model of how to administrate aviation (read that: we’re not going to follow the FAA’s model), and two, a nearly homogenous aura among the administrators of unassailable authority; we’re here to establish our authority and tell you how it will be done, period.
And why not? From the beginning EASA inherited daunting challenges not exhibited anywhere else in the world. Imagine trying to become an administrator of 32 member states, each with their own independent, entrenched, civil aviation authority, and significantly, varying degrees of political and economic influence. Challenging indeed. The resulting working model for this unique set of challenges is that the European Parliament, representing these varying member states, must first approve of all Regulations (aviation), which then becomes a mandate for EASA to follow and enforce. That is why you always see EASA processes and procedures prefixed by the respective, enabling EU Regulation. For example:
- What is the Agency?
- EASA is an Agency of the European Union. As an EU Agency, EASA is a body governed by European public law; it is distinct from the Community Institutions (Council, Parliament, Commission, etc.) and has its own legal personality. EASA was established by Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2018 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and amending Regulations (EC) No 2111/2005, (EC) No 1008/2008, (EU) No 996/2010, (EU) No 376/2014 and Directives 2014/30/EU and 2014/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 552/2004 and (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91 and was given specific regulatory and executive tasks in the field of civil aviation safety and environmental protection 1.
EASA’s initial activities expectedly consisted mostly of organizing itself and establishing basic aviation services such as aircraft, pilot/engineer, and organization certifications. These efforts have now reached a reasonable level of maturity and stability, and EASA seems to have come of age and established its own identity. Part of that identity, and the reason for this article, appears to be a willingness to innovate and accomplish ‘first-time-by-anyone’ achievements. While there are many, in this article I wanted to focus on these as examples, in bold.
POSTING OF STOLEN AIRCRAFT PARTS ON THE EASA UNAPPROVED PARTS WEB SITE.
The issue of stolen aircraft parts first came to my attention when I worked at a major airline. Two things occurred:
- One of our planes had crashed in a very remote part of South America. It took days to arrive at the scene, and afterwards discovered that many parts had been stolen.
- Technicians brought to my attention evidence of attempts to pry-off data plates from major assemblies, un-explained ‘lost’ freight of parts, and missing inventory among other troubling signs.
For the longest time it has been recognized that stolen aircraft parts necessarily contribute to Unapproved Parts Activity; perhaps forged documents, altered data plates and the like. An early article I wrote focused on this issue2. Early attempts to create a database of stolen parts were not successful. Recently however, EASA has started to list reports of stolen parts on their Suspected Unapproved Parts page3, bravo.
It's my opinion that the problem of stolen aircraft parts is greatly under-reported for many reasons including:
- Lack of awareness of a place to report this to. If someone steals your Garmin 530 from your aircraft in Montana, do you report it to the local police, FAA, or FBI? If so, what will they do with the information? Is there a database of such activity...no.
- For big firms such as major airlines or the military/government, inventory accounting is so huge and imperfect that they may not be aware of the dodgy activity.
- I have heard of some firms afraid to report these occurrences because it will bring the spotlight on their employees as the source of the pilfering.
Regardless, EASA has the first real attempt to put these parts in the public domain and they are to be commended. By the way, I strongly recommend you go to the EASA SUPS home page and sign up to receive their notifications.
FIRST TYPE CERTIFICATION OF A FULLY ELECTRIC PLANE.
As a FAA DAR I was once asked to certify an aircraft with an electric engine, but the FAA issued strict guidance against such issuances, so I had to deny the application; that was quite a few years ago. Since then, in a historical first, EASA has issued the first TC4. Here’s an excerpt of the press release:
“COLOGNE, June 10, 2020 - The European Union Aviation Safety Agency announced the certification of an electric airplane, the Pipistrel Velis Electro, the first type certification world-wide of a fully electric aircraft and an important milestone in the quest for environmentally sustainable aviation.
“This is an exciting breakthrough,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “This is the first electric aircraft EASA has certified but it will certainly not be the last, as the aviation industry pursues new technologies to reduce noise and emissions and to improve the sustainability of aviation.””
While this aircraft is a small two-seater aimed at the flight training market, it no doubt established the model which will be used to Type Certificate larger electric aircraft, and there is a plethora of such aircraft in advanced design stages. Pretty cool.
As reported in the ASA’s Web Log5, EASA is moving to issuing certain certificates digitally. In other words, they will no longer systematically print and dispatch wet signed versions of the certificates. The certificate applicant receives a high resolution, printable version of the certificate with the look and feel of the paper version, and anyone interested will be able to cross check the validity of the cert by going to the EASA website of such listings6. I highly recommend you add the link (number 6 below) to your favorites. It contains further links to many listings in one place, which we geeks in the past have found difficult to find.
I find this interesting for a couple of reasons:
- There is widespread talk in the aviation community about the potential benefits of block chain as a repository of critical aviation data. Creating CAA-recognised digital models of the data desired to be deposited in block chain format greatly aids the proposition.
- Could this in the future lead to such a digital repository of, for example EASA Form 1s? There should be fluttering of eyebrows among you. Clearly however, the existing difference is that EASA issues the digital certificates on behalf of itself, whereas EASA Form 1s are issued by companies. Could the digitalisation of the EASA Form 1 be far behind? Before any of you fatefully shake your fickle fingers7
at me, something to acknowledge:
- Digitalisation of forms is nothing new. Many firms have done so with their forms and the result is a neat and secure PDF of the actual form for shipping with the product.
- While great for that company, the greater challenge is that the company keeps the digitised data, not accessible to any of us.
- The digital format is their own design, and not necessarily one which industry has already agreed upon.
- Any block chain solution to secure and accessible records such as certifications would be greatly enhanced by support and acknowledgement from regulatory authorities. Could this EASA initiative be the beginning?
EASA ADOPTS NEW RULES ON CERTIFICATION AND OPERATIONS OF DRONES
The segment of aviation and aeronautics with the highest rate of growth is that of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems), or by the more common parlance, drones. The on-going collaborations between industry and regulators to address the challenges of regulating UAS operations and certification of operators and aircraft is dizzying in scope and details. Given the population density of Europe and the well-publicized incidents of drone/aircraft encounters and airports being closed due to unauthorised drone activity, EASA has taken an aggressive leadership role. Most recently it released a proposal for standards for light UAS (600 kg or less, or 1,322 pounds)8. With such a high weight, this will undoubtably cover nearly all UAS operations such as package delivery. Once implemented and refined it will likely lead to a more formal Certification Specification. Earlier EASA had also released a rule on operations of drones which will become effective December of 20209. According to EASA Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc:
"The EU will now have the most advanced rules worldwide. This will pave the way for safe, secure, and green drone flights. It also provides the much-needed clarity for the business sector and for drone innovators Europe-wide."
For all these reasons we should applaud EASAs willingness to innovate and implement new ways of regulation and oversight for our ever-evolving marketplace.
PS: What do you think? Leave a comment!
Over ‘n out
Roy ‘Royboy’ Resto