Transport Canada Civil Aviation, the European Aviation Safety Administration and the FAA announced that they recently signed agreements which will “allow the authorities to rely on each other’s regulatory systems.” What does that mean and what is the significance of this announcement?
A Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) is intended to be the future structure of airworthiness approvals. Currently the FAA has established relations of mutual respect with about 50 governments, including EASA. The terms of those “contracts” range from very elementary recognitions of the foreign civil aviation authority’s competence to what the diplomats call comity, i.e. the CAAs recognize that the exercise of the airworthiness authority will be accepted by the other.
In the universe of FAA BASAs, the relationships between and among TCCA, EASA and the FAA are at the highest level of mutual admiration. The most recent amendment allows products/articles approved under each authority’s Technical Standard Order to be accepted by the other signatory. That means that
“The agreements will eliminate duplicate processes, get safety enhancing equipment installed on aircraft more quickly, and save time and money for both industry and the regulatory authorities involved.”
The specific standards and procedures are contained in Amendment 1 of the Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness for Canada and FAA-EASA Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement, Revision 5 of the Technical Implementation Procedures. It was also reported that the terms will also facilitate the flow of STCs. There exist previous government-to-government documents which establish terms of acceptance of aircraft; the most recent note increases the granularity of the relationships.
The ultimate significance of this announcement among these three authorities plus the 50 or so other Bilateral Airworthiness Agreements and BASAs is a future network in which the knighted CAAs will no longer have to send their airworthiness staffs to other countries to audit the work being performed there.
The FAA’s willingness to enter into such a global “network” is in part driven by its decreasing human resource inventory. Sadly, at this time of aerospace manufacturing globalization, the FAA is narrowing its geographical presence. By removing these eyes and ears from around the world, the FAA must increase its trust of other CAAs. Query whether such confidence makes sense when the technical competence of CAAs (India, Israel, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, multiple African and South American authorities) has been questioned by both technical auditors and the press?
Another consequence involves the penumbra of power. The FAA personnel in foreign posts have been able to influence the adoption of safety standards, responses to new problems and the sharing of American aviation philosophy. If one believes that cultural exchange programs improve relations, then it is fair to hypothesize that these technical outposts of FAA aviation personnel might lead to positive considerations for American standards and products. Closing offices run contrary to these US export interests.
If these are acceptable postulates, Congress should provide the FAA with the dollars and position authorizations to carry the US aviation flag abroad. The new BASA regime (Basa nova?) may not be in step with American aviation exports.
While the BASA may be a necessary response to the FAA’s staffing realities, the above two thoughts, safety and trade, might cause Congress to reconsider the lean diet on which they have placed the FAA staffing as to their overseas presence.
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