Can IAA assure Safety of globally dispersed NAI operations? It’s not Open, but Safe Skies at issue!

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The impressive array of experts aligned in support of or in opposition to the notion, that the Open Skies Agreement’s “social dimension” provides a basis to deny Norwegian Air International’s foreign air carrier application, appears to have created no clear advantage for either side. The above↑ chart supports a regulatory basis for blocking approval and opens an argument not discussed in the article linked below↓.

NAI is a company based in Norway, but under the rules of the European regulatory scheme, the company holds safety authority under the Irish Aviation Authority. Further the carrier intends to hire most of its flight crew personnel in Thailand and Singapore. Then the airline plans flights among Europe, Thailand, New York and Fort Lauderdale.

The situation is unprecedented and it leads to a number of pertinent questions for DoT/FAA; such as:

1. What does this operational model mean to IAA as the regulator of this multi-continental company?

2. Ostensibly, the surveillance would begin with some contact and control within the Republic of Ireland. It is reasonable to assume that the (minimal?) staff located at Dublin would rely on the parent’s executive offices in Fornebu (Bærum), Norway. The operational points could be stationed within anyone of the EU countries plus New York, Ft. Lauderdale and Bangkok. How will IAA actively watch what NAI does so that the FAA and other CAAs rely on its exercise of its authority?

Without a full schedule, it is unclear what EU cities would see NAI’s flights, but one could assume that it would include four points there. With the three overseas points, major domiciles in two Asian countries plus the four EU points, the IAA will have to position surveillance staff at nine places around the globe. This semi state company only currently employs 700 employees at six points within the island nation. This new task would require staff from its Regulatory Performance & Personnel Licensing Department (RPPLD) , Airworthiness Department (AWSD) and Flight Operations Department (FOD) organizations.

3. How will IAA staff these positions around the world?

4. How will the home office staff supervise the critical safety reviews which must be regularly performed around the world?

5. Most importantly, how will IAA pay for these added expenses?

IAA receives NO governmental funds; so to pay for these regulatory oversight services, it will increase the charges from its largest funding source (international ATC services). Its website indicates that the authority receives revenues from “safety regulation” and “commercial”.

6. Would IAA increase the ATC fees to recoup these added costs?

7. Does that mean that IAA collects fees (safety regulation and commercial) from its existing certificate holders?

8. Can/should IAA require such a payment from NAI?

9. Would payment of sizable “reimbursements” influence IAA’s regulatory judgments and/or create the appearance of friendly regulation due to this sizable payment?

IAA currently regulates two major airlines (AerLingus and Ryanair) plus four small regional airlines. The Irish national carrier serves North America and Europe; the low cost airline operates within the EU. Perhaps inspired by very negative relations with its unions, there has been less than ideal press about the safety regulation of Ryanair. the FAA IASA audit and ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme found that IAA meets or exceeds those bodies’ standards with its then existing regulatory burdens.

10. The Ryanair experience is based on a relatively simple domicile situation and yet there is some controversy. Will IAA be able to handle a multi-continent dispersal of management, operations and crews?

11. Typically new airlines, implementing new procedures, dealing with learning curves as to maintenance and operations are more demanding of the regulators. Will IAA move experienced staff to work on the NAI surveillance and regulations?

12. Will IAA hire new Irish staff to address this added burden? Or delegate surveillance to the CAAs where NAI’s operation headquarters reside(Luftfartstlsynet), US points (FAA), EU points (EASA and other EU CAAs), pilot domicile (Department of Civil Aviation), cabin crew domicile (Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore) or combination thereof?

13.If delegated, will the provision of those 3rd party services

be compensated? And how?

14.How will multi-jurisdictional coordination be handled among these sovereigns? For example, if an FAA ramp visit identifies concerns about NAI’s pilot training, should that office direct the question directly to Luftfartstlsynet? Or should the inquiry be directed directly to IAA (Dublin)? What if the pilot in question returns to Thailand, how will the question be routed? Translations and common terminology will complicate matters. It is assumed that the relevant standards are the IAA regulations and supporting documents; how will each CAA have access to those rules and how will the field personnel receive interpretation/guidance?

These thirteen questions, and likely others, are valid points which the US DoT/FAA should raise with the IAA. The proposed regulatory structure is unprecedented and will place heavy burdens on the Irish body. This is not a situation covered by a treaty which compels the US to accept the judgment of a foreign sovereign; that is the debate over the Open Skies agreement. There is no basis for deferring to the IAA because this sort of regulatory surveillance has not been done before.

Ask these questions and see if the US can really rely on a foreign civil aviation authority to assure that the completely dispersed NAI will be safe. The question is not Open Skies, but Safe Skies!

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