The EU issues safety authorizations of individual carriers rather than of nations’ safety competence—a change?

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The EU, under its multilateral powers, has issued a “new safety authorization scheme” and has granted certifications to 20 Third Country Operators. The press release trumpets that this new scheme will cut “red-tape by replacing today’s maze of national authorisations with a single document and maintaining high level of aviation safety in Europe. EASA will be the ‘one-stop shop’, delivering the authorisation to airlines.” Each carrier will receive an individual TCO, but the historical country-to country safety recognitions seem to be ignored. The TCO seems to be beyond historic safety structures.

International aviation safety has historically relied on principles like the Convention on International Civil Aviation (aka the Chicago Convention). That 1944 document among nations (“Contracting States”) established the basis for flights around the globe, especially Article 3bis, that each nation would establish appropriate aviation standards of carriers carrying its flag.

The next extension of that concept is the acceptance of the safety competence of sovereigns by other countries. Countries negotiate treaties, which create economic aviation rights and in those documents they typically exchange mutual recognition of their safety certifications. (See, for example, the US Open Skies prototype Agreement which makes such a government-to-government acknowledgement.) Thus, when a carrier requests economic authority to fly to a nation, its safety is not questioned. The carrier must only comply with ministerial filings, like 14 CFR Part 129.

The new EU scheme seems to ignore the determinations of safety by other sovereigns that hold bilateral aviation agreements with its Member Nations. Now, EASA, the pan European aviation safety body, will examine the capabilities of each carrier seeking to fly within the EU. That single approval process will simplify a carrier’s review. However, the historical country-to-country determination of safety competence appears to have been replaced by a carrier-by-carrier review.

For example, the EU’s initial grant to 22 carriers includes Delta Airlines and United Airlines, but not American; no Air Canada, Varig, Royal Jordanian, Cathay Pacific and many others. The press release indicates that future Third Country Operator decisions will be issued in the future. It would be very interesting to see if these “authorizations” might include a split between two carriers from a single country—for example to approve Qantas (granted) and Virgin Australia (no TCO yet)?

The EU previously challenged ICAO’s efforts to create international environmental standards; does this TCO mean that the competence of individual nations is no longer the relevant measure of safety?


PRESS RELEASE: Aviation: certifying third country operators to cut red tape and boost air safety

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