Two criticisms of Foreign CAAs suggest that US should rearticulate the FAA’s global aviation safety mission

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The below two articles suggest that there may be a need for a consistent statement (the transformational 2015 FAA Reauthorization bill?) of what the United States international aviation safety policy is or what its goals should be. The current statutory and regulatory statements of the FAA’s international mission are based on a global aviation market in which America dominated in both the aircraft buyer and aircraft manufacturer segments. The Congressional expectations of how the FAA would attain its international mission have changed; it is clear by the trend of the past 10-20 years of budget bills that the FAA has to use a shrinking roster to meet increasing domestic and global regulatory responsibilities.

There was a time when the FAA had adequate resources to surveil all of its certificates. There was a time when a majority of the aviation buyers’ market (operators) and a majority of the Original Equipment Manufacturers were located in the US. Those facts provided a different platform for overseas actions.

The present domestic reality is that the FAA staffing requires innovative techniques (Safety Management Systems, Safety Assurance System and System Approach for Safety Oversight) to attain a level of coverage needed to assure safety. Risk analyses generated by these programs point FAA field personnel to points requiring attention. These innovative systems allow the FAA to do more with less. The demand for FAA services by the users has not diminished and the complexities of these regulatory tasks are ever more demanding.

For its international responsibilities, the personnel equation is similarly restricted; embassies are no longer willing to support FAA positions. At the same time, foreign requests for FAA approvals (OEMs, repair stations, manufacturing subcontracting, etc.) are growing. Consequently the FAA now must rely on delegation of authority to COMPETENT civil aviation authorities around the world.

To try to provide adequate surveillance over these oversees regulated entities, the FAA has created a network of Bilateral Airworthiness Agreements and Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements. As the FAA develops confidence that other Civil Aviation Authorities are capable of meeting the same high technical competence as the FAA exhibits, it grants that CAA BAA or then BASA powers. In that recognition hierarchy, the FAA signifies that their foreign counterparts are able to do the same functions at the same level of technical expertise.

With those predicates, both of the below articles reflect a lack of comity between the US and foreign aviation safety agencies.

First and most significantly, the U.S. DOT Office of the Inspector General has found in a report that the inspectors of EASA and its member countries were not adequately trained to inspect the US certificated Part 145 repair facilities. Does this determination reflect the long held opposition of the US unions to any and all foreign repair stations? Or do the OIG auditors disrespect the technical judgment of the FAA in granting BAAs and/or BASAs[i] to

  • Austria,
  • Belgium,
  • Croatia,
  • Cyprus,
  • Czech Republic,
  • Denmark,
  • the EU [on behalf of its member countries],
  • Estonia,
  • Finland,
  • France,
  • Germany,
  • Greece,
  • Hungary,
  • Iceland,
  • Ireland,
  • Italy,
  • Latvia,
  • Lithuania,
  • Luxemburg,
  • Malta,
  • Netherland,
  • Poland,
  • Portugal,
  • Romania,
  • Slovakia,
  • Slovenia,
  • Spain,
  • Sweden
  • and the United Kingdom.

[i] Countries with BASA status are listed in BOLD.

Each of those agreements reflect long, careful consideration of the abilities of each of these CAAs; the process of granting these recognitions involved detailed, thorough reviews of the people, policies and practices of each of these governmental bodies.

 That’s a long list of CAAs found by the FAA to have the ability to adequately regulate airworthiness issues. Why does the OIG ignore the FAA’s technical expertise and substitute its finding of a need for more training? (As noted by ARSA’s MacLeod in the attached article, the OIG has previously criticized the lack of training, an issue which is frequently mentioned in the union diatribes.)

caa11Thailand is another case of a critique by the US of a foreign authority on an issue for which the FAA might be susceptible—inadequate staffing. The irony is that the US aviation safety agency has been compelled by its legislature to meet its regulatory burden with fewer staff and now to find fault with the Thai equivalent for having an inadequate inspector roster. Might it not be more appropriate for the FAA team to educate transport minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong about the value of Safety Management Systems, Safety Assurance System and System Approach for Safety Oversight to deal with such a shortage. Such an alternative might be more ingenuous.

The world of aviation is dynamic. Asia has become a major buyers’ caa44market; the Arab world has created major airlines and hub airports; China aspires to become a major producer of all sorts of aircraft; Brazil has already reached the #3 manufacturer status. The US no longer dominates this field and it needs to develop a global aviation policy which gives due deference to other countries.

That is not to say that the FAA needs to accept lesser aviation safety standards, but Congress, the OIG, the FAA and other major aviation safety policymakers need to accept that other countries should be recognized for their technical expertise. The Wright Brothers may have invented heavier-than-air controlled, powered flight (yes, Brazil and Alberto Santos du Mont you claim to be 1st), but the US did not retain the intellectual property rights to aviation. As sovereigns deal with other sovereigns, we need to be more magnanimous in understanding about cultural and non-substantive differences between the US and the rest of the aviation world.


ARTICLE: Watchdog: FAA Oversight of EU Repair Stations Subpar

ARTICLE: FAA says Thai aviation industry lacks sufficient qualified personnel

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