IAA’s Reliance on its Past Regulating is not Prologue to Surveilling Norwegian Air Shuttle’s Future

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ARTICLE: Irish Authority Rebuffs Attacks on Its Safety Oversight

Aside from the almost constant complaints about the Ryanair operations and the attendant questions whether it has been adequately scrutinized, the Irish Aviation Authority is defending its decision to accept the surveillance of Norwegian Air Shuttle. The IAA points to its positive ratings by ICAO and the Eurocontrol Performance Review Body to defend the integrity of their processes and standards. Those audits reviewed IAA when their primary responsibilities were regulating carriers all contained in the 32,595 square mile land mass (roughly the size of South Carolina) and headquartered completely within a small sovereign nation.

The NAS operation will be flagged in Ireland, will draw employees from around the world, may originate flights from anywhere within the EU and may operate to points within the EU and to cities around the world (subject to approvals). This scope raises significant questions:

· Does the IAA have the human resources and the budget needed to be able to actively surveil NAS’ people and procedures at places around the EU and the world? For example, how will IAA assess NAS’ opening of a new station in East Asia prior to its first flight and over time?

· Will the NAS headquarters, not just the box office but the facility where manuals are written and maintenance policy decisions are made, be in Ireland or Norway? If it is out of Ireland, will IAA have the sovereign powers needed to compel the production of documents and witnesses? If there is a need to take enforcement action, will the courts of Norway give the deference which a court normally affords to its executive branch?

· Will/can IAA rely on its own inspectors to watch over NAS? Must the Irish regulator use the staffs of other EU nations to help observe the daily operations of this far flung airline? If yes, what can be IAA’s expectations for consistency of interpretations from a multi-jurisdictional work force?

The controversy over the FAA’s jurisdiction over foreign repair stations is instructive. The US government (particularly the legislative branch) insisted that drug and security tests must be imposed. For a variety of reasons it took the TSA 10 years to establish such a regime. Ostensibly that decade was needed to consider the application of rules on a transnational basis. That was bad; a comparable delay involving the safety of a carrier is unacceptable. Is it clear that IAA can move swiftly in dealing with the truly multi-national airline?

Flags of convenience are common practice in the global ship cargo business. Quite callously the decision to place a shipment on a ship carrying a flag of a lesser safety authority is a risk adjusted by insurance; if the ship sinks, the proceeds from policy will cover the loss. This practice is not acceptable for aviation safety.

Before the world accepts IAA’s claim of competence to regulate NAS based on past performance, the Irish government should articulate a plan which fully demonstrates that the country has the resources committed to this regulator to practically regulate this truly global airline. It must have the budget to station inspectors in appropriate places where the carrier intends to operate; this includes human resources, budget and legal powers necessary to do the job. This is not a static model either; IAA must be able to move swiftly as NAS conquers the globe.

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