LBA’s EASA Audit
Recent EASA audits of Luftfahrtbundesamt, or LBA, the German counterpart of the FAA, was made available to The Wall Street Journal. The report found significant deficiencies with the safety efforts of the Braunschweig based organization. In fact, the inspectors report of all of the EASA member agencies ranked the LBA second to last with only Greece with a lower rating.
Considering that the GDR is the EU’s major centers of aviation surrounded by a large and stable domestic economy, this may be an astounding and potentially a very disturbing criticism.
- What exactly did EASA find wrong with the LBA?
- Was the severity of the pan European organization in line with one of its broader themes?
This most recent finding was one in a series of EASA reviews of the LBA. After a similar 2011 inspection, the European Commission included the LBA on its list of aviation-safety alerts. The next step was a 2014 warning that the LBA understaffing could impact their capacity to surveil their carriers. In 2015 the EC took an action against the German government in an EU Court alleging airport security deficiencies.
This most recent critical audit repeats the allegation that the personnel assigned to regulate the German airlines was not adequate. From that assessment and other observations, the auditors concluded that the LBA “failed to uphold or enforce European Union air safety rules in more than 15 sensitive areas.”
This timeline makes it clear that the LBA problems predate the well-known Germanwings case and the French BEA Final Report finds that the co-pilot’s mental health was a probable cause. Andreas Lubitz’s license was issued by LBA.
Both the FAA and ICAO have found LBA to meet the standards for aviation safety regulatory bodies. The consistency and objectivity of the EASA, FAA and ICAO reviews are not always perfect. In fact, it may well be possible that the approach of one CAA (i.e. the one CAA may be able to meet its surveillance requirements with fewer inspectors, due to better training or superior efficiency) may be appropriate, even though the auditing agency’s standards specify some other number ratio or criteria.
Only days before the LBA audit was made available to The Wall Street Journal, EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky announced that his organization is seeking to expand its pan European authority from the European Commission. The goal is for the central agency to regulate directly production, surveillance, cybersecurity and the data systems which feed SMS. Ky issued a quote to support his hypothesis that greater EASA involvement was needed:
“…Rolls-Royce’s factories in the UK and Germany. The engine manufacturer has reported difficulty coping with different interpretations of an EASA regulation from the respective countries’ authorities. The EASA today has no way to reconcile them, according to Ky.”
In light of this expansive initiative, maybe the precise words cited by the to The Wall Street Journal are more telling; to wit, “failed to uphold or enforce European Union air safety rules in more than 15 sensitive areas.”
A careful parsing of the EASA audit document might conclude that the LBA does an adequate job of meeting its national safety standards, but does not comport with the precise EASA criteria. Another interpretation might find that the German CAA is simply not meeting its safety obligations. If it is the latter, immediate and pervasive corrections are mandated! If it is merely a matter of a difference in interpretation, it might be time for the international aviation safety community to try to develop some new global standards which both provide minimum thresholds for all CAAs and identify variances in local applications without compromising safety.