The European Aviation Safety Agency was created in 2002 with the intention, as with many EU institutions, of consolidating the member countries separate safety organizations into a single body in Cologne, Germany. As explained in its website, EASA’s current duties “include the strategy and safety management, the certification of aviation products and the oversight of approved organisations and EU Member States.” Patrick Ky, named EASA Executive Director in 2013, has aspirations beyond the loose confederation.
Where does Mr. Ky want to go?
The current safety trend is directed at sharing of safety data. The larger the information set in your computer, the greater the reliability of the predictions which can be calculated from those numbers. While the EC, the EU and EASA are all targeted toward continental integration, many of the sovereigns are reluctant to even disclose safety information from within their borders. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, the Executive Director explained why he was able to consolidate these independent safety records:
“’My job is to increase the safety level in Europe,’ he said last week in an interview, by consolidating national and regional efforts, and particularly focusing on ‘the consistency, coherence of the system.’ Increasingly, Mr. Ky added, “security is linked to safety, and vice versa.”’
This is not a new crusade for Mr. Ky. His previous job was the Eurocontrol and there he was tasked with the Single European Sky initiative, an effort to eliminate the state boundaries within continental Europe. From that exercise, he learned how to deal with the individual Parliaments and even more powerful Unions of each country. His new quest will benefit from those historic intercontinental battles.
His efforts appear to have some support from the European Commission as evidenced by this quote:
“I don’t think EASA should limit itself just to safety,” according to Margus Rahuoja, Director of Aviation and International Transport at the European Commission. “We are willing to give them greater authority, but they have to be ready in terms of resources and maturity.”
Ky’s next goal is to emulate the FAA’s surveillance and enforcement jurisdiction to all of the EU Member States. As described in the WSJ article, his vision includes the following areas of central control:
“Already, he has called for additional protections for airliners flying over combat zones, and sought to insert himself into debates over airport security. He also has proposed creating a pan-European cadre of airline inspectors to fill national gaps. At the same time, EASA is moving to oversee unmanned aircraft in a dramatically different way from traditional proscriptive regulations.”
The signal of accomplishment of this unification of these powers will be when an EASA inspector issues a penalty against, suspends the certificate of or even grounds a national carrier.
This accession of power has added to EASA’s authority and may raise its ability to lead global aviation. As Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said recently, “EASA is starting to become the gold standard.” That is a disturbing prognosis.
The WSJ article also mentions that not everyone in Europe is confident that EASA is up to the task. A KLM representative questioned whether the expanded safety data base is useful; for the airlines have not figured out how to use the tool. Such a criticism actually reflects poorly on the carrier in that the US airlines are already reaping substantial safety rewards.
Attempting to conquer all of Europe is a Napoléonic task and it will be interesting if this Frenchman exceeds the Emperor’s goals. The challenges are equal to Napoléon Bonaparte’s adversaries and bulwarks. If successful, EASA may not just control the Continent and may be able to dictate to the world of aviation.