Two recent International Aviation Safety Judgments should cause Rethinking of the current Sovereign to Sovereign Audits

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The globe is composed of 196 countries (of which 192 are members of the United Nations). Each is a sovereign; within their boundaries and where flag flies (for embassies, ships and aircraft—the later tow in very specific situations) their laws prevail. As a matter of international diplomacy and in many instances law, it is inappropriate for Sovereign A to question Sovereign B as to matters with its borders.

For a variety of reasons, the International Civil Aviation Organization (USOP), EC/EASA (Black list) and the FAA (IASA) have created an anomalous auditing program in which they peer into the aviation safety regulation of their peers! The below two articles are perfect proof of that this practice may be a bit hypocritical.

There is an argument to be made that three different reviews by ICAO, EASA and FAA are burdensome and repetitive. One audit could easily replace all three and provide all of the judgment needed. One alternate view might recognize that a sovereign CAA might choose an approach which does not conform to the audit “cookie cutter”.  There is sufficient history with these 3rd party audits that there may be reason to revise the standards used to assess the sovereign CAA’s performance.  Maybe it would be useful to empower a neutral body to perform single review; ICAO is managed by its members, some of who might be targets for greater criticism.  At a minimum, it would appear timely that the three overseers to reconsider what and how they do it.

The FAA’s IASA team is reviewing the DGCA of India; because a previous assessment relegated them to a Category II status. The authorities have responded in a manner which reflects their indignation of having another country cast aspersions on the efficacy of their safety program. It also included some of the sorts of innuendos which do not raise a sense of comity between the parties.

The below story shows one of the problems with one country commenting on the safety efficacy of another. The FAA team is quoted as stating that they should “… hire people with technical background at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the local regulator which has typically been headed by a senior civil service official.”

The FAA has statutory language mandating that its Administrator must “… have experience in a field directly related to aviation” (49 USC §106 (c)(3)). A strict review of the credentials of past Administrators might not find that each of them met that strict requirement. Quite frankly, there have been times when a 3rd party audit of the FAA might have criticized the lack of a senior official with “technical background.

The EU/EC/EASA may have a similar problem on its own hands. The second story linked below. There

“The EASA, an EU agency, ‘had pointed out several cases of non-conformity,” spokesman Dominique Fouda said, confirming a Wall Street Journal report.

On the basis of the EASA recommendations the European Commission launched, in late 2014, a process calling for accountability from Germany,” he continued.

and later

“According to Saturday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, ‘EU officials said Germany’s air-safety regulator suffered from chronic staffing shortfalls that could undermine its ability to run checks of carriers and crew, including medical checks.’

An EU Commission spokesman told AFP that, based on the EASA findings, it had “told Germany to get its aviation industry in conformity” with the rules.

‘Germany’s responses are currently being evaluated, ‘he added.

‘This is part of a continuous system of supervision” in a process which can culminate in corrective action”.

That comment directed to a CAA outside of Europe might have resulted in its carrier being blacklisted. EASA took no action against the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt.

These two separate, independent stories emphasize how difficult it is for one sovereign to impose their perspective on another. Culturally there may be differences; in some countries, for example, the appreciation for record-keeping is not as severe as other countries. Castigating that group for underwhelming attention to paperwork may be unjustified; for their inspectors may have the technical competence to determine the skill level of pilots, mechanics, etc.

This is not to condemn UAOP, IASA or the Black List, but to suggest that some introspection might now be justified before another caustic critique is issued.

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