1944 Chicago Convention, the seminal global aviation agreement set COOPERATION as Gold Standard
Sean Broderick reminds aviation regulators of that GOAL
Positive speeches by FAA and EASA at International Aviation Summit
ICAO’s state-of-art SMS risk management tool pushes collaboration, too
The Chicago Convention was the joint work of fifty-four nations, “to promote cooperation” and “create and preserve friendship and understanding among the nations and peoples of the world”. That 78 year old multi-national agreement may have lost some of its resonance in today’s global competitive commerce. Sean Broderick’s essay, Aviation Safety’s ‘Gold Standard’ Isn’t An Agency—It’s An Outcome, reminds all aviation safety professionals of the need, perhaps MANDATE, to collaborate on matters of safety.
One of the essential pillars of this state-of-the-art risk management tool is collaboration among the units of the regulated organization, among like situated safety companies and by extension among the Civil Aviation Authorities around the globe. A diversity of perspectives is a proven method to optimize a solution,
This Daily Memo was a much needed repetition of these Chicago and SMS principles. A goal of being the top CAA is antithetical to those truths; indeed, as Director Ky pronounced, their mission is SAFE PRODUCTS, not some imaginary, comparative ranking. Still, this astute reporter mentions that the FAA-EASA relationship is both “quite healthy” and at the same time “tense.”
After years of hearing that the FAA is the GOLD STANDARD of aviation safety, the other CAAs increasing angst about this title. The tension may be beyond the bilateral situation between the US and the EU.
The FAA and EASA have some mending of fences before them. The Max 8 maelstrom had to have detracted from the trust that was developed through the BASA process. No psychiatrist can help repair that schism. Working through the Boeing 737 MAX 10, 777-10x, etc., the FAA staff engineers must demonstrate to their EASA peers the integrity of their work and the support of their management. FAA senior management first and then EASA executives must see that the ODA actions, with the legislated reforms, are reliable.
The Daily Memo notes several instances in which it might be inferred that the FAA conceded on points of difference. Hopefully, the US accepted the EU position on substance—if not, the effort to restore technical equality will likely have a very long timeline to parity,
Aviation Safety’s ‘Gold Standard’ Isn’t An Agency—It’s An Outcome
The concept of a winner-take-all battle between the FAA and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the title of global aviation safety’s “gold standard” regulator is amusing at best, and absurd at worst.
Multiple competent regulators with broad experience—think certifying transport-category aircraft, the companies that build them and the operators that fly them—benefits the industry. Each regulator brings different perspectives and philosophies— traits that become even more important under the so-called performance-based regulatory approach that is a must for any agency that wants to keep up with the pace of change.
“There is no competition, because it doesn’t make any sense to say, ‘I’m the gold standard, and you are the silver standard,’” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky told reporters at the FAA/ EASA International Aviation Safety Summit, held in Washington in mid-June. “What matters is that our products—all our products—are as safe as possible.”
But an absence of competition[i] does not equal an absence of conflict. While FAA and EASA officials emphasize that relations between the two agencies are, to use Ky’s words, “quite healthy,” they also acknowledge—both directly and indirectly—that there’s plenty of tension, too.
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen used his summit-opening keynote speech to plug the benefits of the U.S.-EU Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA). The bilateral is “the bedrock of our partnership, allowing us to validate each other’s certifications of aviation products and parts … and maximize reliance on each other for approvals and monitoring of repair stations and maintenance,” he said. “We must recommit ourselves to this framework. Its structure and process pushes us to collaborate, while holding each aviation authority accountable. When we collaborate, both sides can devote more resources to areas that pose a higher safety risk.”
On the surface, nothing controversial there. But against a backdrop of increased involvement from EASA in a few FAA-led efforts, notably the Boeing 737 MAX’s service return and 777X certifications, it could be seen as a gentle reminder that procedures such as product validations—and the roles that each regulator plays—are spelled out in the BASA and should be followed.
Ky expressed his approval for the FAA’s recent shift in how it will certify electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft, switching from using Part 23 to Part 21.17(b) and moving much closer to EASA’s approach in the process. The FAA’s change— which was a surprise—came following discussions between the two agencies that initially went nowhere.
“We sent our special conditions to the FAA for comments— we tried to have this type of dialogue,” Ky said. “The FAA went a completely different way, which was using as a baseline for eVTOL the [general aviation] aircraft. Whereas in our case, we were using the [light] helicopter aircraft. It was a completely different approach, with pros and cons on both sides. But at some stage, we need to converge.”
These days, more convergence seems to be happening on EASA’s turf. While much of the 737-10’s development has been focused on the possibility of a new flight crew alerting system, one definite change is the enhanced angle-of-attack system EASA wanted and is expected to mandate as a retrofit for the rest of the 737 MAX family.
This may be uncomfortable for some in the industry. But the regulators’ job isn’t to keep companies—or each other, for that matter—happy. It is to make aviation, already the safest way to move people, even safer. So, the back-and-forth will go on, with dashes of conflict mixed in—just as it should. “The relationship with the FAA is healthy in the fact that they challenge on topics like the [Airbus] A321XLR, for instance, and we challenge them—[like on] 777X,” Ky said. “What matters is that we converge with the highest expectation in terms of safety levels.”
 That interagency discord likely was exacerbated by deliveries of FAA inspectors’ CAT 2 IASA decisions. Slightly tangential, the redundant FAA, EASA, ICAO and IATA audits are critique functions rather than cooperation.
 Sean is one of the best, if not THE, aviation safety journalists. His articles, almost uniquely, commands the technical details and places the regulatory significance in a broader policy context.
[i] While it is not competition on matters of safety, EASA has a global campaign to bring other CAAs into its regulatory schemes (which does impact trade)— EASA has announced a strategy to promote its flag around the world —PRC, Central America, South East Asia The FAA, by virtue of a Chair DeFazio sponsored bill, is prohibited from responding
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