Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the European Commission Directorate-General for Energy and Transport and the European Aviation Safety Agency

  Thank you for the invitation to submit evidence to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee's enquiry into the work of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency welcome this opportunity to outline the role of the CAA within European aviation safety policy and the way the Agency collaborates with the National Aviation Authorities (NAAs).

  We share the view of many in the aviation sector that the CAA is one of the most efficient and competent aviation safety authorities in the world. It has from the outset been our aim to draw upon the experience and expertise of the CAA in the work of the Agency and to achieve the best possible co-operation between the two organisations. Our comments reflect this objective.

  1.  The European Aviation Safety Agency was established in September 2002 on the basis of Regulation 1592/2002 of the European Parliament and the Council. The Agency's mission is to promote the highest common standards of safety and environmental protection in civil aviation.

  The European regulatory framework set out in Regulation 1592/2002 establishes a clear division of tasks between the Agency and the NAAs. While the Agency has taken on specific regulatory functions in the area of airworthiness and environmental certification, the implementation of European aviation safety legislation remains essentially the responsibility of the Member States. Details of the framework set out in the Regulation are given in the attached Annex.

  Individual NAAs play a crucial role in helping businesses to adapt to the European regulatory framework in the respective Member States. We believe it is important that the CAA helps actively to ensure that UK businesses are fully informed of the European regulatory framework and of any changes which may affect them. The Agency is taking every effort to enable a smooth transition to the European regulatory framework in the Member States through regular meetings with industry and NAAs and will continue to offer its assistance to the CAA to better inform UK industry of the relevant EU legislation.

  2.  In the area of type-certification, the Agency is now the only legally competent body in the EU. Moreover, with the entry into force of Regulation 488/2005 on 1 June 2005 the Agency has started charging for the certification services it provides to industry. The CAA has therefore lost an important source of revenues. This is currently compensated by a number of activities the Agency has chosen to outsource to the CAA on a contractual basis. It is important to point out that the Agency is rapidly recruiting its own certification experts and that outsourcing contracts will be substantially reduced accordingly.

  3.  As a European body, the Agency recruits staff from all Member States. In the area of certification, the Agency has recruited the majority of its experts from countries with a comparatively large aviation industry, such as the UK. Initial recruitment campaigns on behalf of the Agency with the aim to take on more experts from the CAA met with only a low response, although the situation has unproved in recent months. The Agency currently employs some 30 UK nationals (out of the present 200 Agents) most of whom have previously worked for the CAA. The Agency is dedicated to recruit more CAA staff. The working group ENACT (EASA-NAA Certification Transition), which is co-chaired by the UK representative in the Agency's Management board helps monitoring the transition and especially the transfer of personnel.

  4.  We would like to emphasise that it is not the aim of European aviation safety policy to replace the NAAs. National authorities will continue to be responsible for those operational activities which are more effectively executed at the national level. This principle remains unchanged in the Commission's recent proposal (COM 2005/579) to extend the regulatory powers of the Agency to air operations, pilot licensing and certification of third-country operators. The NAAs will thus continue to be responsible for the relevant certification tasks in their territories.

  In sum, the regulation of aviation safety relies fundamentally on good co-operation between national authorities and the European Aviation Safety Agency. We expect the NAAs including the CAA to take an active role in implementing the relevant legislation and to help provide European Citizens with the best possible regulatory system to ensure in an effective and efficient manner the highest level of aviation safety and environmental compatibility.

17 January 2006



  The Community acts primarily as a legislator. Regulation 1592/2002 (Basic Regulation) gives executive powers to the Commission to adopt implementing rules further detailing safety and environmental protection requirements and processes to be followed by individual persons and NAAs to ensure compliance with these requirements. It also requires the Agency to prepare such rules in accordance with a fully transparent process. These rules are then adopted as Commission regulations and constitute Community law. They are directly applicable in the territory of the Member States.

  In most cases, these rules are to be implemented by Member States through their NAAs and courts. This essentially covers the issuing of individual certificates to aircraft on their register, the oversight of aircrafts' continued airworthiness and the oversight of persons and organisations established in their territory. In the current scope of the Regulation, such persons and organisations are: licensed engineers; production organisations; maintenance organisations; continuing airworthiness maintenance organisations; engineers' training organisations. With the envisaged extension of the scope to air operations and pilot licensing (Commission proposal COM 2005/579), they would include most pilots, all air operators, flight and type rating training organisations.

  The same principle would also apply in any other field, such as safety certification of airports or air traffic management, where Community competence may in future be established or developed.

  The greater part of the work load will therefore remain with the NAAs, implying a commensurate number of appropriately qualified staff. Any certificate or approval issued by one Member States competent authority in accordance with the common rules is automatically valid in the whole Community.

  The executive role of the NAAs includes the preparation of guidance material to promote their customers' understanding and applying the rules, as well as to explain how they will verify compliance. It is up to the NAAs and the regulated persons to interpret Community law under the oversight of national courts, who themselves can seek the opinion of the European Court of Justice as appropriate. The NAAs are also encouraged to report to the Agency significant difficulties of interpretation of, and weaknesses in, the rules so that it can initiate the necessary adjustments.

  The Agency has established two consultative bodies, the Advisory Group of National Authorities and the Safety Standards Consultative Committee, whose main role is to assist in identifying significant areas for improvement. NAAs should therefore maintain sufficient resources to enable evaluation of their executive tasks and full participation of in the consultative bodies. This role, though probably not very significant in terms of resources, is vital for the good functioning of the European regulatory system.

  In certain cases, the Agency has also been given executive powers for the implementation of Community law. For the reasons explained above they are strictly limited to what can be better achieved centrally than locally. They only cover the approval and oversight of the design of the products manufactured or used in the Community. This includes the issuing of type certificates to aircraft, engines and propellers; the approval of parts and appliances; and the approval of changes and repairs to products, parts and appliances. As it is quite impossible to separate the issuing of the certificates from the oversight of their designers, the Agency is also responsible for issuing design organisation approvals to companies established in the Community. The Agency has also been given the power to oversee foreign organisations because it provides a one-stop-shop" for the approvals they need to operate in the single market. Again, with the envisaged extensions of the scope of the Basic Regulation, the same principle are likely to be applied and the executive powers of the Agency will continue to be limited to what is better done centrally.

  To execute its certification tasks, the Agency has made extensive use of the expertise and resources of the NAAs. This reliance on NAA expertise has also provided for a smooth transition, as those who were in charge of these tasks have been able to execute them during the time the Agency is taking over responsibility. This is however only a transitional measure. The Agency is building up its own team of expertise and expects to internalise all its core activities. Moreover the regulatory system established by the applicable law (derived from the joint requirements adopted by NAAs before the Agency existed) privileges the transfer of most minor tasks (the most frequent and the least sensitive) to the design organisations themselves when they fulfill the necessary conditions of capability.

  The legislator has also required the Agency to operate a standardisation inspection system to assist the Commission in its monitoring and enforcement role. This allows the Agency to work together with NAAs to identify shortcomings and advise on remedial actions to continuously improve European aviation safety and environmental compatibility. The Agency is establishing its own internal quality management system as several foreign aviation authorities, in particular the FAA, are doing. It expects to be ISO 9000 compliant in the next two years.

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