FAA-style mega-agency for Europe?

Brussels is mulling whether to increase its control over the aviation affairs of EU nations through the creation of a US-style Federal Aviation Administration for Europe.

The European Commission has just launched a consultation process in which it seeks views on a future European Aviation Agency that would have wide-ranging powers to check that member states are applying rules – agreed at European level – consistently throughout the whole industry from airworthiness to air traffic management.

The Commission will also consider letting such a mega-agency take over some of the tasks currently undertaken by national civil aviation authorities which it reckons could free up vital resources by eliminating much of the red tape required to approve new technology.

The industry is being asked whether it thinks such an agency should be a totally new entity or whether the Cologne-based European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) should be adapted to take on the new responsibilities.

This canvassing of opinion is in preparation for the drafting of what the Commission is terming Single European Sky II+, after two less-than-wholly-successful attempts to frame a workable legislative framework within which the modernisation of European air traffic control can become a reality – on time.

“After two rounds of new initiatives, the time has also come for a simplification, to improve the usability of the regulations and a general alignment of the existing regulations with other recent regulations to make the Single European Sky and EASA rules better adapted for future use,” the Commission admits. “The objective of SES II+ is therefore to promote its speedier implementation, clearly building upon already established principles.”

For some industry observers, the plan comes as a further official admission that the Single European Sky programme is failing due to a weak institutional framework – regardless of criticism that efforts at member state level place the whole programme in peril.

“The idea of a European Aviation Administration is an idea that the Commission has been pushing for a while but it is the first time it has broken cover,” said an industry source. “The Commission would freely acknowledge that there are some things that need to be improved. A ‘Single European Sky III ‘ round would be an admission that a complete revamp was necessary. That’s not quite the case.”

He said EASA – so important in terms of its Single European Sky remit to lead the certification of new avionics and training programmes – had, to date, disappointed many due to its lack of transparency and speed of decision-making.

“Would it be a replacement or an evolution? It certainly would be a shame to lose all that expertise assiduously built up and perhaps it would simply be a case of EASA senior management reporting to the new agency. That would mean effectively a Federal Aviation Administration without an Air Traffic Organization,” said the industry source.

“In that respect, it would represent a challenge to how the Single European Sky programme is delivered and signal more ‘Europe’, and more centrally determined management of the programme.”

Posted in Avionics, CAAs/ANSPs, News, Single European Sky

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