Do All European Regulatory Authorities Deliver to the Same Standard?

A Discussion Document Raised by Steve Bentley, CEO of Sofema Aviation Services (SAS) www.sassofia.com
To Close Down European Regulatory Authorities – CAA’s?

Why I recommend closing down all European Civil Aviation Authorities and handing total responsibility to EASA!
Following Implementation within each country would reside inspectors working for EASA directly. Moreover, each Country to have independent standard oversight authority to ensure independently that EASA is fulfilling its obligated sole (Independent Quality Assurance is a fundamental building block of EASA regulatory approval).

Introduction

Despite the insistence that all regulatory authorities within the European Union are equal, the reality is they are not. Some have far better funding, Some are able to take leadership positions performing important real rulemaking contributions (The UK CAA Contribution at the top table will be sadly missed going forward) as well as contractual roles for EASA related third-country certification.
And some – simply scrape along the bottom, underfunded with a low level of personal competence, high staff turnover and a low comprehension of the English language which whether you agree or not is the “defacto” language of the Aviation Industry and is the only effective way cross EASA communication can take place without a plethora of translators.
Whilst EASA on the surface pretends that everything is ok – The reality is it is not they have modified the Basic Regulation 2018//1139 to enable them to intervene and support failing Civil Aviation Authorities. Take note of the action taken by Wizz Air https://airlinergs.com/wizz-air-hungary-is-first-airline-to-obtain-an-easa-air-operator-certificate/ Good for Wizz Air – but very telling related to the effectiveness of the system

– it is a serious issue and one which raises the specter of a repeat of the Helios Event

Cypriot CAA & Helios Airways Flight 522 – 14th August 2005

See Here for details – Aircraft Accident Report: Helios Airways Flight HCY522 Boeing 737-31S AT Grammatiko, Hellas On 14 August 2005

Author Note 1: Whilst accident reports can in some cases be several hundred pages long a great deal of understanding can be distilled from the final pages where will be found recommendations.

Following a superhuman effort*, the Safety Regulation Unit achieved to employ one Engineer and one Pilot in the spring of 2003. The Pilot remained with the Department of Civil Aviation of Cyprus for two months and then submitted his resignation.

*Author Note 2: Clearly there should not be such an effort to bring people on board if the project is correctly funded. Additionally, a staffing level of 2 persons for a country regardless of size is extremely concerning (regardless of the reason the pilot left).

The main reasons for the non-timely employment in the Safety Regulation Unit of the Department of Civil Aviation of Cyprus are the following:

(a) The lack of capable and experienced personnel in the Cyprus market during that period*
(b) The non-approval of the necessary positions by the appropriate Authority of the Ministry of Finance for the employment of personnel in the Safety Regulation Unit
(c) The very low salaries offered for the posts of both Operations and Airworthiness Inspectors, in comparison with the salaries offered by the local airlines.**
(d) The bureaucratic and time-consuming procedures in the Civil Service
(e) Terms of the Scheme of Service for the Operations and Airworthiness Inspectors’ posts (i.e. University Degree)***

Author Note 3:
* Reference Author Note 2 Above
** This is still a valid concern in many Civil Aviation Authorities in 2020 and creates weakness exposure and low-level competence – which is clearly evident to industry if not to the authorities – already a precursor.
*** EASA does not place over importance on a degree as a precursor for either a role in the authority or acceptance as a post holder.

Quote from EASA Part CAMO Regulation – personnel qualified to perform their allocated tasks and have the necessary knowledge, experience, initial and recurrent training to ensure continuing competency.

Whilst a degree is for sure an indicator of a basic knowledge it is in no way a uniquely required element of building competence.
Still, if you complain to EASA they will advise you to address the applicable authority directly and if you want to go the legal route to the ECJ for resolution.
As an aside within a given country the more important the degree is perceived typically the weaker is the education system and the willingness of student’s who can afford to travel to other countries for (SIC) better education!

Cypriot CAA & Helios Airways Flight 522 – 14th August 2005

Unfortunately to-date, these reasons (Shown Above) still act as a restraining and negative factor for the proper employment of staff in the Safety Regulation Unit. It is for these reasons that we suggest that the draft final report includes this safety recommendation

The Need for an Independent CAA* – The Ministry of Communications and Works must immediately and with no delay, proceed in changing the present status of operation of the Department of Civil Aviation of Cyprus from being a Department of the Ministry of Communications and Works to a Civil Aviation Authority.

Author Note 4: The requirement for the CAA to be independent is not an EU Legal requirement rather it is clearly a recommendation! How independent is your CAA?

More specifically, we suggest the following:
(1) The Department of Civil Aviation of Cyprus to change its status to Civil Aviation Authority.
(2) The Civil Aviation Authority to have its own separate budget

Summary

Author Note – This following statement was the final recommendation post the tragic accident with the loss of 121 people
The Civil Aviation Authority will be governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Council of Ministers. The Members of the Board of Directors must have exceptional knowledge and experience in one or more areas of Civil Aviation. The knowledge and experience of the Members of the Board of Directors must, in so far as possible, cover all aspects of Civil Aviation. In addition to the above, a Legal and a Financial Adviser must be also appointed.

Final Note – How effective and Independent is your CAA?

Consider the following questions:
a) Do you have effective and efficient internal communications or are they designed to be protective rather than proactive?
b) Do you have effective external communications as well as strong links to Industry?
c) Are you able to actively lobby EASA for safety-related changes? How many regulatory changes in the last 5 years are down to your specific actions?

If you are not driving the train you are effectively a passenger whose primary concern is when the conductor checks your ticket everything is in order!

Steve Bentley is an advocate for EASA to take direct responsibility for all European Regulatory Approval (Not just EASA Part 21 Subpart J) as the safest way for the Industry to Function. He is also CEO of Sofema Aviation Services www.sassofia.com & SofemaOnline www.sofemaonline.com. You can email Steve at office@sassofia.com