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EASA regulations: operators must comply or risk losing certificate
Regulation changes in business aviation are nothing new, but EASA's Air Operations Regulations, which replace EU-OPS and come into effect towards the end of this year, are especially fundamental.
Read this story in our May 2014 printed issue.

Regulation changes in business aviation are nothing new, but EASA's Air Operations Regulations, which replace EU-OPS and come into effect towards the end of this year, are especially fundamental.

For operators, the new regulations – which were enacted into law in October 2012 – mean that they will need to demonstrate complete transparency in their management systems, including structure, safety and compliance.

Each national aviation authority (NAA) was given the freedom to decide how they wanted to manage the implementation of the new regulations, but even those who have taken advantage of the full two-year transition period will need to have fully implemented them by 28 October of this year.

AOC holders who do not comply with the new regulations and demonstrate safety management, will be liable to have their AOC suspended, meaning their aircraft will be grounded.

Former UK CAA regional manager Jon Walker believes the new regulations will 'change the landscape for the better' for operators across Europe.

He explains: “One of the key differences between EU-OPS and EASA is that EASA requires you to look for and manage hazards.

“EU-OPS requires compliance with the rules and it was assumed those rules would make you safe, but of course those rules were quite a narrow band.

“EASA says if you are an aviation organisation, you are bound to have hazards. You must find them and manage them. It is not for us to tell you what they all are.

“Then it will be down to the regulator to interact with the organisation and ascertain whether those hazards are appropriate and are appropriately managed.”

It is hoped that the new regulations will instill greater maturity in the relationship between the organisation and the regulator. Operators will require less interaction with regulators as confidence increases.

Walker, who is now director of flight operations at GSS Air, a UK AOC holder based at London Stansted, believes some smaller organisations may find the fundamental changes harder to achieve, and that there will also be challenges for EASA and NAAs.

“In my experience most smaller organisations are not particularly advanced with safety management systems, so it is a bigger jump for them to introduce these procedures.

“Under EASA they have to show written process and then show they are following that process through documented evidence.

“The challenge for EASA is going to be standardising the NAAs so they all have a common approach to this new generation of oversight and regulation.

“And I think there will be a challenge for some of the national aviation authorities because a lot of them are cash-strapped with all the pressures on governments within Europe right now.”

Walker says that some operators are more prepared for EASA than others, but many believe that the alterations are a mere re-jigging of the rules. “It is in fact much more of a philosophical change which is needed,” he adds.

“EU-OPS was about compliance, this is all about safety management and in-house identification and I think some organisations haven't yet seen that or understand the amount of work that it will involve.

“Traditionally, operators have had a safety department, flight operations department, and an engineering department who come together in a safety meeting once a month. The new EASA regulations require those teams to share their information continuously so the organisation can get a full picture of risk at any one time. For some that is not going to be easy.”

It's time for operators to get on board

Among the charter operators who have made the changes already is Biggin Hill-based Catreus. It has a fleet of seven aircraft including several Citation XLs.

Accountable manager Cy Williams believes that once operators have completed the work involved in meeting the new regulations, they will see real business benefit.

“Obviously when any new regulation comes out, the knee-jerk reaction is 'What now? What more hurdles are being put in front of us?' But once I started researching it, I realised this time it is not just a tick-box exercise.

“It is about the ethos within a company and the way it thinks, and I think it will really benefit operators, especially younger ones. We have had to jump through hoops previously while others could use grandfather rights to carry on. Now there will be a much more level playing field. Everything will become much fairer.

“Once an operator meets the new regulations, the NAA will have peace of mind that any expansion of your organisation will be handled in a strategic manner and you can take on new challenges. That gives us all fantastic potential for growth.”

Williams began looking into the new regulations at the beginning of last year, and was able to complete and pass his SMS Phase 2 in January. In April, Catreus' new manuals were submitted to its flight operations inspector, who said they are likely to be one of only a handful of UK operators who will receive approval by the end of May.

He continues: “We wanted to move quickly because I like to do things in a logical and controlled way instead of rushing and getting things wrong. I also know the CAA is likely to be bombarded with manuals closer to the deadline so I felt more comfortable getting in early so I can focus on the business, rather than have all hands on deck through the summer.

“Larger operators will be able to assign a team to this, but as a smaller operator it is a lot of work and there are a lot of changes to be made with limited resources.”

To support his internal team, Williams employed external consultants Total AOC to re-write his manuals and provide an overview to compliance.

He said: “Any small operators who haven't started looking at this yet, or who are struggling to cope with the changes internally, should definitely look to get external support. It can really lift the strain on your organisation and because you can employ advisors who work alongside the CAA you get peace of mind that you'll do it right first time.”

Williams has used Total AOC's digital management software Centrik for more than a year, and believes the new regulations will prove to be a catalyst for other organisations to turn to digital to streamline their operations.

He says: “The aviation industry has been a slow adopter of digital software, probably because there is a 'it's not broken, so why fix it' mentality, but I think it is a question of understanding what digital can do for you. I no longer have to wait for management reports, or a management meeting once a month. Everything is centralised into one system which anyone in the company can access.

“I have shown other operators the system we use and they have signed up within a week. Once you see what it can do for you, you realise how valuable it can be to your organisation. And it is nice to see people embracing digital at last. I think as an industry we have got through the trust issue and now we are really starting to turn a corner."

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