If the first step toward recovery is admitting there is a problem, the European Aviation Safety Agency has gone further than its various counterparts in recent public statements acknowledging that existing aviation regulations are “disproportional” and “excessive” when applied to general aviation.
Those words were used in a presentation given this month at Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany. The presentation detailed the agency’s three-year timetable for creating a less burdensome set of GA regulations. A concurrent statement that “EASA is on the road towards simpler, lighter, better rules for general aviation” included in an April 14 news release announcing new and “more accessible instrument ratings” for GA pilots also reflects a shift in mindset and commitment. The actions are in large part the result of the advocacy of AOPA counterparts in Europe.
Craig Spence, secretary general of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations, said the efforts of many of the AOPA’s working together in Europe have made this a reality, and two IAOPA colleagues in particular—IAOPA Senior Vice President Martin Robinson and Dr. Michael Erb, deputy vice president of IAOPA-Europe—have been instrumental in shifting the discussion and opening the door to more sensible regulations.
“It’s encouraging that EASA has, number one, realized that they’ve over-regulated general aviation,” Spence said. EASA began to assess GA regulation back in 2007, and recently detailed a timetable to complete the overhaul in 2017.
“We applaud that effort,” Spence said, adding that there are some elements of the overhaul that need to be tackled much sooner, including a variety of regulations currently on the books that directly conflict with other regulations. “It’s imperative that they get those bad regulations off the books as fast as they can.”
The EASA “Roadmap” for general aviation regulation includes a parallel to the ongoing FAA effort to overhaul aircraft certification rules under Part 23, long advocated by AOPA and other groups as a crucial step to reducing cost and increasing safety. EASA is also studying ways to lift the burdens imposed on small GA operators currently forced to duplicate the safety and management systems used in the commercial air sector.
“Maintenance and certification is one of the areas we hope will get squared away, and get squared away in a quick fashion,” Spence said, noting that the cost burdens that follow from having to run a small shop like a large airline are driving operators out of business. “There’s a lot of folks that aren’t going to last three years if these rules aren’t changed.”
Spence said it is nonetheless very encouraging that EASA has embraced the need to adopt regulations specifically suited to GA, and recognize that the systems and procedures that make modern air travel safe do not necessarily increase safety in the GA area—in fact, in many cases, the opposite is achieved. IAOPA will continue to work with other GA stakeholders and regulators to see that this new mindset bears fruit.
“It’s good news all the way around,” Spence said.