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EASA and Its Role as Regional Safety Oversight Organisation

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Have you heard of the Forum on Regional Safety Oversight Organizations (RSOOs) held in 2017? ICAO and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) jointly organized this Forum in March 2017 in Swaziland to discuss how regional cooperation can be enhanced for ensuring effective and efficient safety oversight and which benefit regional cooperation mechanisms can bring to States. The Forum succeeded very well and achieved a high attention not only by the States’ representatives but also by the industry and other interested organizations. As its outcome a proposed Global Strategy and Action Plan was supported for the improvement of RSOOs and the establishment of a Global System for the Provision of Safety Oversight. These actions form an important part of ICAO’s effort to develop aviation safety oversight, which is very necessary in order to be able to respond to the new challenges emerging in the changing aviation environment.

The strategy and action plan for the improvement of RSOOs, and the establishment of a global system for the provision of safety oversight represents the outcome of discussions at the Forum on potential solutions to many of the challenges faced by RSOOs, foremost of which is the need to ensure their sustainable funding and adequate empowerment, with respect to the tasks and functions they carry out for their members. The strategy and action plan seeks to put in place solutions that will enhance the effectiveness of the existing RSOOs, as well as better align them with the global and regional programmes of ICAO.

At the same time, there is a need for safety oversight to meet the challenges posed by growing air traffic, which is expected to double over the next fifteen years, and changing aircraft ownership, registration and user business models. To this end, the Forum discussions agreed on the need to complement the current prevailing concept of national and regionalbased safety oversight systems with a globally based system that would be composed of a range of safety oversight providers, including the RSOOs. RSOOs will be recognized as an integral part of a global aviation safety oversight system led by ICAO, within the framework of the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP), and maintaining the States’ obligations and responsibilities for safety oversight under the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

Improving the performance of RSOOs also entails strengthening cooperation and information sharing between RSOOs. For this reason, it was proposed to establish an RSOO Cooperative Platform coordinated by ICAO. The objectives of this Platform are to facilitate inter-RSOO communication and to become an information hub and competence centre by facilitating the exchange of information and sharing of best practices.

Since the Forum, ICAO has initiated several actions to implement its new RSOO strategy. Firstly, an evaluation of RSOOs. A questionnaire was sent to 16 RSOOs to collect information on their scope, governance, funding and activities.

Secondly, ICAO has initiated a study on the proposed global aviation safety oversight system supported by a Study Group to discuss and advise on an enhanced oversight system which would include some form of recognition and oversight of RSOOs and also oversight of the service providers. ICAO will report on first results during SANIS in December 2017.

Thirdly, ICAO is developing guidance and a mechanism to share safety inspector resources that will dovetail with the RSOO strategy.

EASA is keen to share its experience, to learn from others and to see other RSOOs growing in a similar way, adapted to their region.

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Perhaps you are still wondering about the benefits of an RSOO compared to the default system in which each State takes care of its own ICAO responsibilities independently? Let’s look at an obvious example of regional cooperation in Europe. EASA is the RSOO for Europe. It exists since 2003 and has 32 European Member States.

In some areas EASA has an exclusive competences; for example the type certification of aircraft. This means that an aircraft is only certified by EASA instead of 32 authorities and that the type certificate is recognised in all Member States without any additional conditions. This is a great efficiency gain – not only for the national authorities but also manufacturers which have a “one-stop shop” for all design related and type certification issues.

In other areas, EASA has a shared competence with its Member States. For example, EASA prepares common rules in the area of air operations.

EASA is also reaching out to the ICAO European and North Atlantic Office, and discussions are underway on how the European Aviation Safety Plan produced by EASA could form a basis for the ICAO Regional Safety Plan and how this joint approach could help Member States to elaborate and establish their State Safety Plans.

Similar collaboration is naturally established with industry and other relevant professional organizations.

EASA is one RSOO model, benefitting in particular from the European integration process. The EASA model may not fit all regions and there are certainly RSOOs in other regions which bring great value to their Member States by applying a different approach and exercising different competencies.

With this experience, EASA is supporting ICAO in the implementation of the Global Strategy and Action Plan for RSOOs. EASA is providing resources to ICAO, and is in particular supporting the set-up of the RSOO Cooperative Platform. With this Platform bringing RSOOs together to exchange best practices, share information and collaborate on common work, EASA is keen to share its experience, to learn from others and to see other RSOOs growing in a similar way, adapted to their region. This is why EASA is also supporting RSOOs worldwide through technical assistance projects.

In line with the ICAO strategy, EASA is convinced that regional cooperation is an appropriate and beneficial mechanism to act on today’s challenges so that we all can assure a safe aviation system.

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Mr. Patrick Ky became Executive Director of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on 1 September 2013. His mission will be to further consolidate the role and responsibilities of the Agency to become a worldwide reference in aviation and to make the European aviation regulatory system a fully consistent, efficient and reliable framework.

This article was originally written for the ICAO EUR/NAT Office’s Newsletter (Issue 2) on October 2017. A full list of their newsletters can be found here

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