The EASA and FAA have had a tight relationship but due to the 737 MAX debacle, things may be different going forward.
Background on the European Aviation Safety Association (EASA)
The aviation industry is governed and protected by numerous global powers. There is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is located in Canada, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a multitude of major locations, and the European Aviation Safety Association (EASA) is headquartered in Cologne. These organizations along with many others work together to ensure the safety of air traffic, aircraft, and travelers worldwide.
The European Aviation Safety Association (EASA) was formed in 2002 and reached its height just six years later. It focuses its operations on civil aviation safety. This association covers all the countries within the EU, with the addition of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, making the total member states rank in at 32. Throughout the major offices located across the globe, there are more than 800 people employed.
Such as any governing body, the EASA operates by a specific mission statement, paired with clear tasks. Included in their mission on their website are the following:
- Ensure the highest level of safety protection for citizens of the EU.
- Ensure the highest level of protection for environment.
- Work with outside international aviation regulators and organizations.
- Facilitate the international aviation single market and create a level playing field.
- Single regulators and verification process among Member States.
What does EASA do?
Through their operations they perform numerous tasks including investigations, regulating, certifying, and standardizing different people, groups, and processes within their reach. The European Aviation Safety Association believes it’s under their watch to analyze and continuously educate themselves on updated safety laws and then implement what they learn so long as they believe it’s for the best of the citizens.
The EASA also plays a role in scribing legislation for the European Union through working hand in hand with the European Commission. Naturally, safety is the majority of the Association’s focus. Therefore, they also receive a constant influx of safety data from across the globe to analyze and use towards new legislation. As the world evolves and the aviation industry grows, the resulting conclusions formed by EASA analysts is shown through said legislation.
Another important part to this association’s operations is approval of organizations which are involved in the manufacturer of aeronautical products, additional to the maintenance and design of said products. In conjunction with a major focus on safety, another responsibility taken on by the European Aviation Safety Association is the coordination and standardization of all air traffic over the European Union. An example of their abilities within this realm include the ability to allow airspace blocks so long as there are more than three parties included.
Specific tasks which the European Aviation Safety Association conducts, stated on their website, are the following:
- Certification and approval of organizations and products where the EASA has exclusive competence.
- Promotion of the use of European and global standards.
- Drafting the implementation of rules in all fields pertaining to the mission of the EASA.
- Cooperation with international bodies in order to reach the highest level of safety for European Union citizens across the globe.
- Provide support and oversight to Member States in fields where the European Aviation Safety Association has shared competence.
The EASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Were Close Partners
The EASA works closely with the FAA as they are two of the largest aviation governing bodies, with some of the most frequently congested airspace. Daily, travelers cross the skies between the two on business or leisure. In 2013, the two organizations formulated a Rulemaking Cooperation Guideline which required them to create and apply certain procedures which involve regulatory cooperation in civil aviation, as well as throughout environmental testing and approval.
Then, in 2017, the FAA announced the intention to publish a proposed standardization of safety regulations and guidance for the assessment of airlines, in conjunction with the EASA’s approach to the same situation.
MAX Crashes Changed The Nature Of the Relationship Quickly
Most recently, in 2019, two horrendous aircraft crashes grounded the B737 MAX across the globe. The same issue in both aircraft killed hundreds of passengers, thus breaking the trust operators had in the machines. Boeing worked for months formulating fixes, and as they believed to be close to the solution, more issues would arise. This caused a massive headache for the FAA as one of the most popular narrowbodies produced in their country had stopped operations.
The Executive Director of the European Aviation Safety Association announced later in 2019 that this situation will have a ripple effect which could potentially change the hierarchy within the relationship of the FAA and EASA as the trust was severed. According to AINonline, This had already caused a sort of “de-alignment” as the EASA trusted the Federal Aviation Association to correctly certify the MAX, to avoid the exact horrors that ultimately occurred.
In the same article, AINonline also reported that there’s a lack of understanding on the European Aviation Safety Association’s part with how the FAA managed to allow Boeing to oversee parts of its own certification process. The Executive Director of EASA Patrick Ky claimed such events would not happen within his realm as they have an incredibly structured system of delegation and methodology which had been agreed upon by the appropriate people.
On March 12th, 2019, the EASA banned the MAX from their airspace, removing themselves from the potential of a third horrific event. Once the MAX software issue has been solved, there will then be four more hoops which it has to jump through for the EASA to allow it back in their airspace. They are a thorough association which takes safety seriously, and what may seem like an overabundance of caution, they are sticking with their beliefs as they are looking at the bigger picture of the larger ramifications that have breached the surface since the crashes.
The EASA‘s mission is to protect its citizens and ensure the safe operations of aviation across its territory. While the tight relationship between the EASA and FAA once was once taken for granted, it’s now crystal clear how major mistakes such as this can so quickly degrade a vital working relationship. The aviation industry runs on trust and safety. You cannot have one without the other, and when one falls short, it takes many years of perfection to reach normal levels once again.