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17 February 2021
EU Regulation 2018/1139 enables airlines that operate in more than one EU member state under multiple air operator certificates (AOCs) to obtain a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) AOC (for further details please see "New basic regulation will revise aviation landscape").
EASA – headquartered in Cologne, Germany – is responsible for safety oversight and certification for all aircraft with an EASA AOC. Thus, the EASA AOC enables airlines which have aircraft registered in different European states to report to a single competent authority in relation to safety oversight and certification, which may significantly reduce costs.
However, the aviation authorities of the countries in which the aircraft are registered continue to exercise regulatory control over other matters (eg, carriers' operating licences and route permits).
EU Regulation 2018/1139 also enables maintenance and training organisations which operate in multiple member states to request that EASA act as their competent authority, rather than the national authority in each individual country in which they have a business entity.
On 1 August 2020 Wizz Air Hungary became the first airline to obtain an EASA AOC. This means that from this date, EASA acts as its competent authority for safety oversight rather than the Hungarian civil aviation authority.
On 13 October 2020 Luxaviation Group – a leading business aircraft and helicopter operator – took the first step towards obtaining EASA regulatory oversight for all of its European group airlines by transferring its Portuguese entity to the safety oversight of EASA, becoming the first operator of business aircraft to do so. Luxaviation Group manages 235 aircraft and 35 helicopters under 15 AOCs, nine of which are provided by European regulators. In addition to the AOC originally held in Portugal, the group holds AOCs in Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Luxaviation Group is in the process of obtaining the addition of its French registered aircraft to its EASA AOC.
Luxaviation also owns G-registered aircraft under a UK AOC. However, Luxavation will not be able to move those aircraft to the EASA AOC because of Brexit.
Since the adoption of EU Regulation 2018/1139, an airline can have an operating licence from one member state and one or several AOCs from other member states or from EASA. Specifically, under Article 4(b) of EU Regulation 1008/2008 (as amended by EU Regulation 2018/1139), in order to obtain an operating licence, an airline must hold:
a valid AOC issued in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council either by a national authority of a Member State, by several national authorities of Member States acting jointly in accordance with Article 62 (5) of that Regulation or the Agency.
Pursuant to Article 65 of EU Regulation 2018/1139, an airline may request that EASA act as its competent authority responsible for tasks relating to certification, oversight and enforcement by way of derogation from Article 62(4). This request can be made where an organisation holds an AOC or is eligible to apply for one, but has or intends to have a substantial proportion of facilities and personnel covered by that certificate located in one or more other member states. Such a request may also be made by two or more organisations that form part of a single business group where each organisation's principal place of business is in a different member state and each either holds an AOC or is eligible to apply for one.
If an airline intends to obtain an EASA AOC, it must send a request to EASA and the national aviation authority (NAA) of the member state in which it has its principal place of business. Without undue delay, EASA and the NAA must consult with each other and, if needed, seek supplementary views from the airline. As part of those consultations, EASA and the NAA will consider whether to make use of inspectors and other personnel available to the NAA in the case of an agreement on reallocation.
If, following those consultations, EASA or the NAA considers that the request would have an adverse effect on its ability to effectively conduct certification, oversight and enforcement tasks under EU Regulation 2018/1139 (and under the delegated and implementing acts adopted on the basis thereof), or that it would otherwise adversely affect the effective functioning of the NAA, it must inform the airline and provide justification within 180 days from the date of receipt of the request. The NAA must notify the EASA of its decision in this respect. In such cases, the request is considered dismissed.
If the request is successful, EASA and the NAA will propose detailed arrangements concerning the reallocation of responsibility for the tasks concerned. The airline will be consulted on the arrangements before they are finalised. The arrangements must, at a minimum:
EASA and the NAA must ensure that the reallocation of the responsibility for the tasks is carried out in accordance with the arrangements. As far as possible, EASA must use the inspectors and other personnel available in the relevant member states. Once the reallocation is complete, EASA becomes the competent authority responsible for the tasks covered by the request. The member states are relieved of the responsibility for those tasks.
EASA has authority over the airline only with regard to safety oversight and the AOC. All other matters regarding enforcement and the allocation of responsibilities provided for in EU Regulation 2018/1139 (and the delegated and implementing acts adopted on the basis thereof) remain with the NAA.
On average, it takes between two and three years to obtain an EASA AOC.
Acquiring an AOC from EASA will benefit both commercial airlines and business aviation operators that have plans to expand into other countries. The EASA AOC is well suited to airlines that have multiple operating bases in different member states because EASA will ensure one standard of oversight is used consistently. Its high standards are also recognised internationally, giving customers confidence in airlines with an EASA AOC.
EASA's unified oversight authority will also lower regulatory costs and increase safety. Consistency between member states reduces the likelihood of operational errors caused by conflicting operational parameters.
Moreover, the EASA AOC creates a single management system in relation to operation and safety, meaning that airlines need not deal with different approaches by each member state. The time and effort required to carry out audits and assess their results should therefore be significantly reduced.
For business aviation operators, there is the additional benefit of EASA having a good understanding of the specifics of business aviation (rather than solely commercial aviation), compared with some local authorities.
For further information on this topic please contact Christine Kranich or Ulrich Steppler at Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein by telephone (+49 403 177 9756) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein website can be accessed at www.asd-law.com.
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