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Monday, March 1, 2004

Goliath Sits Down With David

by Ian Parker


Whenever regulatory bodies decide to expand or reorganize, those affected may tremble with fear. These bodies tend to be insensitive to the needs of the smaller groups they govern, such as the helicopter industry. But all signs are that cooperation and understanding are prevailing as Europe overhauls its regulatory framework–mainly due to the European Helicopter Assn. and its tireless chief executive, Jan Willem Stuurman.

On November 25, the European Aviation Safety Agency became a member of the Joint Aviation Authorities. This has caused some confusion because many people thought the safety agency was taking over from the JAA. However, the European Union has only 15 member states and there are 41 states participating in the JAA. It was under the auspices of the 41-member European Civil Aviation Conference that EASA signed the JAA arrangements. (ECAC states are Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.)

These so-called Cyprus Arrangements “focus on the development, the acceptance and the implementation of common aviation safety rules in Europe.” The continued existence of the JAA and EASA will allow EU and non-EU states to continue working together. But where does all this leave helicopters?

Rotor & Wing caught up with Jan Stuurman when he was in Toulouse for an EASA meeting. “We are very lucky that we have a seat on the Advisory Board of Interested Parties (ABIP),” he said. “I’m here as a watchdog to make sure that helicopters are not pushed aside.”

While the safety agency came into full operation on September 28, he said, its staff’s work is just starting. EASA is taking over maintenance and certification duties from the JAA now, with assumption of operations and licensing coming later. The European Helicopter Assn. is “very much interested in the operational part,” he said. EHA’s direct relationship the comes through the ABIP, which is made up mostly of fixed-wing and air sports representatives.

A key issue is how EASA will access helicopter expertise in its deliberations, he said. The JAA relies on committees working with authorities. EHA is represented by a helicopter subcommittee. “We are working towards a similar approach with EASA.”

The constitution of EASA requires the agency to listen to minority groups. A recent difficulty with air sports was addressed by that group. “If I see that helicopters are not getting the attention they deserve, I will do something about it,” Stuurman told R&W. “EHA is going to form an EASA committee and everything will be discussed there. People say the helicopter industry is small, but it’s not so small any more.” As an example, he cited the EHA’s influence on rulemaking. “If you look at JAR OPS 3 in 1995 and JAR OPS 3 in 2003, it’s like the difference between night and day,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress. This will help also in EASA. I’m sure of it.”

Klaus Koplin, head of the JAA, recently gave a presentation to the German Helicopter Assn. about how the JAA and EASA will fit together. EASA is a fully empowered body, but the JAA is not–it is an advisory body existing by agreement only. It has had problems getting its members to introduce new standards together.

Its Agenda for Change Initiative says the JAA has “a record of considerable achievement,” but European aero-political developments and expansion of its membership and scope “have highlighted that possibilities for further developing the initial organizational model were now exhausted.” It is clear, it adds, that “greater emphasis needs to be placed on the implementation by member states of regulations within agreed timeframes.”

Implementing new rules can be costly. JAA members have, on occasion, dragged their feet on rules requiring new gear or training. The JAA could do nothing because it is only an advisory body. EASA will actually have the power to make changes. It will be interesting to see how future rules are adopted by EASA and non-EASA members of JAA.

One thing is certain. The EHA has the helicopter community well positioned and well represented with the JAA and EASA, so rotorcraft will not get a raw deal.

Other regions would do well to look at the European experience. It has even been suggested the FAA is well behind Europe in updating rules applicable to helicopters. Sometimes it can be difficult to work out who is David and who is Goliath.

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