On Sept. 15, U.S. and European aviation regulators signed a revised bilateral aviation safety agreement that promises to streamline how the FAA and EASA process each other's approvals under Technical Standard Orders (TSOs), which lay out minimum performance standards for specified materials, parts and appliances used on civil aircraft. Industry officials say the agreements, which don't go into effect until the new agreement is coordinated among all 28 member states of the European Union, could lay the foundation of greater cooperation between the FAA and EASA on certification of aviation products. We asked three questions about the new agreement to Walter L. Desrosier, the vice president of engineering and maintenance for the General Aviation Manufacturers Assn., which represents more than 80 of the world's leading manufacturers of general aviation airplanes and rotorcraft, engines, avionics and components, as well as providers of related services.
What would the new agreement change?
Historically, the bilateral aviation safety agreement between the FAA and EASA has been one under which those regulators validate all design approvals issued by the other. This means that a manufacturer has to go through an entire certification process with the other regulator, whose engineering specialists conduct a review of the standards used to issue a TSO. They decide whether to apply those same standards or require additional certification work. They then issue an entirely separate TSO covering the same product. That adds no safety to the end product, only paperwork and time.
Under the new agreement, what the FAA and EASA did is say that they deem each other's systems, safety standards and technical competence to be comparable and equivalent. Based on that, each agrees—when the agreement goes into effect fully—to accept most TSOs issued by the other without going through separate validation and certification processes.
Why is that significant?
Once this process is implemented, it will give manufacturers a much more predictable, streamlined, timely and lower-cost path to bring TSO'd articles to market and make them available to customers both in the U.S. and in Europe.
The biggest benefit, we think, will be for aircraft owners and operators because they are going to have more equipment available to choose from.
Another big benefit we see from a GAMA perspective is a huge improvement to the potential safety enhancements that can be introduced to the general aviation fleet. There is a significant volume of TSO'd articles and technologies issued by the FAA simply because of the size and scope of the general aviation fleet in the U.S.
Does the significance of this agreement reach beyond TSOs?
This is just a starting point in terms of the kind of relationship and safety cooperation that the FAA and EASA could have. They can continue this dialogue and, where they can build confidence in each other’s processes, they can start to accept more and more of each other's design approvals. That means we can have much more timely services in the industry, reducing the delays in validation project activity. We're hoping to see more major design changes and more supplemental type certificates treated in a very similar way.