Term contributed by Yves Morier,
retd EASA and DGAC
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is an Agency of the European Union which is responsible for aviation safety of its member states. Collectively, they are responsible for all aspects of civil aviation within member states.
EASA was created in 2002 by a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council (Member States). Who had taken over these responsibilities from the Joint Aviation Authorities. EASA extends its policies and regulations to member states of the European Union (27 EU Member States and Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).
The member States are represented in the EASA Management Board; that nominate the EASA Executive Director and adopt the budget. It also adopts various rules and regulations, notably those relative to staff and finances.
At first, EASA’s scope of competence for aviation safety was the initial airworthiness and continued airworthiness. This later extended to the whole scope of Civil Aviation Safety. State aircraft and their operations are excluded from these regulations as well as certain smaller low-risk aircraft operations.
Regulation (EU) 2018/ 1139 (the EASA Basic regulation) governs the function of EASA and defines the respective role and responsibilities of the European Commission (EC), the Member States and the Agency. Its principal objective is to establish and maintain a high, uniform level of Civil Aviation Safety in the European Union. Most recently, this includes the regulation of all civil unmanned aerial systems (UAS), when in the previous versions UAS with a maximum mass of less than 150 kg were excluded from the EU competence.
The Agency is located in Cologne (Germany) with approximately 800 employees. They also have offices in Washington DC, Montreal, Singapore and Beijing. The 2018 operational budget was €161 million, with 61% of its fees being paid by the aviation industry.
The Agency is responsible for design (e.g., Type Certificates) and associated approvals (e.g., Design Organisation Approvals, Simulators approvals) for products designed or operated within Europe. It is also responsible for all other approvals in Third Countries (e.g., third countries operators, maintenance organisation, production organisation).
There is an exception to this general rule for UAS, as the third country's drone operators are overseen by the Member State where they plan first to operate.
All other approvals are issued by Member States Competent Authorities (e.g., the Civil Aviation Authorities) for people or organisations under their jurisdiction (e.g., Licences, Air operator certificate, maintenance approvals, production approvals, Air Traffic Management and Aerodromes certificates). In the case of UAS, member States are responsible for all approvals except for the certification of UAS, e.g., pilot qualifications, authorisation for operations in the specific category, registration of UAS operators. Approvals issued by member States are valid in all EU and associated States. There is a slight difference for UAS in the sense that for authorisations in the specific category some verification of elements related to weather and geography need to be checked.
After an open consultation procedure (known as Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA)) takes place, the commission adopts the regulations based on recommendations issued by EASA (opinions). The adoption by the Commission involves the European Parliament and/or the Member States depending on the nature of the Regulation. All regulations are binding and directly applicable within the Member States. The Agency issues non-binding documents such as Certification Specifications, Airworthiness Directives, Safety Directives and Acceptable Means of Compliance/ Guidance Material (AMC/GM)
Another objective of EASA is to ensure operational standards are harmonised as far as possible among other regulatory bodies across the globe.
Monitoring of Member States
Because of the mutual recognition of approvals and certificates, a monitoring of Member States is organised. This activity is called EASA Standardisation. Its purpose is to ensure a level playing field. The Agency sets-up teams who visit Member States and evaluate how regulations are implemented. The. visits are concluded by the issue of findings and Member States have to define corrective action plans, when necessary.
The Agency is moving nowadays towards a continuous monitoring of Member States rather than visits. The Agency sends a yearly report to the Commission. Based on the significance of the findings, the Commission may issue an infringement procedure to the Member States and/or withdraw the mutual recognition of the approvals given by the Member State.
The European Union has Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements with the USA, Canada, Brazil, China, the UK and Japan. These bilateral agreements facilitate the mutual recognition of certificates issued by the signatories of the agreements. In addition, the Agency has Working Arrangements with other Authorities worldwide that defines areas of cooperation.
The Agency coordinates research on aviation safety and directly manages a number of research programs financed by the Commission.
The Agency also plays a significant role in the promotion of safety, raising awareness within different streams of the aviation system by various means. Such activities include workshops, production of videos, leaflets and participation in conferences.
EASA’s role within Urban Air Mobility (UAM)
Similar to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), EASA also plays a significant role in the implementation of the UAM ecosystem. Aerial vehicles that are designed for use within Urban Air Mobility (UAM) will have to be certified by EASA to operate in the EU airspace.
This is also inclusive of the fuel sources, technology and communications systems that will enable the operations of aerial vehicles such as eVTOLs, eSTOLs and other unmanned aerial systems. The airspace requirements, rules and regulations would need to be prepared by EASA. The construction and development of UAM infrastructure such as vertiports will also need to be addressed by EASA.
in 2020 The agency has published a special condition for electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft that comply with the following criteria:
More than 2 lift/thrust units.
Maximum speed of 250kts, calibrated airspeed/ Mach 0.6.
Maximum seating capacity of 9.
Maximum mass of 3175 kg.
The Agency expects to see the first certifications using this special condition by 2023/2024 so that operations with a pilot on board could start by 2024/2025. Autonomous operations would most likely need at least 5 years more.
EASA has also published a special condition for UAS of less than 600 kg for operations in the specific and certified categories.
The Agency is preparing an NPA for operations of VTOL aircraft with a pilot on board taking off and/or landing in a congested (e.g. urban) environment using predefined routes in the U-space airspace (part of the operation could be in a non-congested, e.g. rural, environment) or outside U-space airspace.
EASA has published the results of the first study conducted in the European Union on Urban Air Mobility, showing that the majority of those questioned broadly welcome the prospect of services such as air taxis, air ambulances and drone deliveries but have concerns about potential issues such as safety, security, noise and the impact on wildlife.
Sources and suggested reading :
Research & Innovation - EASA
International cooperation - EASA
Regulations - EASA
Domains - EASA
Urban Ait Mobility - EASA