Brexit is now a fact. At least theoretically, as the separation from the EU still needs to take place. Does that imply that the UK will leave EASA? What implication on the airline industry and aviation in general will this have? Let’s take a look at a possible scenario of a Brexit in aviation.
It has to be clearly said that the UK CAA has had a magnificent impact on EASA rulemaking and also, and maybe foremost, on the “best practices” within a CAA, many of which have been adopted by the aviation authorities of other European member states. The British CAA was almost always the first to properly adapt to new regulations and has almost done this with a bang. If you could not find your answer somewhere else – you would go to the Brits. No matter from which country your need would originate.
So will Brexit change all of this? Will the UK become a standalone island in the world of commercial aviation? Will they start promoting and implying their own rules of airworthiness, aircraft maintenance and aviation design? I sincerely don’t believe so…
The regulations applied by EASA base strongly on those from ICAO, which have been by now adopted by numerous countries around the globe. This is because ICAO came up with a set of guidelines which are crucial to successful management of commercial aviation and aviation safety. In my opinion the UK will not forfeit its achievements from the years spent with EASA just to reinvent the wheel. And then there is the business aspect of it … the UK is hosting leasing companies and several aircraft owners, who are stringy dependent upon their ability to transfer aircraft from one place to another. Becoming a lone island, separate from both EASA and the FAA, with no bilateral agreements in place at the moment, would be a big step backwards for the British aviation industry.
The reasons seem obvious, but let’s make a small mind game. Let’s imagine that the UK will leave EASA and that it’s aviation regulations will be separate from those known and respected by European countries and the FAA family. What could possibly happen?
Maintenance and airworthiness records
For countries which are not EASA or FAA compliant, even the most typical maintenance records of an aircraft become an issue. This seems fair, as the organizations creating and keeping track of those records lack a recognized EASA or FAA certificate and hence are assumed to be not trust worthy.
What does this mean in practice? Imagine you are taking delivery of an aircraft for which the airworthiness has been overseen by a British certified company. At the same time, maintenance of this aircraft has also been carried out by the Brits, within their own legislative world. In this example, we assume that no bilateral agreements have been made between the new, sovereign UK and the rest of the world.
What could be the consequences? The Maintenance Program of the British aircraft may not fulfill the requirements of EASA and FAA. This automatically implies the need of a bridging check for every aircraft. To explain briefly – a bridging check is a set of maintenance tasks required to be performed in order to bring the aircraft to the maintenance standard of the aviation authority to which it is going. This may not be much, it may include singular and simple tasks. However, even in this case it may cause headaches to several operators, as it means that the aircraft needs to go for additional maintenance before it can operate outside of the UK.
The recognition and acceptance of certificates of release to service (CRS) would also require at least basic bilateral agreements to be signed between the UK ad EASA / FAA. Otherwise, every CRS issued by a British MRO could be rejected (although, of course, non-EU MROs have the right to apply for an EASA Part 145 certificate – but in this case, this would depend on the MRO and could not be taken for granted from every British maintenance facility).
Design and aircraft modification approvals
This would be the hardest thing to overcome, and probably would be left for the leasing companies and global operators to deal with.
If the UK leaves EASA and its (present) Part 21 organization do not apply on their own for an EASA approval, all British modification would be rejected by any external party.
In particular, all minor modifications performed under British minor modification approvals would have no power in the rest of the world. This means, that during a transitions process (in which the aircraft goes from one operator to another) all of such modifications would need to be either demodified or recertified by the new aviation authority.
This could be really painful, as a lot of those minor modifications are simple and necessary at the same time. They include as simple things as exterior decals, interior stowage boxes or even the installation of a new carpet, which has not been originally mentioned in the IPC (illustrated parts catalogue) for the given aircraft. All very simple things which would now need money and time (time being more important) to get recertified and accepted by an EU or FAA aviation authority.
Major modifications, currently regulated by EASA STCs (supplemental type certificates), would face the same fate only worse. If Brexit would cause the UK to fully leave EASA without a bilateral agreement, none of the British STCs would be recognized outside of the UK. This would require again a recertification process, which in the case of STCs is much more complex, expensive and extremely time consuming. As much as one could probably quite easily deal with a minor modification, the necessity to recertify an STC may cause several airlines to reject British aircraft with domestic STCs. I guess I don’t have to emphasize that would have an impact in the overall pricing of British registered aircraft.
Last but not least, the UK is hosting several component workshops which, at present, perform their work in accordance with EASA Part 145. This privilege will be gone as soon as the UK will leave EASA. Of course, all those component shops will have a chance to apply for a Part 145 certificate from EASA directly, yet this is not quite the same thing as being certified by the local authorities.
At present, due to bilateral agreements, European registered aircraft are eligible for components which have either been released under European regulations (with an EASA Form One) or with a Canadian or Brazilian certificate. Even the American certificate, FAA Form 8130-1, is accepted only for new parts and not for repaired ones.
This means, that every British component shop which will not receive a Part 145 approval directly from EASA, will be likely to loose all of its European customers. This is interesting, especially considering that many of those companies have pool agreements with airlines from all over Europe and the rest of the world.
Again, this problem can easily be fixed by obtaining an external EASA Part 145 approval, but will still cause an issue for those companies which are not able to quickly and successfully manage such changes.
New is coming
So is the above scenario likely to happen? In my opinion – no. I firmly believe that the UK will remain a member of EASA despite Brexit. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that the UK chooses to leave EASA, all the companies will still quickly apply for European certification to get the business going and ensure smooth aircraft sales and aircraft transitions.
But the future is an unknown, so we are bound to see what happens. Please let me know what you think!