One similarity I noticed was the age of the staff; a mix of senior experienced people, younger folks, and students, and really no one in-between. We spoke about this and many of the same concerns heard in the U.S. were voiced about aircraft maintenance in Europe; an aging work force; where will the next generation of aircraft technicians come from; aviation may be losing appeal as a career; a tough regulatory environment; and airlines shifting heavy maintenance work to other regions of the world.
A complex system
“The EASA system is more complex than what you guys in the States have with the FAA,” says Hendricks, “I question if the complexity really makes it safer; it does create more administrative work.” Sometimes the aviation micro-community can cause confusion between requirements from EASA and a given country’s NAA.
One example given was a request made for a ferry permit. Similar to what often occurs here in the States, a small GA aircraft needed to be flown from one location to another for an inspection. This also meant moving it from one country to another. Westenberg says, “I spoke with the NAA of the country and EASA, and was first under the impression no one was sure who was responsible to provide the ferry permit. It was finally resolved; but it took a few phone calls.”
Westenberg says, “About once a month we will be asked by a customer to travel to another country to work on an aircraft. Our Maintenance Organization Exposition (MOE) which is similar to your FAA repair station manual contains a process for determining if we go or not. There is an approved checklist we must follow and if we can’t meet the requirements we don’t go, even if the aircraft is just across the border, an hour drive away.”
Star Airservice has an additional yet separate company called Bon-Air Aircraft Management B.V. Bon-Air is a continuing airworthiness management organization (CAMO), managing the airworthiness of approximately 25 single engine and a few multi-engine GA aircraft.
“Having a CAMO manage the airworthiness of your aircraft is not a requirement of the maintenance provider, it is a requirement of EASA. In the early days it was intended to be a convenience to the aircraft owner,” explains Moen.
The FAA places the responsibility for ensuring the airworthiness of an aircraft on the owner/operator. The CAMO as it was explained is a stand-alone organization intended to be a controlled environment for management of airworthiness; a technical bookkeeping process to ensure the airworthiness of an aircraft.
Moen says, “Sometimes problems arise so there needs to be a good relationship between the owner, the CAMO, and the maintenance organization.”
The opinions regarding the CAMO requirement for small GA aircraft were apparent, and I was told some feel it’s become a burden on all parties; the owner, the maintenance provider, and the CAMO. Moen says, “Many GA people feel there really was no problem with airworthiness, yet the industry was given a requirement as if there was a problem.”
Westenberg and Moen both agreed that many of the same challenges are felt by other GA maintenance organizations in other European countries. “Sometimes it looks like all the requirements are straining the entire system and causing frustration. I hope it doesn’t end up hurting general aviation,” Westenberg says.
My short visit concluded yes there are differences, and that challenges operating a small GA maintenance organization can be found on either side of the Atlantic. There also are similarities, the first being we are all aircraft maintenance professionals tasked with the same important role.
The people at Star Airservice were enthusiastic about aviation, eager to discuss their views, and a most gracious host allowing AMT to experience a day of general aviation maintenance in the Netherlands. Visit its web site at www.star-airservice.nl.
A look at bilateral aviation safety agreements and maintenance implementation procedures
Status entitles company to issue/recommend Airworthiness Review Certificates (ARC) for all aircraft registered within an EASA country.
The EASA POA confirms an organisation’s ability to manufacture aviation products according to European safety standards.
Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services GmbH (LBAS) has attained the highest level for continuing airworthiness as a certified Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation (CAMO).