EU to push for new powers in regulating airline safety

Proposal would give the European Aviation Safety Agency more powers to impose safety rules on all airlines serving the continent.


BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Commission is expected this week to propose giving the EU's air safety agency more powers to impose safety rules on all airlines - European and non-European - serving the continent, officials said Monday.

EU Transportation Commissioner Jacques Barrot will ask Tuesday that the European Aviation Safety Agency be put in charge of regulating airplane checks, preflight preparations, emergency action plans and pilot licensing for all 25 European Union countries, EU officials said.

They said Barrot also would propose that the agency - based in Cologne, Germany - take charge of overseeing airplane safety checks on non-European airlines that fly to, from and over Europe.

The European Aviation Safety Agency was created in 2002 to set safety norms related to aircraft design, manufacture and maintenance for the 25-nation bloc. The European Commission wants its powers extended to air operations, crew licensing and safety of foreign aircraft.

Air traffic in Europe has doubled in the last 15 years to about 9 million flights a year. Another doubling in traffic is foreseen by 2025.

EU figures show that flying has become safer: In 1974 there were 2.1 million commercial flights in Europe and 472 fatalities, or 225 per 1 million flights. By 1995 there were 71 fatalities, or 12 per 1 million flights.

The Commission says, however, that safety must be stepped up, noting a string of fatal plane crashes this year.

The United States sets minimum safety standards for foreign aircraft using American air space, and China has plans to set up a similar system.

In a related move, the European Parliament was expected to vote this week for an EU-wide blacklist of unsafe airlines after pledging zero tolerance for carriers that do not meet international safety standards.

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