Director's Viewpoint: Harmonization

Sept. 5, 2014

As we come to press, another EBACE, (European Business Aviation Conference and Exposition), will soon be taking place. Having attended just once in my career, I can report that one presence evidenced a prevalent interest in business aviation. It is also clear that appeal is continuing to grow as the world globalizes, with nations, industries, and professions evolving closer together. And, although business aviation is just one aerospace sector, as it grows overseas, especially in the European community, the importance of harmonization cannot be understated.

As we all know from our everyday lives, events happen faster and faster. Look at the recent revolts in the mid-East and how the new social Internet programs fostered the rapidity of these uprisings. Similar to this, harmonization is quickly becoming a reality. And, like a spaghetti western, there is gunfire and onslaughts from all sides, some good, some not so good.

The good is that harmonization is necessary, if not essential for doing business on a global basis. Seeing it become a reality means that businesses such as airplane manufacturers can rely on improved regulatory standards. I just read this week that a EU/US air safety pact is about to be ratified. This agreement has been languishing at 800 Independence due to congressional opposition to some of its provisions. With a new congress and the departure of defeated Rep. James Oberstar, the agreement is ready for enactment. No longer will OEMs in the United States need to submit redundant paperwork on both sides of the Atlantic to some 27 separate European states. The new pact will suffice in substituting just one certification approval request for all 27. That will save a lot of time and energy, which translates to cost efficiencies. The end result will mean more aerospace jobs in the U.S. This is good.

There are other profound benefits to this pact, including the enhancement of air safety systems with two competent regulatory bodies overseeing operations. This should mean consulting with one another on systems that improve all aspects of air operations from pilot training to repair station operations.

What then may be bad? Well, for one thing Rep. Oberstar was the champion of standardizing the inspection process for approved repair stations overseas. Now that he is gone it appears that when this pact is ratified mutual recognition of safety inspections will be a fact. Left as is, there will be no alcohol or drug testing required in the overseas counterparts. Nor, do I believe, will these operations be subject to the same scrutiny and oversight done by our friendly FAA inspectors in this country. That’s just not fair and it will cost jobs here. That’s a bad thing.

Finally, what’s ugly is the lack of maintenance participation in the whole harmonization process. Tell me where the technician and the requirements of his or her job have been placed on the table and reviewed by those amassing this agreement. The maintenance worker just does not have an organization that provides this necessary presence and voice. I congratulate Sarah MacLeod and ARSA on forcing the FAA to do the mandatory drug testing. It took a legal action to get this done, but ARSA fought for its small business constituents and succeeded in making the FAA follow court rulings. The fact that there is no body to do this kind of thing for the maintenance worker is a travesty. It’s ugly. It should not go on either. Get together. Harmonize among yourselves and protect and promote your profession before you are left behind in the global swirl.

About the Author

Nick Sergi

Nick Sergi has a rich background of aviation experience. He retired as Director of Maintenance Training Services for FlightSafety after more than 34 years of service with the company. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviator, both fixed wing and helicopter rated.