The popularity of commercial drone flights is growing rapidly. In fact, the market for civilian drones will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, with sales of drones estimated to top $12 billion in 2021, according to BI Intelligence.

Along with this increased popularity, concerns are growing that drone near misses are on the rise. In one recent case, an Airbus crew on approach to Heathrow spotted a drone as close as one wingspan from their aircraft.

Currently, drone rules vary from country to country in Europe, but late last year the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released language that now includes Europe’s first ever rules on drones, which require equipment registration very similar to the FAA’s guidelines in the United States.

The EU aims to produce EU-wide rules to make drone use in low-level airspace safer by regulating altitudes up to 150 meters within the next few years. Current key EU regulations include:

  • Drones weighing between 20kg to 150kg are regulated like manned commercial aircraft, and drones weighing above 150kg will be subject to EU regulation.
  • Under German legislation, drones are mostly subject to general aviation rules and commercial regulations, with specific takeoff weight regulations such as: pilots flying a drone over 2kg must take a theoretical examination, while drones over 5kg require an additional license.
  • In the United Kingdom, registration is required for all drones weighing more than 250g while operating in UK airspace.

These moves are good news for business aviation and private pilots flying in EU airspace since standardized safety procedures will become clearer as drone popularity increases. Operators will however also need a way to vet contract drone pilots to ensure they are compliant with the safety standards of a department, particularly with regards to air traffic and near-miss scenarios.

Currently, there are apps and software that can track drones within a designated airspace alerting pilots to potentially dangerous situations. However, there is concern that some of those alerts are giving pilots false positives or false negatives. So, it remains the responsibility of the operator to be vigilant.

To learn more about how AviationManuals can support you with the latest drone regulations guidelines, and manuals contact us today.

Europe Trip Planning Best Practices

There are key elements items operators should ensure they have covered before taking off to Europe. Non-European Union (EU)-registered aircraft operators are subject to SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) ramp inspections when operating in the EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, along with any state with which the European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) has a working arrangement on SAFA. The biggest issues generally occur when inspectors come to the plane and the crew is not prepared. To avoid unnecessary complications, we are highlighting some key items you should be prepared to be able to show:

International Operations Manual

Operators should have an up-to-date International Operations Manual (IOM) to ensure they are conforming to current required procedures and industry best practices when operating across the Atlantic and within Europe. An IOM should include procedures for North Atlantic (NAT HLA), RVSM, PBN (RNP/RNAV), and, if equipped, Data Link procedures. For operations within Europe, the IOM should also include procedures for P-RNAV and B-RNAV, which covers RNAV operations in the enroute and terminal areas within Europe.

Operators should be aware that LOAs for each of these Special Areas of Operation are required, regardless of where the aircraft is based. The LOA must be issued with the name of the entity with operational control of the aircraft. In a case where more than one entity has operational control, separate LOAs must be obtained

MEL Compliance

Even though there are still ongoing discussions between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European authorities, it is critical to note that FAA approval does not ensure international compliance when it comes to Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL), so we recommend erring on the side of caution for your trip.

One of the most important clarifications that operators must understand today is that it is no longer acceptable to use your MMEL as your MEL. Because an MEL is developed specifically for your aircraft, your fleet and your company, many European inspectors have now made it clear that they require an MEL.

This is because the MMEL does not contain the specific procedures or regulations that crews must follow. Additionally, EASA’s focus on performance-based standards included in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Annex 6, Part 2, Chapter 2.5 requires operators to have information relevant to the airplanes required communication, navigation or communication specification capabilities included in the MEL. This standard requires the operator to take a broader view of specific equipment and its relationship to other systems and performance requirements.

Part-NCC Must be a Part of Your Pre-flight Arsenal

If you are an operator that either has an operating base in Europe or one outside any EASA country, then you also need to strongly look how you may fall under Part-NCC requirements. If you operate an aircraft registered in an EASA member state, or if your aircraft is registered in another country but your principal trip or regular business is to an EASA member state, your operations will be subject to Part-NCC.

As a business jet operator executing flight activities to Europe, you should prior to your trip verify at a minimum:

  • If you are subject to Part-NCC and, if in doubt, get a ruling from the competent authorities.
  • If you are subject to Part-NCC, determine which entity will be the operator under Part-NCC.
  • Start the compliance process with Part-NCC and apply for the specific approvals by the competent authority.
  • Declare the new activity and submit relevant documentations to the competent authority.

An SMS Program is Critical for Your Travel

You should also be prepared to demonstrate you have a Safety Management Systems (SMS) program in place and that it clearly outlines the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) your flight crew executes. An SOP or a proper operations manual provides crews with the step-by-step guide to effectively and safely carry out operations. Many accidents occur because of the operating environments and individual operator behavior – the “Human Factor” – in the aviation community. Such causal factors of accidents aren’t common to all operators, but they must be examined with methods that are specific to the individual operator’s situation.

Specifically, one of the defining characteristics of an SMS is its emphasis on risk management within an operation. It provides inspectors with the ability to better see the relation between the common risk factors that are addressed by traditional aviation regulations and those that are more situational. ICAO Introduced requirements related to SMS back in 2009. It is important to note that EASA compliance is set to strengthen traditional risk control practices and ensure safety risks are managed in a systematic way – so be prepared prior to your trip.

AviationManuals Support

All of the documentation and procedures discussed are critical elements for any flight plan, but essential for travel to the EU. Flight operators should be able to demonstrate all of these are in place in the event of a ramp check. Contact AviationManuals if you have any questions or if you would like additional information.

3 Things to Consider When Flying to an EASA Member State

The August 14, 2016 Part-NCC adoption and the November 26, 2016 deadline for EASA Third Country Operators (TCO) Guidelines have come and gone. It’s been our experience that there is still much confusion or, at the very least some lack of clarity, as to which operators will be required to comply with Part-NCC and/or Part-TCO.

1. Part 135 operators
Get up to speed on InFO 16018, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Third Country Operators (TCO) Authorization

If you’re a Part 135 or other non-EASA member commercial operator doing business in Europe, and landing at any EASA airport, then you definitely must fulfill the requirements found at https://www.easa.europa.eu/easa-and-you/air-operations/tco-third-country-operators. You can also get more information and apply online at the same web address. TCO requires that operators have a GOM, which must include SMS and dangerous goods procedures, among others. For commercial operators merely overflying the EU, compliance is not required.

2. Part 91 or other non-EASA member private operators
Read up on EASA NCC (Regulation (EU) No 965/2012, Annex VI)

For Part 91 or other non-EASA private operators, some of this summer’s Part-NCC requirements may apply if you are subject to the new EASA Part NCC guidelines. For instance, if you have a base in an EASA member country or operational control resides there in some form, you should take measures to comply with Part-NCC. It’s important to be aware that the EASA authorities are conducting ramp checks more frequently to make sure anyone who needs to follow these guidelines are doing so.

In principle, it may be a good idea to take this opportunity to formalize your operation by developing an FOM/GOM, IOM (International Procedures Manual), and an SMS program, and making sure you have an MEL specific to your aircraft rather than simply operating with an MMEL approved for MEL use. These are the fundamental elements that will be looked for and you should be able to demonstrate that you have them in place.

3. Managed aircraft – or private flights operated by commercial operators

Operational control is increasingly being scrutinized, particularly in cases where commercial operators are conducting private flights. The SAO authorizations that are carried on those flights may or may not satisfy the inspectors in EASA member countries. It may be a good idea to take this opportunity to formalize your documentation by developing an FOM/GOM, IOM, SMS program and MEL specific to your aircraft. Developing these does not preclude anyone from continuing to operate under a management company. Management companies continue to provide valuable services, but being able to provide such documentation to inspectors could avoid embarrassing delays.

The important thing to take away is to make sure you’re on top of whether or not you need to do anything additional to continue operating in compliance with these new EASA regulations to ensure your trips run smoothly.