Passengers are aviation's most important players

Many improvements to the European air sector are technically possible, they are simply waiting for political action, says Marian-Jean Marinescu.

Marian-Jean Marinescu | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Marian-Jean Marinescu

Marian-Jean Marinescu (RO, EPP) is President of the European Parliament’s Sky and Space Intergroup

08 Nov 2016


There is a high level of safety in EU aviation; there were very few accidents in the last years. Even so, we must do everything we can to increase safety and security in the sector. 

Air traffic is continuously on the rise, and this, combined with technological progress, unmanned aircraft evolution and, of course, actual threats - terrorism and cyberattacks - means we must shape new safety and security rules. These should be performance and risk-based; ultralight or business aviation do not respond to the same requirements.

This is the main principle of the European Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA) basic regulation (BR); it also provides certification of safety equipment for aerodromes and ground handling services. Some are opposed to certification, arguing that it brings costs up.


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The most important actor in the aviation industry is the passenger. The passenger pays for everything: aircrafts, equipment, ATM services and salaries in the air and on the ground. Passengers' safety should have no cost. 

Cost cannot be used an argument against certification. I am confident that well-written rules, based on performance and risk levels, could not only improve safety, but also efficiency, by eliminating incidents, and improving maintenance, continuity of service and predictability.

No manufacturer, SME or large company, should refuse the possibility to provide high level quality products fulfilling all safety requirements, including cybersecurity.

Aviation services are built on national criteria. The EASA should become the European authority for safety throughout the continent. Harmonised European rules and services are a clear necessity that the industry wants, but national administrations are refusing. This will not last. The need to boost competitiveness will prevail over national and individual interests. 

The BR provides the transfer of responsibilities from a national authority to another national authority or to the EASA. It also allows the EASA, in case of serious danger, to take over the responsibilities of a national authority. Of course, there are some - though few - who oppose this.

Unmanned aircraft has progressed spectacularly in recent years. It boasts huge potential. Many applications are providing different services with better quality and better results.

At the same time, without proper "discipline", this could create many problems both for safety and security. We must strike a balance between properly regulating industry, while ensuring the safety and security of citizens. 

Registration, marking and identification are basic requirements. Certification should be requested in accordance with the performance of the unmanned aircraft and the nature, risk and area of operation. 

We must also consider the challenges linked to climate change. Aviation must contribute to the reduction of emissions, while respecting the international and European standards. The EASA must play a role in this respect.

Security is an important part of our life. The EASA must deal with aspects where security is related to safety. It should not interfere with national authorities' responsibilities, but should provide certification rules at least concerning cybersecurity.

In addition to the European Commission proposal, my report has introduced provisions related to conflict zones, flight recorders and continuity of service.

Member states' sovereignty over airspace should be respected. They have the right to open and close their airspace. But, I think that in order to provide the safety of the aircraft, in some situations, an entity that decides not to fly over a specific zone should exist. 

That entity, which I suggest should be the EASA, can gather information and can issue binding directives in this respect, protecting the crews and passengers.

I think that, after an unfortunate accident, it is not normal to look for the aircraft and for the flight recorder in the bottom of the sea. Technically, it is possible to download, at least in case of an aircraft in distress, flight data on the ground. 

This would enable authorities to immediately know where the accident took place and what caused it, enabling for faster intervention to save lives. The system would respect all data protection requirements and would be protected, like all other aircraft systems, against cyberattacks. Technically, this is possible, but we need the political decision.

The continuity of ATM services is extremely important. Over the past few years, disruption of services for different reasons, including strikes, caused more than €10bn worth losses to the industry. 

More importantly in my opinion, this caused huge inconveniences to passengers. An entity, which I believe should be the EASA, should provide specifications to allow minimum service or taking over of the service by a neighbouring service provider, at least for overflights.

Again, technically this is possible, we just need a political decision and of course, a greenlight from the member states.

EASA BR is a very important piece of legislation and the industry is waiting for it to be implemented. The same thing can be said about SES. SES 2+ plus is blocked in the Council, though a text has been voted as a general approach. Parliament is waiting for discussions to begin. 

I hope that Council, after so many years, will respect the treaties, and will start negotiations with Parliament. I see some movement in this direction. I believe we can reach an agreement in no time.

 

Read the most recent articles written by Marian-Jean Marinescu - The EU needs an open-minded approach to common policy on health

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