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An Overview of Aviation Regulation:Beginnings, Functions and Licensing Practices

Thomas E. Batchelder Esq. International Law& Aviation LLC ( USA)
In Association With GBS Law Firm (Turkey - Atty Şafak Herdem )

In that aviation has helped advance the globalization of our world, it is important to review our beginnings and look forward to where we see ourselves in the future. This article will concentrate on the origins, functions and licensing of modern air transportation systems throughout our world; in particular, where we started and the direction we are headed.


                                                        The FAA

In the United States, the beginnings of today’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the federal government’s regulation of civil aviation started with the Air Commerce Act of 1926. At that time, aviation industry leaders as well as Congress had growing concerns with safety standards. The Air Commerce Act of 1926, empowered and tasked the Secretary of Commerce with oversight authority related to: drafting and enforcing air traffic rules, licensing pilots, establishing airways, certification of aircraft and many other related variables. For this formidable task to succeed, a new Aeronautics branch of the Department of Commerce was required. This was the birth of what is today’s FAA.

Early improvements for the Aeronautics branch of the Department of Commerce included improved aeronautical radio communication, the introduction of radio beacons and enhancing lighted airways. Around 1934, three air traffic control centers (ATC) were established in cooperation with the existing commercial airlines. By 1936 the Department of Commerce was maintaining these facilities and expanding the coverage areas as well as the number of ATC centers.

In 1940, President Roosevelt through his executive powers over administrative agencies divided the aforementioned responsibilities into two distinct agencies, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). The CAA had the responsibility for air traffic control, aircraft certification, pilot certification, safety issues and finally airway development. The CAB was charged with accident investigation, law making, and economic regulation issues for commercial airlines. By the start of World War II, the CAA had implemented the use of radar for air traffic control.

The modern FAA officially came into existence in 1958 with the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. At that time, the jet age was upon us and there had been several midair collisions. Congress felt that a new independent body was needed with broader authority to minimize aviation hazards. Congress envisioned this agency to have the power for aeronautic safety rule making and sole responsibility for air navigation and air traffic control. Some fifty years after the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, today’s FAA marches forward with broad authority over all aspects of aviation in the United States and serves as a model for many other countries and jurisdictions.


                                                        The JAA
The Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) is an associated body of the European Civil Aviation Conference which represents civil aviation regulatory authority for a number of European States who agreed to co-operate in development and implementation of common regulatory safety standards and procedures. The beginnings of the JAA can be traced to 1970. At that time it was known as the Joint Airworthiness Authorities and came into existence for the purpose of generating common certification codes for large aircraft and aircraft engines. By 1987 however, the organization had grown and was responsible for the operations, maintenance, certification and licensing for every class of aircraft. By 2006, the JAA had been divided into two distinct working groups, the Joint Aviation Authority Training Office (JAA TO), & the Joint Aviation Authority Liaison Office (JAA LO).

In July of 2002, the members of the European Union (EU) established the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This agencies power is applicable to all European Union member states. Standardization and oversight function for all aviation safety certification of member states was a primary reason for the formation of EASA. There are currently 27 EU member countries governed by EASA.

From these humble beginnings, the FAA, JAA and EASA have become recognized aeronautics authorities. These organizations work together and individually to regulate the modern day aviation industry and all associated aspects in their respective regions and jurisdictions.


                                                        The FAA

The FAA exists as an agency under the Department of Transportation. The FAA has authority to oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the United States. Major roles include:

• Developing new aviation technology
• Regulating civil aviation
• Enhancing and operating air traffic control for civilian and military
• Regulating commercial space transportation
• Regulating environmental related issues of civil aviation

When it comes to aviation law, the FAA’s authority mandates compliance with FAA adopted safety standards. The FAA oversees maintenance, operation and manufacturing of all aircraft. The FAA, along with its sister organization the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates and determines root causes for aviation accidents. Federal oversight in accident investigation is beneficial as often times multiple jurisdictions are involved in in oversight in all aspects of civil aviation in the United States. This administrative agency has been used as a model for both European aviation administrations and newly developing countries with burgeoning aviation industries. The FAA has been and continues to be an exemplary agency in advancing civil aviation safety.

                                                        The JAA

Upon formation, the JAA was intended to provide high and consistent standards of safety for civil aviation in Europe. Emphasis was placed on harmonizing FAA and JAA regulations to avoid conflicts and balance regulation. As indicated supra, the JAA has recently been divided into two main working groups.

JAA LO-Joint Airworthiness Authorities Liaison Office works as an intended liaison between EASA and the Civil Aviation Authorities on the non EASA member states to integrate activities between EASA and those states. These activities include rulemaking for operations and licensing as well as:

• Distribution of updated European safety information
• Provides a forum for non EASA member states to express viewpoints to EASA
• Assist in the coordination of standardization activities
• Continues research to ensure JAA is a technical specialist in the aviation safety field
• Work with non EASA member states to ensure airworthiness of aircraft in the areas of aircraft certification and maintenance to agreed upon EASA and non EASA member standards

JAA TO-Joint Airworthiness Authorities Training Office assists the aviation community by providing applicable training to ensure familiarity with European aviation safety regulations. This office also works to aid non-EASA JAA member states in the process of obtaining EASA membership.

                                                        The EASA

The European Safety Agency has control and responsibility for establishing common rules for the European Union in the field of civil aviation. Although this agency essentially controls all EU aviation activities, the main areas include but are not limited to: aircraft design approvals, aircraft airworthiness, environmental concerns, aviation production, aviation maintenance and oversight for all aviation safety certification activities for its member states. EASA will soon have responsibility for operations and personnel licensing.

In the growing area of aircraft manufacturing, EASA has responsibility for certification and oversight of all civil aviation products of European member countries with the small exception of localized historically relevant aircraft for an EU country such as the Concord. Generally however, any significant EU product falls under the oversight of EASA. Since many EU countries have existing bi-lateral agreements with the United States, EASA has essentially become the agent for those countries with the bi-lateral agreement remaining in effect until a new agreement is in place. For example, France and the United States have an existing bi-lateral agreement in place, (BASA IPA) and the U.S will continue to accept aviation products from France, instead of a French only aviation agency approving the design review, that function will be performed by EASA.

With the emergence of the EU, obviously EASA will become the premier European aviation authority for the foreseeable future and likely continue advocating for safety and related innovations in aircraft manufacturing, navigation and personnel training.

With the above referenced functions, these three distinct aviation authorities (FAA, JAA &EASA) will continue to have tremendous influence in aviation regulation in the areas of aviation safety, operation and maintenance well into the foreseeable future. Another important influence in the aviation field also control by these authorities includes respective licensing for pilots and mechanics.


                                                        The FAA
Once a pilot is licensed by receipt of an FAA “certificate,” this pilot certification is recognized worldwide. Certification is regulated under parts 61 and 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations or "FARs", found in Chapter 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Pilots are certified to fly aircraft of a specific category and class. Certain kinds of aircraft also require a type rating. The category on a pilot certificate indicates the classification of aircraft that the pilot is certified to fly. Many categories of aircraft exist, including airplane, rotorcraft, glider, lighter-than-air, powered-lift, powered parachute, and weight-shift-control aircraft. Some categories are further broken down into more specific classes of aircraft.
For compliance with FAA regulations, the majority of pilots in the U.S. undergo training as private individuals with a flight instructor at a local flight school. Many who decide upon aviation as a career often begin with an undergraduate aviation-based education. Other pilots are trained in the military and are issued civilian certificates based on their military record. Some pilots are trained directly by commercial airlines. Two options exist for training under the FAA guidelines under Part 61 or Part 141 of the FARs. Part 141 requires a certified flight school provide an approved course of training, which includes a specified number of hours of ground training (for example, 35 hours for Private Pilot in an airplane). Part 61 sets out a list of knowledge and experience requirements, and is more suited for students who can’t commit to a structured plan, or for training from freelance instructors.
Thereafter, depending upon the type of pilot certification sought, an examination is required to comply with FAA certification.
Mechanic certification under FAA guidelines requires the mechanic have at least 18 months of practical experience with either power plants or airframes, or 30 months of practical experience working on both at the same time. As an alternative to this experience requirement, a candidate could graduate from an FAA-Approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School. Following completion of one of these requirements, the FAA imposes additional testing requirements be met by the applicant.

                                                        The JAA
A pilot with proper certification under JAA requirements is automatically accepted as being valid for flight in aircraft registered in any of the JAA member states. A license is required to fly general aviation aircraft, solo or with passengers. The JAA approach to pilot training is similar to the FAA in that previous flight experience mandates the type of training for certification. Licenses are issued in accordance with the Joint Aviation Requirements for Flight crew Licensing (JAR-FCL). They include both private and professional pilot licenses. Training must meet the requirements in accordance with JAR-FCL, as stipulated by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).

Generally, licensing requirements are different if the pilot intends to be compensated for his piloting efforts, i.e. the license is either commercial or a private pilots licenses (recreational use/no compensation.) Additionally, as with the FAA, the JAA has different licensing requirements for the class of aircraft the pilot wishes to fly. Furthermore, like the FAA depending on the type of pilot and the class of aircraft, the JAA has requirements for pilots that include, but are not limited to: flight time/experience, testing requirements and health/medical certification.
Mechanics certification under the JAA, stipulates two ways for a mechanic to obtain certification. The practical experience method requires the applicant pass written and oral examinations. The other JAA method will award certification upon graduation from an approved training program. Here, the JAA and FAA mechanical certification requirement vary greatly depending upon the mechanical class of certification sought by the applicant. The JAA places much emphasis on advanced technology training and specific type aircraft certification. Additionally some areas of JAA requirements for mechanic training vastly exceed the time of required training hours that the FAA requires for its mechanics. The JAA also mandates that mechanics receive recurrent or in-service training. While there are many advocates who extol the virtues of JAA mechanic training requirements over FAA mechanic training requirements, the excellent safety record of U.S. carriers that basically monitor their own maintenance and are not so centrally controlled as JAA mechanics cannot be ignored. Both systems seem to be in tune with their identified goals.


                                                        The EASA
EASA has developed regulations for pilot licensing and these shall apply after the required European legislation to expand the Agency's remit is adopted, which is expected in early 2008. The EASA pilot certifications will draw upon the vast experiences of both the JAA and FAA licensing experiences to achieve pilot certification.
Mechanics seeking certification from EASA will have to comply with part-66 Certifying Staff of the EASA. Part 66 is based on the older JAR system and includes 3 levels of authorization:
Category A (Line Maintenance Mechanic): This permits the holder to issue certificates of release to service following minor scheduled line maintenance and simple defect rectification within the limits of tasks specifically endorsed on the authorization.
Category B1 (Line Maintenance Technician): permits the holder to issue certificates of release to service following maintenance, including aircraft structure, power plant and mechanical and electrical systems. Replacement of avionic line replaceable units, requiring simple tests to prove their serviceability, are also be included in the privileges.
Category C (Base Maintenance Engineer): permit the holder to issue certificates of release to service following base maintenance on aircraft. The privileges apply to the aircraft in its entirety in a Part-145 organization").

After reviewing the beginnings, functions and licensing activities of the FAA, JAA and the burgeoning EASA, it is clear the FAA will continue to lead the U.S. aviation field as we move towards the latter half of the 21st century. The JAA appears to be heading for an inevitable merging with the EASA. Obviously non-EU member states will still have needs that must be addressed. It is apparent that the JAA liaison office must continue to exist in some form for the foreseeable future. These organizations in whatever form they take, must work together to ensure the highest standards are met in the areas of pilot training, aircraft maintenance, security, airworthiness and above all, safety. Through communication and the sharing of information, the aviation field will continue to lead the advance of globalization.

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