The Latest from Europe
  By Keith Negal

EASA has produced two important new Notifications of Proposed Amendments (NPAs) to the regulations that govern sports and recreational aviation, one on Initial Airworthiness and the other on Licensing.  The closing dates for comments are 18 July and 5 September respectively.  The BMAA responses together with other useful tips on completion can be found on the BMAA Web Site.  Keith Negal discusses their implications below and suggests that the time has come for the European Microlight Community to change its course.

The first of EASA's two new NPAs, NPA 2008-07, deals with Initial Airworthiness, in other words, design.  It opens the door to the introduction of a European version of the US Light Sport Aircraft, which is great news for manufacturers; of the 1,238 LSA registered in the US to 1 April 2008, 826, or two thirds, were manufactured in Europe - where they cannot be flown!  The proposed change means that European manufacturers will be able to produce one design for both Europe and the USA.  However, it also means that they will have little interest in producing a microlight version, so once implemented the European LSA means no more high performance 3-axis microlights.  This means the end of the period of growth the BMAA has enjoyed until now unless we extend our remit into the proposed 1,000 kg category, the ELA1, competing head-on with the LAA.

NPA 2008-07 specifically states on page 4 "The proposals included in this NPA do not apply to Annex II aircraft (in particular micro-light) as they [fall] outside the scope of the Agency." So apart from the fact that that it will lead to a decline in the introduction of new microlight designs, why else should we be interested?

Well, to quote NPA 2008-07 page 4 once more, "In the past years there has been a decrease in the activity of 'classical' leisure aviation and the development of the microlight movement in Europe. Feedback from industry and operators has suggested that the regulatory framework applied to recreational aircraft has become progressively too heavy for the nature of the activities involved and places too high a regulatory burden on designers and manufacturers of these types."

Microlights have led the way and EASA wants light aeroplanes to follow their lead, which sounds fair enough.  But there is more. The newly passed Regulation (EC) 216/2008 says:

"It would not be appropriate to subject all aircraft to common rules, in particular aircraft that are of simple design or operate mainly on a local basis, and those that are home-built or particularly rare or only exist in a small number; such aircraft should therefore remain under the regulatory control of the Member States, without any obligation under this Regulation on other Member States to recognise such national arrangements."

Of course, EASA has always said that some microlights and home-built aircraft should stay under control on national CAAs.  Such exempted aircraft are listed in Annex II to this Regulation (EC) 216/2008.  This new regulation then says:

"However, proportionate measures should be taken to increase generally the level of safety of recreational aviation.  Consideration should in particular be given to aeroplanes and helicopters with a low maximum take-off mass and whose performance is increasing, which can circulate all over the Community and which are produced in an industrial manner. They therefore can be better regulated at Community level to provide for the necessary uniform level of safety and environmental protection."

The repetition of this old message means that not only will we lose future growth to the heavier ELA1/LSA but also that factory-built higher performance microlights will themselves come under EASA.  You may recall me in the last issue of Microlight Flying saying that at a recent meeting in Cologne, Mr. Claude Probst, EASA's Director of Rulemaking, said, "Why exclude microlights from European rules?  The aim of EASA cannot be to exclude some."

As a result, the ELA1/LSA will shift the focus of manufacturers towards heavier aircraft while whatever high performance factory built microlights remain will themselves be brought under EASA's wing.  The question is, when can we expect this to happen?  At Aero-Expo 2008, held at Pribram Airport near Prague on 25th April, Yves Morrier, EASA's main contributor to the MDM.032 Working Group that produced NPA 2008-07 said,

"In due course we will look again at Annex II." while Alain Leroy, EASA's Chairman of the same working group, said, "I do not have today the means to deal with the many aircraft types in Annex II, so not today and maybe not tomorrow, but."

In short, when EASA has the time and resources it fully intends to turn its attention to the elimination of Annex II, so taking control of microlights. There are some easy wins for EASA in this.  If it plans to reduce Annex II by stages it can take a big chunk of microlights at relatively low cost by picking up high performance factory built microlights such as CTs and Eurostars.  y guess is that within 5 years we will see EASA take its first steps into controlling microlights.  Five years is no time at all.

It is for this reason that I believe we must take these two NPAs, which have nothing to do with microlights, very seriously indeed.  If Annex II disappears we will find ourselves thrust into regulatory environment they propose and as things stand this is very bad news.

Although EASA has sought to use the microlight example to produce light regulations to promote the growth of sports and recreational aviation in Europe, one glance at the NPAs will show the extent to which it has failed.  Last year NPA 2007-08 introduced Part M, the regulations for Continuing Airworthiness, including pilot maintenance.  If you have been able to fight your way through its 144 pages you will know that it proposes a framework that is simply too burdensome for us.  There are no indications that the NPA consultation process has had any significant effect on Part M inasmuch as it affects us.  Indeed, the almost universal request for a light Part M was dismissed out of hand by EASA. Even though NPA 2008-07 suggests a relaxation for ELA1 it will still be far heavier than what we have at present.

To reinforce this point, look at the most recent NPA on Licensing, NPA 2008-17. On page 37 of NPA 2008-17a in paragraph 22 it describes the training a GP must have in order to examine and assess pilots for the proposed Leisure Pilots Licence (LPL), which: "consists of theoretical and practical aeromedical training and the requirement to hold or have held a pilot licence where practical training has not been obtained."

How is your friendly GP going to feel about that and, if he meets the requirement, what will that do to the costs of your medical?

If you can wade your way through these bulky documents (forever thanking your lucky stars that you speak English, because that is the only language in which these European proposals are written) you will find many more examples of regulations that will make our lives more complicated and more costly.

For me these NPAs, which are a tremendous disappointment and represent EASA's failure to understand what is mean by light regulation, point to a need for a change in the policy of microlighting organisations throughout Europe.  Whether we like it or not, we must face the fact that at some time in the future we will fall under EASA.  We can either be dragged, kicking and screaming, to face whatever EASA has to offer or we can take a more proactive stance.

I believe these NPA tell us that the time has come for the European microlighting community to start the process of developing a framework for the regulation of microlights under EASA, one that truly is relaxed so that traditional microlighting remains a low-cost sport, free from the burdens that EASA will impose the new sub-1,000 kg category.  Everything that EASA has said leads me to the conclusion that continued belief in the protection offered by Annex II may well be no more than burying our heads in the sand.

In the meantime, take a look at the NPAs (Google "EASA NPA 2007-08" etc) and watch the BMAA web site.

    NPA 2007-08 - Continuing airworthiness - Consultation closed 2007
    NPA 2008-07 - Initial airworthiness - Responses by 18 July 2008
    NPA 2008-07 - Licensing- Responses by 5 September 2008