Key takeaway from the EASA Certification Conference 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Consultant Jack Coleman shares his key takeaways from the EASA Certification Conference 2022, where the EASA Certification Directorate shared the latest updates on certification activities.

Executive summary
The Certification Conference was a timely reminder to industry of how much has changed in Part 21, and aviation in its entirety, since 2019. Part 21 approved organisations are moving into a new era of safety, with organisations required to be fully compliant to SMS requirements by March 2025. The onus is on organisations to proactively integrate safety in their management system. Airbus gave an insightful profile of SMS integration, focussing on the SMS industry standard ASD SM-0001, but that it is still difficult to fully ascertain EASA’s position without the first batch of applicable AMC/GM.

A fantastic ‘shake up’ presentation shone a light on how innovation drives change. But we must also change to innovate. Industry was then spotlighted, with small medium organisations as well as large organisations representing industry’s feedback to working with EASA on a variety of projects.

As the regulations now ask for a proactive approach to safety, the conference finished with a look to the future. This looked at lessons learnt from the 737 MAX accidents, to how EASA look to resource their capability in a resource-stricken industry, all whilst satisfying the international relation EASA have, and will expand into.

Key takeaways for industry

  • SMS into Part 21:
    • Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701 (2004) and Colgan Air Flight 3407 (2009) were the incidents that drove the requirement of SMS into aviation
    • EASA will assess organisations on a case by case (not always definite significant change)
    • Full compliance required by March 2025, 60% of DOAs have started the conversions with their DOATL
    • ASD SM-0001 Issue B will be acceptable means of compliance, a good starting point
    • AMC and GM will be delivered in two packages (Dec 2022 for 21.A.139/239, then Q1 2023 for the rest.
  • EASA resource.
    • Increase of 5% in staff, close to pre-pandemic levels
    • EASA admit this is a challenge and risk to them and industry
  • Future EASA work packages (from 737 MAX investigation).
    • Human Factors into CS-2X.1309 compliance
    • Better integration of Human Factors in continued airworthiness process
    • A development in the change product rule (21.A.101)
    • Application and oversight in the development assurance process.

Full report

After three years away, the Initial Airworthiness community met for the 2022 Certification Conference, held at the magnificent Maritim Hotel. Approximately 300 industry persons from around the globe met to discuss current and future regulations, innovation challenges, and EASA’s current position of rulemaking and their cooperation with industry (and to re-visit the Christmas markets!).

Mrs Rachel Daeschler opened proceedings with an overview of how the whole industry, not limiting to initial airworthiness, has changed since the previous in-person conference (2019). Speaking about how “…tomorrow is unpredictable…”, and that there have been, and will be, “…changes in how we manage safety…”, “…changes in aircraft design…”, and “…changes in continuous improvement…” including oversight, quality, and safety management, Daeschler admitted that EASA do not always get things right. EASA want industry feedback and are reliant on collaboration with the community so we can all achieve our respective safety objectives.

Opening the main agenda, Rodrigo Priego discussed the current rulemaking tasks EASA have under the 748/2012 regulation. Priego outlined the reason for change is here key categories.

  1. Safety issues
  2. New technology
  3. Proportionality

Each category led to a discussion on current, and future rulemaking updates.

Currently, EASA have issued new rules relating to ageing aircraft (2021/699) introduced on 18th May 2022, encapsulating new requirements relating to Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA), Parts without Form 1, and ageing aircraft requirements. EASA have plenty of information supporting the introduction and intent of these items with videos, frequently asked questions, and certification memorandum to support industry.

Then, Priego moved to rules up and coming, where an NPA has been issued and completed. RMT.0720, relating to the management of information security risks, is targeted to be cross domain (applicable to Initial and Continued Airworthiness approvals). The target EASA wish to achieve is that this cyber-security will become part of an Information Security Management System (ISMS), part of the greater Safety Management System (SMS).

Priego continued with an update on the applicable rule-making tasks (RMTs) pertinent to 748/2012. Of which, via RMT.0727, looked at Part 21 Light and how ‘proportionality’ needs to be better controlled and monitored via the introduction of Annex IV to Part 21.

This was followed by the update on RMT.0230, relating to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). EASA are currently reviewing over 1000 comments from the Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) and expect to deliver the AMC/GM Q2 2023. This will include an organised workshop by the agency at the right time prior to applicability to August 2023.

The discussion then led to SMS, one of the most anticipated items of the agenda. The key takeaways are detailed below.

  • For approved Design and Production Organisations, EASA expects full compliance to the SMS related requirements by 2025.
    • DOATLs “…will start asking questions…” relating to an organisation's SMS in March 2023
    • Organisations, instead of the usual three-month period, will have two years to resolve all findings and achieve compliance.
  • EASA shall issue AMC and GM associated to the Safety Management Element in two packages:
    • First package shall relate to 21.A.129/239 (Dec 2022)
    • Second package shall relate to the other affected requirements in Part 21 (Q1 2023)
  • SMS is not applicable to AP-DOA
  • Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701 (2004) and Colgan Air Flight 3407 (2009) were the incidents that identified the requirement of the SMS approach into aviation and pushed ICAO Annex 19 to provide the basis of SMS. We are good at product safety (i.e. CS 2X.1309), but to improve further SMS focuses on organisational safety which brings in the human factor and organisational pressures such as time, finance and more).
  • Is SMS a significant change to the organisation?
    • Airbus identified that SMS into their DOA was not a significant change, as they already had introduced several safety management element philosophies prior to the introduction of the regulation (from other approval, for example). More of the Airbus SMS case study later in this report.
    • Organisations for which a safety management system is brand new, may require a significant change to their management system.
    • Once a gap analysis has been performed, an agreement in the classification of the change is made in conjunction with the DOATL.

But it is not just organisations that need to evolve, EASA recognised that they too need to evolve. With SMS, EASA will move from compliance-based oversight, into performance-based oversight (where LOI and SEPIAC are tools for this), into a risk-based oversight approach.

  • Compliance-based approach: “Does the organisation comply with the rules?
  • Risk-based approach: “What are the risks in the organisation? How are they mitigated? Is the mitigation effective? How do we know this is effective?

EASA finished the SMS discussion by commenting on how industry needs to enable their systems by key leaders, competence, and culture of the organisation. This relates perfectly to how Baines Simmons view an effective and high-performing organisation, our SMARRT MAP.

Projects that are awaiting an EASA opinion (post-completion of the NPA) relate to;

  • Un-manned Aerial Systems (RMT.0230);
    • Over 1200 comments (200 DOA related)
    • Opinion expected Q2 2023
  • Issue 2 of Amendment 12 AMC/GM Part 21;
    • Design and Production developments into AMC/GM.

Alain Leroy (EASA) then introduced the subject of innovation, with guest speaker Tine Tomažič (Pipistrel). The latter went through how Pipistrel projects have re-aligned EASA, as well as their own minds, to challenge the norm and ‘shake up’ the industry. This presentation is highly recommended to watch. It starts on lessons learnt from the very first type of certificate (1927), and how new standards of design, production, operation, and technologies challenged the regulators – and how back then it was just two persons in a bar! Now, we are having the same conversions, albeit in a more developed world but that industry needs to challenge and push to innovate. However, the regulator must also be open to innovation. With the development of new sub-urban air transport, using existing (and disused) aircraft infrastructure, can we move into a more connected European light aircraft transport category using sustainable hydrogen and/or battery-powered flight? Tomasa’s argument is yes! One way in which we can release the burden is to take inspiration from the medical industry. Tamasic proposed to tailor the certification process for innovative systems, much like a new vaccination, and trial it (an aircraft) to the public in a controlled and simulated space to achieve maximum feedback and progression of future designs. EASA commented to say that a certification memorandum is in progress about the topic of the type certification process and how we can drive innovation through the whole lifecycle.

Tamasic finished by summarising “…we owe it to the next kindergarten…” – to the next generation of engineers to inspire and develop and clean and innovative future for aviation. And that true innovators never consider failure, only the consequences of success.

Then, the floor opened to industry. In particular, the next speakers presented their thoughts and experiences on working with EASA. This included Airbus Helicopters (Ludovic Donnadieu talking about Information Security Management Systems), Airbus (Stéphane Boussu commenting on integrating their SMS), APTOZ (Bragi Baldrusson covering STCs), and finally Lufthansa Technik (discussing DOA).

Donnadieu outlined how Integrated Security Management System (ISMS) is the method by which organisations must look at identifying and protecting themselves from cyber security risks. Evolving from ICAO Annex 17, this system focuses on the security of our information technology systems – as organisational threats are now (can be) via cyber warfare. As the industry becomes increasingly dependent on data, we must ensure (and then assure) the protection of such data and the system which controls it.

Boussu continued by demonstrating how Airbus, with the aid of the industry standard ASD SM-0001 Issue B, integrated their SMS into the Part 21 domain. Their integrated approach used existing systems, which allowed the design and production approvals to transition into the management system. Boussu highlighted that, due to the small adjustment in integration to the design and production aspects of the business, that SMS was not a significant change to their approval. This was clarified by EASA, re-instating the point previously that each organisation's transition shall be treated on a case-by-case basis via their DOA Team Leader. 60% of DOAs “…have started the conversation…” with their DOATLs, the most common reason for DOAs not engaging was due to the non-availability of the associated AMC/GM.

Boussu did comment that SM-0001 will be revised in Q2/Q3 2023. This is to respond to industry feedback after initial integration into organisations.

Baldrusson introduced STCs, and how his small medium enterprise deal with additional challenges laid out by 70% of the DOA business. Baldrusson praised EASA on their resource and continuation throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and stressed that industry is proud of EASA in how they managed their duties despite the challenges faced. This was also testament to how EASA reacted from a regulatory standpoint, keeping industry informed with the on-going regulatory changes impacted by the global pandemic.

Baldrusson also pointed out key areas of improvement in which EASA need to focus on.

  • EASA project experts must keep their independence from project CVEs. Assist them understanding the requirements, instead of acting as the CVE. This will improve trust both ways
  • FAQs are now being used more frequently as GM, does this reduce potency of CM or bulletins? Which is going to be the lead?
  • Small medium DOAs represent 70% of EASA membership, yet this is not reflective in the representation at workshop/conference level.
  • Not all special conditions documentation is accessible
    • Those that are accessed are/were not available for public consultation (i.e., non-rechargeable lithium-ion batteries).

These points were met with extremely positive feedback from the conference, which EASA accepted and shall respond in due course.

Finally, van den Bosch discussed how Lufthansa Tecknik consult with EASA from a DOA (or top level) perspective. Van den Bosch opened by commenting that LT are in a fortunate position in which, due to their workload, they have a dedicated single DOATL for their organisation, and this is advantageous due to the direct consultation every week (if required). Then, van den Bosch commented too (like Baldrusson) that EASA are to be praised for their efforts during and post pandemic. Bosch did comment also of the use of the FAQ function for guidance material, without notice. EASA did respond to say it is grouped similar as GM (‘soft’ law) and that if required, answers from FAQ will filter into the formal GM.

Van den Bosch also commented that the quantity of direct conference and workshop availability has significantly decreased (STC workshops, DOA conference was two days in the past, etc) and that EASA’s resource was a concern to industry. EASA respond to this later.

The spotlight then turned to EASA, and their plans. Initially, Gregory Liѐvre gave the conference an update on their resources – with personnel being at pre-covid 19 levels after a 5% increase during 2022. This effort shall alleviate the pressure felt internally, but EASA did comment that patience is appreciated, and needed, whilst new resource is brought up to speed (months at a minimum).

EASA’s relations with international partners indicated some areas of improvement across global industry:

  • Effort is predominantly validating with the FAA;
    • Active and large volume of tasks – including safety emphasis items where a validation focus group takes place
    • Rulemaking cooperation – main target is to harmonise between regulatory frameworks
  • China relationship;
    • Improvement of TIP and validation route
    • Concerns were raised with the BASA, but improvements are being made
  • UK relation is ‘good’, with no major difficulties
  • Transport Canada and ANAC continuing with TIP revision 2023
  • Japan (JCAB) TIP to be completed in 2023.

Dominique Renaud presented an Initial Airworthiness improvement initiative, utilising a 7 stage workstream to satisfy the needs of industry for type certification.

It is intended for EASA to outline and determine lessons learnt from the type certification process, into the supplemental type certification process also. This is part of the future plans.

Lastly, Daeschler returned to the lectern to provide what lessons were, and continue to be, learned from the Boeing 737 MAX incidents. EASA kept asking themselves, throughout the investigation “can this happen to the European system”. EASA looked internally at their own validating exercise. In summary, the future work packages that EASA highlighted are:

  • Human Factors into CS-2X.1309 compliance
  • Better integration of Human Factors in continued airworthiness** process:
  • A development in the change product rule (21.A.101)
  • Application and oversight in the development assurance process.”

** by definition, it is believed that this refers to continuing airworthiness (liaison between Design, maintenance, and operator etc), rather than the requirements of Part 21 Subpart A (continued airworthiness obligations). That said, as noted above, it is likely that human factors will become mandatory to Part 21 approved organisations (either Part 21 legislation, or additional certification specifications).

All the above points were concluded once EASA summarised the findings from the multiple investigative reports from the NTSB, and FAA.