Few people would say the Business Aviation industry is light on regulation, notes LEA’s Patrick Margetson-Rushmore. But when new requirements – such as Part-NCC - are designed to improve safety, we must all take notice. Here’s why…
From August 25 this year – the blink of an eye in regulatory terms – EASA Air Operations Regulation (EU) 965/2012 Part-NCC will apply to non-commercial flights in complex motor-powered aircraft. In a nutshell, Part-NCC requires an internal structure to be set up, which takes care of the safety of its flight operations on a daily basis.
If you operate such flights, therefore, with aircraft registered in an EASA member state (or even if your aircraft is registered in a non-EASA member state but your main place of business or residence is within an EASA member state), you should definitely be checking your status in relation to Part-NCC.
Whilst the regulation does not clearly define who ‘the operator’ is, all operators must declare themselves as such and take responsibility for the operations of their aircraft, which means implementing and monitoring regulatory standards daily.
Your national authority or EASA will be able to provide you with the exact definition of a “complex motor-powered aircraft”. The definition itself is appropriately complex, but essentially covers all business jets, and aeroplanes with more than one turboprop engine, which have a maximum certificated take-off mass exceeding 5,700kg.
What If I’m Subject to Part-NCC?
Your responsibilities will include (but by no means be limited to) setting up a safety management system, including compliance monitoring; defining standard operating procedures for each type of aircraft in your fleet; ensuring your aircraft equipment requirements are fulfilled; documenting your processes and procedures in an operations manual; and meeting numerous training obligations.
Many, if not all, of those requirements may far exceed your current activities but, by August 25, you will need to have declared your compliance to the relevant national authority.
The UK’s specialist aviation regulator is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which is required to update their supervision process for Part-NCC. Essentially, the CAA update will result in additional active oversight of your operations to ensure compliance with the regulation.
To be compliant, operators must have an operations manual, a management system and have submitted a declaration to the relevant national authority which details their aircraft type, their operational and continuing airworthiness arrangements, as well as any approvals held along with any other relevant information.
Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence and could result in the grounding of your aircraft. Should you, as a non-compliant operator, experience an accident or incident your insurer might well have the right to reject any claims you make.
How Do I Manage This Process?
Part-NCC could broadly be described as a move to bring non-commercial operations up to the safety standards of commercial operations, so placing your aircraft under the third-party management of an air operator’s certificate (AOC) holder, for example, could quickly remove all your worries. That company will be more than capable of handling your compliance needs, leaving you free to focus on your own business. Furthermore, you might then find you wish to make your aircraft available for commercial charter services.
You might also think it makes sense for your pilot to assume responsibility for meeting the new regulations.
Although there is no legal reason not to make a pilot accountable for some or all aspects of Part-NCC compliance, remember a pilot’s primary focus should always be on safely flying your aircraft.
Also, your pilots might understandably resist taking on accountability for the unfamiliar Part-NCC compliance requirements, fearing legal culpability in the case of an accident or incident.
It is also important to consider the other people and companies, other than the aircraft owner, who will be affected by Part-NCC. Professional management companies who may be appointed as the operator will be affected as well as special purpose vehicles (SPVs) which have been set up as a new company to finance, own and operate an aircraft.
First things first, though: as an aircraft operator, your next action should be to check if Part-NCC will apply to you. If so, move fast.
The cost of complacency could be very high!