Safety and accident investigations
Originally, safety was one of the cornerstones of ECAC activities. The Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) were established by ECAC in 1990 in order to set uniform high safety standards within Europe and to unify the then multiple safety aviation certification procedures. After the establishment of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that took over JAA functions, ECAC safety activities were reduced in order to prevent overlaps or duplications.
Today, ECAC's safety activities are divided into the work in the area of air accident and incident investigations, through the ECAC Air Accident and Incident Investigation Group of Experts (ACC), and the work in preparation and coordination for major international safety events through the newly established European Safety and Air Navigation Coordination Group (ESANCG).
Additionally, while safety programmes were passed on to EASA, ECAC remains active in promoting European aviation safety philosophy and practice beyond the region's borders, drawing on international, regional and bilateral partnerships developed over the years.
Some of ECAC's recent projects in the field of safety:
- ECAC undertook work to collect and make available up-to-date information about how each of its Member States handles requests for flights by home-built aircraft. The operators of such aircraft presently experience difficulty in establishing clearly the requirements for their operation in the different ECAC Member States.
- On 18 May 2016, ECAC Directors General adopted Recommendation ECAC/35-1 on the mutual acceptance by ECAC Member States of "permits to fly" for specific types of historical aircraft. The aircraft concerned (approximately 10 000) are usually called "Factory National Restricted Permit to Fly (FNRP) aircraft". They were factory-manufactured, designed before 1 January 1955 and their production ended before 1 January 1975. Previously, they held an ICAO-compliant certificate of airworthiness. Now they operate under national rules as they fall within the scope of Annex II of EU Regulation (EC) 216/2008 (related to aircraft for which EASA does not have competence). This Recommendation should contribute to sustaining the historical knowledge of the FNRP aircraft, a great interest to many across Europe.
- At the European Search and Rescue Conference (Bucharest, May 2013), ECAC committed to promote and support cooperation arrangements within ECAC at sub-regional level, in accordance with Annex 12 to the Chicago Convention, to consolidate an effective search and rescue system within ECAC. To this aim, a survey was undertaken on the existing cross-border arrangements with a view to offering possible models of cooperation to ECAC Member States that wished to enter into new SAR cross-border arrangements.
- A key focus of ECAC’s activities in the field of safety is the exchange of experience in methods of investigation, the evolution of investigation techniques and tools and the challenges encountered during investigations. These exchanges happen formally through meeting presentations and discussions, and include a host country's briefing on its organisation, reports on recent investigations and updates on latest experiences or developments.
- The ECAC ACC group organised four activities in 2016, 2018, 2021 and 2023 to promote the dialogue and exchange of experience between Member States, observer States and industry: (1) a workshop on social communication associated with the air accident investigation process held in the Netherlands in April 2016; (2) a workshop on general aviation accident investigation held in Malta in November 2018; (3) a workshop dedicated to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) investigations held by videoconference in October 2021; and (4) a workshop on the treatment of serious incidents held in Bratislava in April 2023.
- In 2020, the ACC group developed the ECAC ACC Guidance Note on Conducting Investigations during a Pandemic, due to the challenges faced for air accident investigations during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the General Aviation Accident Investigation: Summary paper and best practices, developed following the 2018 ACC workshop on general aviation incident investigation. These proposals were approved by the ACC group in December 2020 and endorsed by ECAC Directors General in January 2021.
Click here to see the results of the survey on the existing search and rescue (SAR) cross-border arrangements between ECAC Member States (as of December 2014).