Safety Regulation


In order to meet the requirements for safe air transport services, a number of organisations and institutions have been set up at global, regional and local level to develop common rules, regulations, standards and procedures on safety and oversee their implementation across all aviation sectors.

The regulatory framework and safety requirements have been built up over decades and are continually being amended and enhanced to achieve an ever increasing safety performance and to meet future challenges posed by the implementation of new air navigation concepts and the need to ensure sustainable development of civil aviation.

Three basic layers of safety regulation can be distinguished, namely:

  • Regional regulatory arrangements and requirements. In Europe, and also in the CIS, there is an additional and intermediate regulatory layer based upon some ceding of national regulatory functions to supra-national agencies. The objective of creating such bodies is to ensure a high and uniform level of safety in civil aviation, by the adoption of common safety rules and measures in line with ICAO standards and recommended practices.
  • National regulatory arrangements and requirements, promulgated in national legislation and other normative acts by the designated State authorities. National safety regualtory requirements should comply with those established at global and regional level.

International Regulatory Arrangements

The principle international organisation is the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). ICAO is an agency of the United Nations and was established in 1944 through the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention.

Through the participation of contracting states, ICAO develops Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) that cover all aspects of aviation, including safety. SARPs provide the foundation of all safety regulatory regimes at a global scale. By signing the Chicago Convention, a state agrees that adopted standards will be implemented in its own territories, or any difference will be notified to ICAO. In recent years the ICAO requirements have been extended to require implementation of a formal safety management by the aviation service provider organisations and aircraft operators.

ICAO oversees the development of safety regulatory frameworks by Member States through the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) which was established in 1999 to ensure the uniform application of ICAO standards.

European Regulatory Arrangements

In spite of the harmonisation work led by the national administrations through the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), there are still considerable differences between national practices and it is not unusual for a manufacturer to have to produce different versions of the same type of aircraft or of its equipment according to the country where it will be used. Furthermore, the requirements imposed on operators vary from one country to another and sometimes create disparities between airlines that are in competition with one another in the same markets. To overcome these problems, the European Union has put in place a mechanism permitting the introduction into Community Law of standards drawn up by the JAA or other European bodies, making such standards part of the Community legal order, and therefore obligatory. Regulations of the European Concil and of the European Commission are the most common legal instruments used for enhancing aviation safety in Europe.

To help achieve this goal and promote the highest common standards of safety and environmental protection in civil aviation the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was set up in 2003 as an agency of the European Union. Currently EASA competence covers the initial certification and continuing airworthiness of aircraft and related products, the approval of organisations involved in the design, manufacture and maintenance of aeronautical products and certification of personnel and organisations involved in the operation of aircraft. By 2012, following adoption of the Single European Sky II legislative package, EASA is to extend the scope of its activities to include airport operations and Air Traffic Management, too.

At the European level there are also numerous organisations which help develop and implement civil aviation safety standards and requirements, e.g. the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE).

National Regulatory Arrangements

A national safety regulatory function is established in each state. There is a considerable variation in the implementation of the international safety regulations and arrangements at the national level. This allows for regional flexibility but also leads to some inconsistency. Many safety regulatory requirements are proving difficult to implement, both in states with limited pre-existing safety regulation and those with well established regulatory regimes. Aligning all the national regulatory frameworks proves to be more difficult than anticipated.

European ATM Safety Regulation

The European ATM safety regulation has been developed considerably in the last ten years: first through the development of EUROCONTROL Safety Regulatory Requirements (ESARRs), which lay down a framework for ATM safety, and more recently through the EC Single European Sky (SES) legislation. The European ATM safety regulatory arrangements are continuously evolving with new legislation being drafted and new institutional arrangements being implemented.

The EUROCONTROL ESARRs and Single European Sky legislation aim at harmonising the arrangements across Europe and require the establishment of national safety regulatory bodies - National Supervisory Authorities(NSAs) to undertake local safety regulation.

Safety Regulation Approaches

There is a range of different approaches to safety regulation. In general, technical systems and their interactions (e.g. data link) are addressed by prescriptive, detailed safety requirements. In other areas the requirements are rather objective based (e.g., ICAO requirements for safety management). The advantage of prescriptive regulation is that it specifies what needs to be done, but this approach also makes the implementation of innovative solutions difficult. In addition, the traceability between the prescriptive regulation and the contextual factors may be lost with time, which may lead to misleading compliance demonstration. Objective based regulation has the advantage that it allows for flexible solutions. However, it can sometimes be difficult to determine how to meet an objective requirement and overcome inconsistency in implementation.

Further Reading

Refer to the appropriate website (see below) or those of national regulatory authorities:


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