Safety Assessment Of Foreign Aircraft (EC SAFA Programme)


This section explains the European Community Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) programme established by the European Commission (EC) and the role and responsibilities the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has in it.

International Requirements

International civil aviation is governed by the Convention on International Civil Aviation (commonly known as the Chicago Convention). Under this Convention, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, sets the minimum Standards and Recommended Practices for international civil aviation. These standards are contained in 18 Annexes to the Convention. Individual States remain responsible for regulating their aviation industries but have to take into account the requirements of the Convention and the minimum standards established by ICAO.

The main standards that apply to airlines are in three of the 18 Annexes.

  • Annex 1 deals with personnel licensing including flight crew
  • Annex 6 deals with the operation of aircraft
  • Annex 8 deals with airworthiness.

The responsibility for implementing Annexes 1 and 8 rests with the State of Registry, that is the State in which the aircraft is registered. The responsibility for implementing Annex 6 rests with the State of Operator, the State in which the airline is based. Often the State of Operator and the State of Registry will be the same, as airlines tend to operate aircraft registered in the State in which they are based.

Significant increases in the volume of air travel over the last decades or so have made it more of a burden for many States to oversee their airlines in compliance with the Chicago Convention. To maintain confidence in the system, and to protect the interest of the European citizens who may be living in the vicinity of airports or travelling onboard a third-country aircraft, the Community identified the need to effectively enforce international safety standards within the Community. This is done through the execution of ramp inspections on third-country aircraft landing at the airports located in the Member States. The official definition of 'third-country aircraft' is an aircraft which is not used or operated under the control of a competent authority of a Community Member State.

What is the EC SAFA Programme ?

The principles of the programme are simple: in each EU Member State and those States who have entered into a specific 'SAFA' Working Arrangement with EASA (*), third country aircraft may be inspected. These inspections follow a procedure common to all Member States and are then reported on using a common format. If an inspection identifies significant irregularities, these will be taken up with the airline and the oversight authority. Where irregularities have an immediate impact on safety, inspectors can demand corrective action before they allow the aircraft to leave.

(*) The 42 Member States engaged in the EC SAFA Programme are: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Georgia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine.

All reported data is stored centrally in a computerized database set up by EASA. The database also holds supplementary information, such as lists of actions carried out following inspections. The information held within this database is reviewed and analyzed by EASA on a regular basis. The European Commission and Member States are informed of any potentially safety hazards identified. On behalf of and in close cooperation with the European Commission EASA will develop qualitative criteria with the aim to achieve a more focussed approach regarding the SAFA inspection priorities.

Although there is a legal obligation to perform inspections on third country aircraft, there is no objection that Member States inspect airlines from other Member States engaged in the EC SAFA Programme.

It has to be stressed that SAFA inspections are limited to on-the-spot assessments and cannot substitute for proper regulatory oversight. Ramp inspections serve as pointers, but they cannot guarantee the airworthiness of a particular aircraft.

How is it organised and who are the main stakeholders ?

In the EC SAFA Programme there are many stakeholders participating: the European Commission (EC), EASA, the Member States and Eurocontrol. They come together regularly in the Air Safety Committee meetings (ASC) and the European SAFA Steering expert Group (ESSG) meetings.

The European Commission carries overall responsibility and has the legislative powers. EASA is responsible for some specific executive tasks as specified in Commission Regulation (EC) No 768/2006 (regarding the collection and exchange of information on the safety of aircraft using Community airports and the management of the information system). The specified role and responsibilities of EASA in the EC SAFA Programme are:

  • collect by means of a centralised database the inspection reports of the Member States engaged in the EC SAFA Programme;
  • maintain and further develop the centralised database;
  • analyse all relevant information concerning the safety of aircraft and its operators;
  • report potential aviation safety problems to European Commission and the Member States;
  • advise the European Commission and the Member States on follow-up actions;
  • advise on the future development and strategy of the EC SAFA Programme;
  • develop SAFA procedures;
  • develop training programmes and foster its organisation and implementation;

Based upon its technical expertise EASA supports the EC with the implementation of the EC SAFA programme in the Community and as such ensuring that appropriate follow-up measures are initiated based upon the SAFA inspection that have been performed.

The Member States that are engaged in the EC SAFA programme (being either an EU Member State or a non-EU ECAC Member State who have entered into a Working Arrangement with EASA) are obliged to perform SAFA Ramp Checks on the aircraft of third country operators flying into their state. And, when needed, take appropriate corrective measures in addition to disseminate the results of these inspections to other participants in the EC SAFA programme.

The Eurocontrol organisation provides Flight Plan information to the Member States, the EC and EASA regarding aircraft subject to an operational measure such as a banning.

In the Air Safety Committee (ASC) the EU Member States are represented having an (legislative) advisory role regarding in particular through performance of the following tasks:

  • assist the European Commission with the adoption of harmonised implementation measures in order to enhance the effectiveness of the EC SAFA programme such as the approval of SAFA procedures;
  • assist the European Commission with decisions related to corrective measures taken in respect of specific operators or operators of a specific third country (Community List).

In the European SAFA Steering expert Group (ESSG) the non-EU ECAC Member States engaged in the EC SAFA Programme together with the EU Member States are represented having an (technical) advisory role regarding in particular through performance of the following tasks:

  • Assisting the European Commission (in a consultative role) in relation to proposals from EASA prior to their submission to the ASC, regarding the overall safety oversight policy of the EC SAFA programme, possible actions to be taken in specific safety cases and recommendations for the further development of the SAFA programme, including the amendment of SAFA procedures;
  • Communicating to the Commission feedback upon the national implementation of the SAFA programme in their State;
  • Reviewing and reacting upon the SAFA Database analysis which EASA is required to conduct on a frequent basis.

Which aircraft and operators are checked and how often ?

Oversight authorities of the Member States engaged in the EC SAFA Programme choose which aircraft to inspect. Some authorities carry out random inspections while others try to target aircraft or airlines that they suspect may not comply with ICAO standards. In either case only a very small proportion of third country aircraft operating into each State are inspected.

Depending on the volume of third country flights and the availability of inspectors in each Member State, the number of inspections may vary from relatively few to several hundred each year.

What is checked ?

Checks may include

  • licences of the pilots;
  • procedures and manuals that should be carried in the cockpit;
  • compliance with these procedures by flight and cabin crew;
  • safety equipment in cockpit and cabin;
  • cargo carried in the aircraft; and
  • the technical condition of the aircraft.

How are checks performed ?

A checklist of 54 inspection items is used during a SAFA Ramp Check. As the time between arrival and departure (the turn-around time) may not be sufficient to go through the full checklist, not all 54 items may be inspected. It is SAFA policy not to delay an aircraft except for safety reasons.

Since the programme began in 1996 as a voluntary ECAC programme, the Member States have performed some 37,000 SAFA inspections (status February 2007).


Obviously any major findings will immediately be communicated to all concerned parties. In cases of more serious findings, the oversight authority of the Member State that performed the ramp check will contact its counterpart in the State responsible for the airline, passing on its findings and asking for any necessary corrective actions. The oversight authority will also inform the aircraft's captain and the headquarters of the airline.
When findings directly affect the safety of the aircraft, its crew and passengers, the Authority of the State of inspection may request immediate corrective action before the aircraft can take off. If rectification of the deficiencies requires more time or needs to be performed at another airport, the Authority of the State of inspection may, in coordination with the State responsible for the operation of the aircraft concerned or the State of registration of the aircraft, decide to authorise a positioning flight (a flight to a specific destination without passengers or cargo onboard) and also prescribe the necessary conditions under which the aircraft can be allowed to fly to that specific airport.
In general all inspection results need to be communicated by the State which performed the inspections to the other EU Member States and to the European Commission.
Whenever an inspection shows the existence of a potential safety threat, or shows that an aircraft does not comply with international safety standards and may pose a potential safety threat, the inspection report will need to be communicated without delay to each EU Member State and the European Commission. In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 (establishment of a Community list of air carriers subject to an operating ban within the Community) and based upon various other sources of information, the European Commission may decide upon an operating ban in the Community. Further details can be found on the EC website.

Europe's centralised SAFA ramp inspection report database

All states participating in the European SAFA ramp inspection programme are required to exchange the reports with the other states, with the European Commission and with EASA. This exchange is done through a centralised database hosted by EASA. Each participating state can enter the inspection details into this database via a web-based application and can retrieve ramp inspection reports via the same application. Currently, the database contains over 100.000 ramp inspections; each year some 10.000 reports are added.

Since September 2011, Operators and their National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) can register online to that database; obviously, the access is limited to ramp inspection reports on their own aircraft. Since the user management is delegated to the local aviation authorities, these authorities need to have obtained access to the database before the operators can register themselves. Once the operator and/or the NAA has access, any follow-up information on the inspection can be uploaded to the database; this lowers the burden of the administrative workload considerably. At the beginning of 2013, a total of 2200 users coming from 79 NAAs and 714 operators obtained access.

Details on the register process can be found in the FAQ document available at the login page of the SAFA database. Any questions related to the database access should be addressed to the local authorities; the contact details for SAFA Database coordinators  within those aviation authorities having access to the SAFA database can be found in the coordinators list in the next paragraph.

SAFA Coordinators

Operators having any questions regarding a ramp inspection they have been subject to, should contact the inspecting authority; the contact details should be mentioned on the copy the Proof of Inspection form handed over to the flight crew after the inspection. In addition, you will find below a list of contacts within the SAFA participating states.

Any questions regarding the access to the SAFA database can be addressed to the same contacts. The second chapter in this list contains for that reason a list of SAFA Database coordinators for the “guest authorities”, which are those authorities not participating in the programme but having access to the database.

Applicable SAFA legislation

  • Directive 2004/36/CE
    This Directive was adopted whereby international safety standards will be enforced within the Community by means of ramp inspections on third-country aircraft landing at airports located in the Member States (the so-called "SAFA Directive").

    This "SAFA Directive", provides a legal requirement for EU Member States to perform inspections and as such participate in the EC SAFA programme. The Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 provides a provision for a decision making process whereby an airline may be banned from European airspace for safety reasons. Those airlines will then appear on a list, the so-called "Community list".

  • Commission Directive 2008/49/EC 
    Article 2 of this Directive required EASA to develop the Guidance Material to be applied by the Member States. By means of ED Decisions, the Guidance Material for the Qualification of Inspectors and for SAFA Ramp Inspections were adopted.

Aggregated reports

The Commission Regulation (EC) No 768/2006 puts an obligation on EASA to prepare for the Commission on a yearly basis a proposal for a public aggregated information report regarding the information collected from the Member States in accordance with the Directive 2004/36/EC.The aggregated report is published by the European Commission in all European languages.


The 2011-2012 SAFA report covers inspection results of the period 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2012


The 2010 SAFA report covers inspection results of the period 1 January - 31 December 2010.



The 2009 SAFA report covers inspection results of the period 1 January - 31 December 2009.



The 2008 SAFA report covers inspection results of the period 1 January - 31 December 2008.



The 2007 SAFA report covers inspection results of the period 1 January - 31 December 2007.



Since the SAFA Directive became applicable as of 30th of April 2006 the first published aggregated report covers the period 30th April 2006 - 31st December 2006.


Working arrangements

Commission Regulation (EC) No 768/2006 requires EASA to perform certain specific management tasks related to the EC SAFA Programme. In addition this Commission Regulation puts some obligations on EU Member States. For those non-EU ECAC Member States who wanted to continue participating in the EC SAFA Programme and who were previously participating in the voluntary ECAC SAFA Programme a dedicated Working Arrangement was signed between the State concerned and EASA. Following States have signed the Working Arrangement:

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Iceland
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Monaco
  • Morocco
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Arabic Emirates
  • Ukraine
  • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


Working Arrangements between EASA and several Civil Aviation Authorities of ECAC-non-EU Member States on collection and exchange of information on the safety of aircraft using community airports and the airports of the relevant country.

Historical overview

In 1996 ECAC launched the voluntary SAFA programme. ECAC Member States participating in the programme were requested to perform SAFA Ramp Checks on foreign operators flying into their territory. The operational management of the SAFA programme was performed by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), the associated body of ECAC.

Each year ECAC published a public report containing an overview of the major milestones of the programme. They may be downloaded below.

ECAC Programme for Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft Programme - CEAC d' Évaluation de la Sécurité des Aéronefs Étrangers