Opinion No 01/2024

Ground handling requirements

This Opinion proposes an EU regulation on ground handling (GH) and subsequent amendments to Regulations (EU) No 965/2012 on air operations, (EU) No 139/2014 on aerodromes, and (EU) 2022/1645 on information security. The purpose is to ensure a level playing field for organisations providing GH services in Europe, including when these are provided as self-handling by aircraft operators, and to establish a baseline for the safety of these services.

The Opinion includes a regulatory framework for a scalable management system proportional to the size and complexity of the operation, covering the management of safety, safety culture, training requirements for GH personnel, a maintenance programme for the ground support equipment used for the provision of GH services, and general operational requirements for the provision of GH services. EASA proposes a new approach for the acceptance of industry standards applied in the GH domain, acknowledging their continued use and enabling their implementation on a voluntary basis. Their importance for the harmonisation and standardisation of GH operational procedures is more relevant than in any other aviation domain due to the number of different industry standards and their coverage of the entire spectrum of GH operations. Provision of GH services will be based on a declaration regime, which enables a sign-and-start system that does not require any prior approval by competent authorities before starting operation.

This Opinion also includes oversight requirements for competent authorities, with a particular focus on cooperative oversight, which becomes a crucial element for an efficient oversight of pan-European organisations providing GH services.

Amendments to Regulations (EU) No 965/2012 and (EU) No 139/2014 are proposed to address mutual exchange of safety-relevant information among GH organisations, aircraft operators and aerodrome operators regarding GH operations, and to enable smooth integration of the new management system elements addressing GH. This Opinion also proposes to include the GH domain in the scope of Regulation (EU) 2022/1645 on security management.

The proposed new rules are expected to ensure a consistent feedback loop on safety reports from authorities to organisations, a better understanding of the safety risks, a better exchange of safety information between the stakeholders involved and an assessment of mitigation measures, with the ultimate effect of improving the overall flight safety.