FAQ n.19006

Is the Agency in charge of controlling foreign aircraft? Who controls them and how?


Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 that extended the scope of Community competence to air operations, flight crew licences and aircraft used by third country operators into, within or out of the Community gave the Agency additional operational responsibilities. Regarding third country operators, the Agency is competent for the authorisation and oversight of commercial operators; for the oversight of non-commercial operators, when they need to declare their activities; and for the authorisation of third country aircraft when they or their crews do not comply with ICAO Standards.

With regard to third country operators the Basic Regulation specifically requires that:

  • all third country operators (their aircraft, the crews and the operations) comply with the ICAO Standards. To the extent that there are no such standards, these aircraft and their operations shall comply with the Essential Requirements for airworthiness, pilot licensing and air operations as laid down in Annexes I, III and IV of the Basic Regulation, provided these requirements are not in conflict with the rights of third countries under international conventions (article 9(1));
  • third country operators engaged in commercial operations receive an authorization issued by the Agency (article 9(2));  and
  • third country operators engaged in non-commercial operations of complex motor-powered aircraft may be required to submit a declaration to the Agency (article 9(3)).

The detailed provisions on how to meet the above requirements of the Basic Regulation will be contained in Implementing Rules and relevant Operations Specifications and guidance material. These provisions will address the conditions, privileges and responsibilities associated with the relevant provisions of the Basic Regulation (of articles 9(1), 9(2) and 9(3)) as outlined in the above bullet points above; as well as aircraft or crew which do not hold a standard ICAO certificate of airworthiness or licence. These provisions will make use of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs); will not exceed any requirements for Community operators; and will contain a simple, proportionate, cost-effective and efficient process for authorizations of commercial operations. The authorization process will take account of results of the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), information from ramp inspections and other recognised information on safety aspects with regard to the operator concerned (article 9(4)). The Implementing Rules will address the process for the authorization of a commercial operator, including any conditions that would necessitate an audit.

Third country aircraft operating within the EU are subject to oversight by the Member States in accordance with Directive 2004/36/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on the safety of third-country aircraft using Community airports, the so-called SAFA Directive. This Directive establishes a harmonised approach for the exchange of information, the execution of ramp inspections and the grounding of third-country aircraft landing at airports located in the Member States. The new Implementing Rules will incorporate the SAFA Directive while maintaining the same principles and competencies of oversight by Member States.

The Implementing Rules and supplemental material associated to third country operators are currently being developed by the Agency. These will be published for consultation in due course and will subsequently be transmitted to the European Commission as an Opinion for consideration when adopting these Implementing Rules.

The provisions for third country operators as outlined above will then become applicable from the date specified in the relevant Implementing Rules during their adoption, but not later than 8 April 2012 (article 70). Until then, the SAFA Directive and national rules of Member States continue to apply.

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