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European MEL Interpretation Raises Potential Challenges for Non-Commercial Operators
April 12, 2017
In August 2016, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) formally implemented Part-NCC, which applies to non-commercial operators of complex aircraft based in an EU member state. However, implementation of Part-NCC has brought to light the difference between the FAA’s and EASA’s interpretations of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards regarding deferring aircraft discrepancies.
FAR Part 91 operators may request FAA authorization to use a master minimum equipment list (MMEL) to defer repairs of and consequently fly with certain inoperative equipment, in accordance with Part 91.213. Use of the MMEL is demonstrated through Letter of Authorization (LOA) D095.
However, EASA’s interpretation of the relevant ICAO regulation differs from the FAA’s interpretation. ICAO Annex 6 Part II, “International General Aviation”, Section 3, “Large and Turbojet Aeroplanes” 220.127.116.11 says, “Where a master minimum equipment list (MMEL) is established for the aircraft type, the operator shall include in the operations manual a minimum equipment list approved by the state of registry of the aeroplane.”
“A representative of the French directorate general for civil aviation brought this issue to light at NBAA’s recent International Operators Conference,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “The information provided by France at the conference has since been acknowledged and reinforced by EASA, and the agency has provided specific information on why EASA’s believes an MMEL is unacceptable.”
According to EASA, an MMEL is not tailored to the systems and configuration of the individual aircraft. Second, an MMEL dos not address variables, including the kind of operations conducted, operating environment and other factors potentially impacted by inoperative equipment. For these reasons, EASA requires operators to have an MEL specific to the aircraft. For U.S. operators, this is achieved by obtaining an LOA D195.
Non-commercial operators flying to or from EU member state airports may face several ramifications if a safety assessment of foreign aircraft inspector determines the operator is authorized to use an MMEL instead of an aircraft-specific MEL. For example, if the aircraft has a discrepancy deferred by MMEL instead of an MEL, the aircraft may be grounded until the discrepancy is repaired.
“NBAA is concerned about the significant impact this change could have on our members and on the FAA’s inspector workforce,” said Carr. “This no-notice change in enforcement has created an unnecessary rush to develop a solution while placing thousands of N-registered aircraft at risk for safety inspection findings when operating into the European Union.
“We are hopeful that FAA and EASA officials can resolve their differences in interpretation quickly without subjecting operators and inspectors to unnecessary procedural and process burdens,” he added.