Regulations require aircraft operators to be specifically approved to conduct certain types of operations. In Europe the applicable regulation is Annex V to Regulation (EU) 965/2012 (as amended) known as ‘Part-SPA’.
For each of the types of operation listed on this page an aircraft operator needs to demonstrate to the ‘Competent Authority’ (i.e. the national aviation authority, NAA) that it complies with the applicable requirements before being granted the approval.
The ‘competent authority’ that needs to issue the approval is the Authority of the State of the Operator. In many cases this is the same as the state where the aircraft is registered but for European operators that have aircraft registered in non-European states it may be necessary for the European Authority to issue approval as well as the Authority of the State where the aircraft is registered.
Performance Based Navigation (PBN)
Operation on certain routes or classifications of airspace requires an operator to use ‘performance-based navigation’ (PBN) techniques. Use of PBN means that an aircraft can navigate along a defined track with the necessary accuracy without the need to track from one radio beacon to the next. The techniques are ‘performance-based’ because the regulations don’t specify that particular equipment must be installed on the aircraft and used by the pilot, instead they specify the required performance of the navigation system.
There are many different classifications of PBN according to the particular operating environment, these are classified as area navigation specifications (RNAV) or required navigation performance specifications (RNP). The difference is that to satisfy RNP requirements there must be on-board performance monitoring so that the pilot is notified if the navigation system shouldn’t be relied on.
All European upper airspace requires aircraft to operate according to basic area navigation requirements, known as RNAV5 or B-RNAV but no specific approval is required for this.
New rules have been put in place so that with effect from 2018 PBN operations will be covered in mandatory pilot training and most types of PBN will not require the operator to hold a specific approval. The exception is RNP AR APCH (RNP approval-required approach operations).
Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM)
In order to operate above flight level 290 (roughly 29,000 feet) operators must hold an RVSM approval. This ensures that the aircraft altimetry and operating procedures support vertical separation from other aircraft of just 1000ft.
In order to obtain approval the aircraft must be appropriately certified and the maintenance programme needs to ensure that the altitude measuring system remains accurate and reliable. Pilots need to receive specific training and operating procedures will ensure that they monitor the altimetry systems for any deviations from the correct flight levels. An operator will also need to put a monitoring programme in place including periodic checks of the accuracy of height keeping in-flight. ‘Regional Monitoring Agencies’ (RMAs) maintain a database of aircraft granted RVSM approval by their competent authorities so that air traffic control can verify that aircraft are properly approved.
Low Visibility Operations (LVO)
Low visibility take off (LVTO)
Aircraft operators require specific approval to take-off in visualities of less than 400m runway visual range. Under European rules this applies to all aircraft operators regardless of the aircraft type or whether the operation is commercial or non-commercial.
Low visibility approach operations (CAT II/III)
Operators need to have specific approval to use Category II (CAT II) or Category III (CAT III) approach operations. CAT II involves using flight director, autoland or a head up display to fly to down to decision heights as low as 100 ft. CAT III can use decision heights down to 0 ft., or no decision height. The actual limits applicable for CAT III depend on the equipment installed on the aircraft and the approval issued to the operator.
In order to achieve approval for CAT II or III operation an operator needs to have been operating the aircraft type for a period of time and to conduct a number of approach operations using CAT II/III procedures and equipment. The operator also needs to have a system for monitoring the success rate of these approaches.
Enhanced Vision Systems
Some modern aircraft are fitted with ‘enhanced vision systems’ (EVS). The EVS system uses external sensors such as infra-red cameras to produce an image of the aircraft surroundings that would not be visible to the naked eye. The EVS can detect runway lights, terrain, obstacles and weather in darkness or when natural visibility is obscured by weather such as fog or snow. EVS can be displayed on cockpit displays and is an excellent aid to situational awareness.
In order to use EVS to fly to fly approaches to lower minima the aircraft installation needs to be certificated and the image needs to be displayed to the handling pilot on a head-up display (HUD). There will also be another display visible to the monitoring pilot, but this does not need to be on a HUD. If the operator holds approval then the EVS can be used to fly non-precision approaches down to 200 ft above the runway provided that visual reference is available using the EVS at the normal decision height. CAT I approaches can be flown down to 100 ft.
EASA is updating the regulations for low-visibility operations. New rules are expected to come into effect in 2018.
Extended Range Operations with Two-Engined Aeroplanes (ETOPS)
Twin engined airliners are not permitted more than one hour’s flight time from a diversion airport unless the operator holds an ETOPs approval.
Operators holding ETOPs approval will have a specific maximum diversion time for each aircraft type and will need to plan flights to remain within the associated distance from a suitable diversion airport.
There are different rules for business jets with less than 20 passenger seats and with a maximum take-off mass of less than 45,360kg. These aircraft can operate up to two hours flight time from a diversion airport and can get approval to extend this to three hours by following an approval process similar to ETOPS approval.
ETOPs requirements do not apply to non-commercial operations (e.g. ‘NCC Operators’).
Dangerous Goods (DG)
Aircraft operators need to hold a specific approval in order to carry certain items classified as ‘dangerous goods’. For more information we are pleased to recommend The Dangerous Goods Office Ltd.
The Approval Process
In order to be approved for any of the operations on this page an aircraft operator needs to satisfy the Competent Authority (NAA) that it will comply with all the applicable requirements. The requirements vary according to the type of operation but typically involve:
- Aircraft/equipment certification;
- Operating procedures (described in the operations manual);
- Flight crew training programmes and
- Aircraft maintenance arrangements.
McKechnie Aviation has extensive experience of the specific approval process and is ready to assist aircraft operators with every aspect of preparing an application for approval and also to assist Authorities with evaluation of applications for specific approval. For more information please get in touch.