On March 6th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released a Preliminary Regulatory Impact Assessment entitled “Replacement Parts: Preliminary Regulatory Impact Assessment.” In this assessment, EASA reviewed the existing EASA Part 21 regulations pertaining to replacement parts and compared these with the current FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) regulations. EASA concluded that EASA’s current regulations are sufficient to support the approval of aftermarket aircraft parts, similar to the FAA’s PMA approval, and that EASA needs to issue better guidance to permit the EASA regulations to be used in this way.
The assessment indicates that EASA Part 21 was created based on certain principals that it still retains, including a clear separation of the regulations dealing with design and production; a requirement of demonstration of design capability, except for minor design changes; a required link with TC Holders for applicants proposing major design changes who need the support of the TC Holders to get certification or design data, and; a considering a replacement part designed by someone who is not the TC holder as a change to the design even if the part is identical to the original.
EASA’s stated intent in the assessment was to find a way to create a balance between the conditions for PMA approval in the U.S. and the European Union’s rules for designing and producing replacement parts. Towards that end, the assessment goes on to consider four options.
The first option, which the assessment rejects, is to do nothing. The second option is to copy the FAR 21 PMA provisions into EASA Part 21. While the drafters recognized that the economic impact of this option would be beneficial to the EU by increasing European market share of parts manufacturing, and that this option would harmonize the U.S. and EU rules, the assessment also rejects option two. The assessment blames a lack of statistics from the U.S. concerning the safety of the use of identicality as a basis for design approval.
The third option discussed in the EASA assessment is to create in EASA Part 21 a new design approval for replacement parts, similar to the FAR regulations but keeping the production approval separate. Option three is also rejected, but EASA states that option three may be used in the future if option four does not manage to achieve the objectives of the task.
EASA chose to follow option four. Option four proposes to leave the Part 21 requirements the same (similar to option one) but it recognizes ta the existing regulations can support replacement part approval, and it proposes that EASA explicitly promote the existing regulatory provisions for designing and producing replacement parts.
Currently, EASA Part 21 allows the design of replacement parts to be approved as either a minor change to design or as a supplemental type certificate, but the provisions are not generally used for this purpose. The assessment indicates that the lack of use of these provisions for replacement parts may be as a result of insufficient guidance, and recommends that EASA better promote these provisions through explicit guidance.
EASA’s decision to promote its existing regulations allowing for the approval of replacement parts may lead to a shift in production in Europe from TC holders to other producers of aviation parts, and opens a door to a robust European industry for the production of replacement parts.