A seemingly innocent EASA rule could potentially undermine US-EU trade in aircraft engine parts.
EASA has issued a Notice of Proposed Amendment that would make changes to the EASA engine vibration rule for engine certification. At first blush, this appears to inhibit the development of an independent turbine engine approved part industry in Europe. The EASA rule and the FAA rule are currently harmonized, and the proposed change would also de-harmonize the rule from the FAA standards, which might provide a basis for an EASA refusal to accept PMA turbine engine parts from the United States, in the future.
One of the reasons that this could be used to undermine US-EU trade is because the current EASA acceptance of FAA-PMA parts is based upon the finding of substantial similarity between the systems, which in turn is based upon the harmonization of the regulations. If the regulations are no longer harmonized, then EASA might choose to reject PMA parts on the grounds that they are not subject to the same sort of testing required by the EASA regulations. It is likely that such an act would not be taken immediately, but the rule change would lay the ground work for a later decision to exclude FAA-PMA parts.
Such a decision to begin excluding FAA-PMA parts on technical grounds would likely violate international agreements, so it is important to prevent EASA from laying the groundwork for such a decision, The Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft references the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade for purposes of determining the acceptability of technical barriers. That Agreement specifies that:
“Members shall ensure that technical regulations are not prepared, adopted or applied with a view to or with the effect of creating unnecessary obstacles to international trade.”
If the change would have the effect of creating an unnecessary obstacle to international trade in aircraft parts, then it could reflect a violation of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
So what language are we talking about? Here is an example of existing EASA language that is harmonized with the FAA regulations:
“The Engine surveys and their extent must be based upon an appropriate combination of experience, analysis and component test and must address, as a minimum, blades, vanes, rotor discs, spacers and rotor shafts.”
The correlative language in the proposed replacement text would say:
“It must be established by test or a combination of test and validated analysis that the vibration characteristics of all components that may be subject to mechanically or aerodynamically induced vibratory responses are acceptable throughout the declared flight envelope.”
Some people might look at the term validated analysis and wonder what range of analysis that might permit. The AMC language quoted in the NPA clarifies a definition of the term:
“A validated analysis is one with demonstrated predictive capability within a specified domain of applicability that encompasses one or more complementary baseline tests.”
Our first look at this regulatory change suggests that the change makes it far more difficult to create and approve a replacement engine part under the European system. Replacing the option to use component tests with requirements for “test or test and validated analysis” could enforce the notion that an engine part cannot be developed in the European system without full engine testing of that part – no matter how insignificant the systems effect of the part may be (because of its economic effect, such a rule would be tantamount to banning the development of independent turbine aircraft engine parts).
Recently, we wrote about BAE’s efforts to nurture a true independent aircraft parts production industry in Europe. Such efforts would infuse competition, and all of the price and quality advantages that competition traditionally tends to bring. Certainly this independent aircraft parts production industry is in its infancy but it promises to provide jobs and revenues in Europe, while also moderating prices and stimulating safety and reliability advances. But the proposed change could have the effect of strangling the nascent aircraft parts industry by preventing it from producing aircraft engine parts.
We are really curious to hear what the MARPA community has to say about this.