Third Country Operators’ EASA authorization: get prepared!


As from November 2016, any operator holding an air operator certificate (AOC) issued by a third country will require an authorization from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a prerequisite for obtaining an operating permit or equivalent from a EU Member State under and subject to existing air service agreements between EU Member States and third countries. This client alert provides you with an overview of some of the most practical aspects thereof.

Third country operators (TCO) engaged in transport of passengers, cargo or mail for remuneration or other valuable consideration within the European Union’s airspace must demonstrate their capability and means of complying with applicable ICAO Standards. To the extent that there are no such standards, these aircraft and their operations must comply with the requirements laid down in Annexes I, III and IV of EU Regulation 216/2008 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing EASA. Currently national authorities of the EU Member States assess whether the TCO complies with that requirement. European legislation however provides that such assessment must be made by EASA.

EU Regulation 452/2014 of 29 April 2014 now lays down the technical requirements and administrative procedures related to air operations of TCOs. It provides that TCOs shall only engage in commercial air transport operations within, into or out of the territory of EU Member States if they comply with the requirements set out in Annex I to the EU Regulation 452/2014 and hold an authorization issued by EASA. As from November 2016, the whole process will be handled by EASA.

Technical requirements

EU Regulation 452/2014 requires that the TCO complies with ICAO standards and, in case of deviations therefrom, with the mitigating measures accepted by EASA; relevant parts of Part-TCO and the applicable EU’s rules of the air. The TCO may only operate in compliance with the scope and privileges defined in its AOC and associated specifications. The TCO must ensure that the aircraft has a certificate of airworthiness (CofA) issued or validated by the State of registry or the State of operator in application. In relation to navigation, communication and surveillance equipment the TCO must equip its aircraft with such equipment as required in the concerned airspace. The TCO must further ensure that all documents, manuals and records that are required to be carried on board are valid and up-to-date.

Application procedure

An application must be made by the TCO with EASA at least 30 days before the intended starting date of operation. The applicant must provide EASA with any information needed to assess whether the intended operation will be conducted in accordance with the applicable requirements including a copy of the AOC and associated operations specifications or equivalent. When necessary EASA may request additional relevant documentation, manuals or specific approvals issued or approved by the State of the operator or State of registry. For those aircraft not registered in the State of operator EASA may request details of the lease agreement for each aircraft so operated.

A TCO may operate air ambulance flights and a series of non-scheduled flights without first obtaining an authorization to overcome an unforeseen, immediate and urgent operational need provided that EASA is notified prior to the intended date of the first flight, the TCO is not banned and an application for authorization is filed within 10 working days after the notification.

The initial assessment by EASA shall be completed within 30 days after receipt of the application or 30 days before the intended start of operations whichever is the later which period may be extended in case further assessment or audit is required.

The initial authorization is valid for an undetermined period of time and specifies the privileges and the scope of activities that the TCO is authorized to conduct.

Changes to the intended operations are subject to a prior authorization following the same procedure. However, EASA may also agree with the TCO on changes which do not require prior authorization.

The authorization is reviewed at intervals not exceeding 24 months which may be shorter or longer in case indications exist that the TCO does not comply with the requirements or when previous reviews have shown that no such indications exist respectively.

Entry into force

EU Regulation 452/2014 entered into force on 26 May 2014 and applies as from the same date. However, EU Member States that issue operating permits or equivalent to TCO in accordance with national law are allowed to continue to do so. TCOs shall comply with the scope and privileges defined in the permit or equivalent document issued by a EU Member State until EASA has taken a decision in relation to a TCO application.

After EASA has taken such decision or at the latest after 26 November 2016, the EU Member States shall no longer perform a safety assessment of that TCO in accordance with their national law.

TCOs having a permit under national law shall submit an application with EASA no later than 26 May 2015. EASA shall assess the TCO’s compliance which shall be completed no later than 26 November 2016.