EASA Part-NCC – no easy decision?

Recently I attended the Corporate Jet & Helicopter Investor conference along with my colleague Sam Snow from our Malta office. In the last five years, the event has continued to attract a range of industry professionals from across the globe including; financiers, brokers, manufacturers, operators, registries, lawyers as well as other service providers; providing them with a focussed agenda and networking opportunities in which they can meet and engage with major players in the industry within an intimate and friendly setting.

After 5 years in the industry, I think I am reasonably well acquainted with the private aviation industry’s networking events and as one of my former colleagues alluded to last year, the Corporate Jet Investor Conference organised by Alistair Whyte and his team, is the ‘go to’ event on the aviation calendar and dare I say, over and above that of EBACE.

Now I don’t say this lightly but say it on the premise that Corporate Jet Investor puts key industry individuals into one large room at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, where they discuss the health of the industry as well as new regulation and oversight, a topic which seems to be ever more prominent each year that goes by. This year’s agenda also covered topics such as the envisaged upcoming challenges to the industry, fleet planning, aircraft operation, business jet finance and technological advances, to name but a few.

One discussion point of interest at the event was the state of the market and aircraft deliveries for 2016.  It seemed fairly well accepted by this year’s attendees that the current market had become the “new norm” and the industry as a whole was now on a more sustainable footing.

It was also agreed that a sustainable market was better that the unsustainable growth rates witnessed prior to the 2007-08 financial crash and among discussions it was both noted and reassuring to hear that where manufacturers had pushed boundaries (in terms of technological innovation), good growth rates were being achieved in terms of aircraft sales.  For example, the order book for the versatile Pilatus PC-24 is full through to 2019 according to advertising they placed at EBACE in 2014 and it is also reported that the Honda Jet HA-420 has in excess of 100 firm orders.

Another recurring topic across the various panel discussions this year, was the ever nearing implementation date (August 2016) for EASA Part-NCC and its potential impact on EU non-commercial and third-country operators flying in the European Union.

As background, the new regulation aims to bring the safety level of non-commercial operators closer to the standards of that required by commercial airlines and will be applicable to aircraft heavier than 5,700kg, or equipped with more than 19 seats, or with more than one jet or turboprop engine.

There was clearly still a number of concerns surrounding the interpretation of these regulations by EASA member states and third-country registries in respect of who is specifically liable for shouldering the extra regulatory burden that the regulations will impose. It was interesting to see panels made up of a range of individuals, from registries to operators, each giving their opinion on how the regulations might affect their operations.

However, the main conclusion from discussions on the topic suggested that each private aircraft owner will need to decide whether they work on their own to create a structure that complies with Part-NCC or whether they need to hire a third party who would act as the operator and consequently ensure that any such compliance is met…clearly the EASA Part-NCC calls for decisions which are not as easy as one might have hoped, suggesting that the industry will not have heard the last of this topic for the foreseeable future in lieu of its implementation…

…Perhaps it is a topic we might see dominant at EBACE in a couple of months’ time.