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US Federal Aviation Administration presses UK over future standing as key safety body

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta flew to London to meet with British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling before moving on to meetings with European Union officials in Belgium.

He shared that he was there to “bring a level of urgency” to the UK’s discussions over what safety standards it would implement for the manufacturing of aviation products and aircraft maintenance.

The FAA has accepted the competency of UK companies because of their membership with the EU’s European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which currently has an existing bilateral agreement with the United States.

Huerta said this standing “essentially evaporates” with Brexit in March 2019 and the UK must now decide whether to comply with the framework EASA has formulated or make its own standards.

Huerta went on to say that choosing the latter would be an expensive and complicated procedure. Either way, the FAA is asking for more clarity on the matter as the dawn of a new year approaches.

“Our feeling is that by next month, if we do not have a clear picture of what the end state is going to look like, that leaves us with little choice but to embark on the much more costly strategy of working multiple scenarios.

“We can certainly do that, but it makes it much more difficult,” Huerta said.

The UK could walk in the footsteps of Norway and Switzerland, which holds associate memberships of EASA.

Together the US, the UK and Europe comprise the largest international aviation market and any disturbance to trade and operations would have “ramifications across the world”, Huerta remarked.

Without a framework for safety in place, UK companies would have to individually prove their capability with meeting FAA standards in order to be able to sell to the US.

“They can’t export to Boeing unless we explicitly find that they are meeting appropriate standards for the manufacture of that part.

“That would mean we, the FAA, would have to deploy resources to come and make that finding for every manufacturer that might be making parts that comprise Boeing aircraft, and there’s a question of bandwidth, how much of that can be done.”

This process would be very expensive, Huerta stated, with the cost reaching millions of pounds.

Ryanair’s outspoken boss Michael O’Leary has previously warned that flights between the UK and the EU would not reach the skies in the summer 2019 if no agreement on aviation is reached as part of the Brexit negotiations by September next year.

The single market for aviation, established in the 1990s, means there are no commercial limitations for airlines flying within the 28-nation bloc.

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