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Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA)
The voluntary ECAC SAFA programme was launched in 1996 with the understanding that maintaining confidence in the safety oversight provided by other States was a prerequisite for the continued development of a well-functioning and reliable air transport system. The Programme took ramp inspections of aircraft landing in ECAC States as its starting point. The safety-related Standards of ICAO Annexes 1, 6 and 8 served as references for these inspections. Until its transfer to the European Commission in 2006, more than 36,000 SAFA inspections were carried out and recorded in the SAFA database.
On 21 April 2004, the SAFA Directive (2004/36/CE) on the safety of third-country aircraft using European Community airports was published to harmonise the rules and procedures for ramp inspections. While the original intent of the SAFA Directive addresses third-country aircraft, being aircraft not used or operated under the control of a competent authority of a European Member State, the Directive does not prohibit Member States to inspect other aircraft, e.g. Community aircraft under the control of a competent authority of another European Member State.
On 19 October 2011, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) organised together with the European Commission the 1st SAFA Regulators and Industry Forum. It became clear that there is a large difference in the SAFA programme as perceived by SAFA inspectors and inspected operators. As the SAFA programme significantly affects AIRE member airlines, AIRE delivered a presentation on the perception of its members. To view the presentation, click here.
About two thirds of SAFA inspections are ’ de facto’ CACA compliance inspections(Compliance Assessment of Community Aircraft); and therefore do not improve safety making them disproportionate and a duplication. The effort and money could be better invested elsewhere. SAFA is a political tool and has become a training business. The European Commission should consider the adverse effect of political competition between Member States. The 27+4 EASA States are not foreign and therefore SAFA inspections should go ‘back to basics’ and prioritise safety oversights by other States.
AIRE is continuing to liaise with the European Commission and EASA on its members’ concerns, experiences and problems related to the SAFA Programme. It strives to refocus the SAFA back towards the original objective: safety oversight by foreign States.