International Cooperation—Bilateral Development
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Manufacturers, operators and maintenance providers must navigate an industry that cannot be contained by political borders. National aviation and diplomatic authorities must engage to ensure civil aviation-related businesses can operate internationally.
Efficient and economic use of government resources is enshrined in the spirit of the Chicago Convention of 1944, as overseen by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Chicago Convention, along with ICAO’s complementary policy, auditing and capacity-building efforts, is the framework for commercial air transport maintenance and alteration activities being performed on foreign soil.
However, in the absence of a single world-wide regulatory regime, national aviation authorities (NAA) must create laws for their own country and negotiate bilateral agreements with others to properly utilize resources enabling businesses to more easily perform work on an international scale. These government-to-government arrangements manage aviation safety regulatory interfaces through mutual recognition.
The Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA)
In the U.S., a BASA is defined in Advisory Circular 21-23B as “a government-to-government agreement…to facilitate the recognition of procedures for the reciprocal acceptance of various approvals”.
A BASA also sets the terms by which NAAs cooperate and assist one another in resolving safety issues in design, production, flight operations, environment certification and maintenance.
Each NAA still holds responsibility for making “findings” of compliance; however the information and data can be with full recognition of the other signatory country’s system.
Understanding all of the components of BASAs, including implementation procedures (where they exist), is vital for aviation entities.
Implementation procedures outline the standards, rules, practices, and systems the nations will use for mutual acceptance. They address aircraft certification (implementation procedures for airworthiness), maintenance (maintenance implementation procedures, which includes repair station surveillance), environmental testing and approval, and technical cooperation in general.
Without implementation procedures, a BASA is just an opportunity for world aviation leaders to take handshake photos with reduced positive impact for the maintenance community. For instance, the United States has entered into dozens of cooperative contracts, however only a few of them contain implementation procedures and even fewer have specific instruction for maintenance operations. In fact, the bilateral with Canada is the only one that is truly reciprocal; Canada does not require the issuance of an additional certificate, saving the costs associated with its application and maintenance.
As ARSA documented in 2011, repair stations pay several times more to obtain or renew certificates from foreign civil aviation authorities without a BASA. Clearly, there is a strong incentive to negotiate cross-border aviation agreements.
It is equally important for businesses to understand regulatory responsibilities when performing work overseas in all countries with or without bilateral agreements and implementation procedures.