Mobility and Transport


Aviation Safety Policy in Europe

Aviation Safety Policy in Europe

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Backing aviation with a high level of safety

Flying is one of the safest forms of transport. Faced with a massive increase in air traffic resulting from the successful implementation of the single aviation market, the European Union (EU) ensures that all European citizens can enjoy the same high level of safety in the sky. EU aviation safety policy promotes rules that are cost-efficient and facilitate the free movement of products, services and persons involved in civil aviation. 

The 2015 EU Aviation Strategy: steering force for the next decade

The functioning of the European aviation safety system was subjected to a review as part of the 2015 EU Aviation Strategy. This strategy recognises the crucial role that aviation plays in promoting economic growth, job creation, trade and mobility in the EU, and underlines the importance of high safety standards for competitiveness of that sector within the EU economy.

The 2015 Aviation Strategy includes a Commission Proposal for a new Framework for Aviation Safety Regulation, which aims to prepare the EU aviation safety system for the challenges of the future, including a new era of innovation and digital technologies. It consists of a shift towards a risk and performance-based approach, measures to increase efficiency of the system and promotion of cooperative safety management between the EU and its Member States.

In 2015, the Commission also presented a revised European Aviation Safety Programme, which describes how aviation safety is managed in the EU. 

Comprehensive set of common rules and policies

The European aviation safety system is based on a comprehensive set of common safety rules, which are overseen by the European Commission, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the National Aviation Authorities. These rules are directly applicable in all EU Member States and cover all key areas of aviation including airworthiness, aircrew, aerodromes, air operations and provision of air navigation services.

Accident investigations and safety management

Aviation safety in the EU also relies on a reactive system that looks at accident and incident causes to avoid their reoccurrence. This is done on the basis of common rules governing accident and incident investigations.

Accident investigations are complemented by a proactive system, which provides for a systemic approach to safety and which is commonly referred to as 'safety management'.

Passenger Safety and Information for travel with third country air carriers

EU passengers make extensive use of non-European air carriers for their air travel. EU regulations and policies strive to provide a high level of safety of operations of third country air carriers in EU airspace and to protect EU passengers who travel on these third country air carriers, both within Europe and abroad. For these purposes, the EU has put together a comprehensive system to ensure the safety of third country air carriers and to inform passengers on the safety of those air carriers. The EU has three tools to assess the safety of third country air carriers:

  • Prior verification of safety of third country air carriers through the Third Country Operator Authorisation system.
  • Actual verification of safety of aircraft through ramp inspections of third country aircraft under the Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) programme.
  • The EU Air Safety List, which is used to inform passengers on the safety of third country air carriers and to ban or restrict of third country air carriers from European airspace for safety reasons.

International cooperation

Aviation safety is influenced by the inherently international nature of the aviation industry. International cooperation is thus essential to ensure network safety and development of globally agreed standards. The EU is actively engaged in strengthening aviation safety at the international level, notably through its work with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), implementation of technical cooperation projects, and negotiation of aviation safety agreements with key partners in Europe and beyond.