European regulations for air operations

Aircraft operators in Europe are regulated by Commission Regulation (EU) 965/2012, known as the European air operations regulation.

The air operations regulation was published in 2012. It has the force of law in all the member states of the EU, as well as the countries of the European Free Trade Organisation (EFTA). The UK adopted a version of the regulation into national regulations when it left the EU in 2020. Some other countries beyond the EU are enacting laws identical to the air operations regulation in order to align with the European requirements.

What type of operations does the regulation cover?

The air operations regulation applies to the operation of aircraft :

  • Registered in an EU member state or

  • used by an operator established or residing in the EU or

  • operated into, within or out of the EU.

These are different rules for different types of aircraft operation: For commercial air transport operators (airlines and charter companies) based in the EU. For non-commercial (private) aircraft operators see non-commercial aircraft operators. For specialised operations (aerial work) see specialised operations.

The scope of the air operations regulation is broad, if you are based in Europe but operate an aircraft registered elsewhere then you will still need to comply with some parts of the regulation. This is particularly important for non-commercial aircraft operators, e.g. corporate aviation. Even if your aircraft is registered overseas you still need to comply with operational rules and organisational requirements. There is another regulation applying to commercial air transport operators based outside the EU flying into Europe (‘third country operators’ or ‘TCO’) see third country operators (TCO).

The air operations regulation is not applicable to military or state aircraft operations; this may include things like police, customs, fire-fighting or search and rescue. It also does not apply to the operation of micro-lights, experimental aircraft, some historic aircraft and small unmanned aircraft (‘drones’). These are all covered by national regulations.

What does the air operations regulation say?

It says a whole bunch of stuff, but here’s a quick overview:

The regulation is structured as a ‘cover regulation’ and eight annexes. You probably won’t need to refer to the cover regulation very often; the meat of the rules is in the annexes. Each of the annexes is known as a ‘part’ and is given a snappy three-letter acronym.


Part-ARO establishes rules that national aviation authorities within Europe are required to follow.


Aircraft operators, except private operators of light aircraft, have to have a particular management system including safety management and compliance monitoring. The annexe describing this is known as ‘Part-ORO’. See management system requirements.


Annexes IV (Part-CAT), VI (Part-NCC), VII (Part-NCO) and VIII (Part-SPO) describe the operating rules for different types of operators. Annex V (Part-SPA) describes the requirements for the grant of special approvals that any of these operators might require. These include approvals to operate on certain routes or types of airspace, the use of special equipment and the rules for helicopter emergency medical operations.

For more information on the requirements for different operators see

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