Non-commercial Aircraft Operators
Non-commercial aircraft operators need to comply with the air operations regulation (Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012).
For ‘other than complex’ aircraft and turbo-props under 5700kg MTOM the requirements are straightforward (‘Part-NCO’). For ‘complex aircraft’ it’s a different story. As well as operating rules (‘Part-NCC’) operators have to comply with ‘organisation requirements’ (‘Part-ORO’). If an operator needs any ‘specific approvals’, e.g. navigation approvals to operate in specific airspace or on particular routes, then this is covered in ‘Part-SPA’.
Who is affected by the regulation
The ‘NCC’ regulations apply to operators of ‘complex motor powered aircraft’ (CMPA) established or residing in the Member States regardless of where the aircraft is registered and also to operators of aircraft registered in the Member States regardless of where the operation is based. The regulation therefore applies to foreign registered aircraft operated by EU operators as well as to EU registered aircraft operated by foreign operators.
If the ‘aircraft operator’ is an individual person then the regulation applies if that person resides within the Member States. If the operator is a ‘legal person’ (i.e. a company) then the regulation applies if the company is established in the Member States. It also applies to a foreign company or individual with a ‘Principal Place of Business’ in the Member States.
In this context the ‘Member States’ are the 27 Member States of the European Union plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. There are certain territories within Europe that fall outside this definition of ‘Member States’ for example San Marino.
The applicability of the regulation does not depend on where the aircraft or crew are based.
Complex Motor-Powered Aircraft?
In this context a ‘complex motor-powered aircraft’ is one that:
Has a maximum take-off mass of more than 5700kg or
Has a certified maximum passenger seating configuration of more than 19 or
Is certificated for a minimum crew of two pilots or
Has one or more turbojet engine or
Has two or more turbo-prop engines.
Has a maximum take-off mass of more than 3175kg or
Has a certified maximum passenger seating configuration of more than 19 or
is certificated for a minimum crew of two pilots.
The requirement to comply with Part-ORO and Part-NCC does not apply to turbo-prop aircraft with a maximum take-off mass of less than 5700 kg. Operators of these aircraft should comply with Part -NCO (article 2(c) of Regulation 2016/1199).
What's a non-commercial operation?
The Basic Regulation defines commercial operations as “any operation of an aircraft, in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration, which is available to the public or, when not made available to the public, which is performed under a contract between the operator and a customer, where the latter [customer] has no control over the operator“.
A simplified version of this is to ask if payment is being made for the flight. If an aircraft is chartered, or if tickets are sold to passengers then this is clearly a commercial operation. If there is no payment for the specific flight then the operation might be non-commercial even if other payments are made, e.g. an an annual management charge.
If a corporation has a ‘Flight Department’ as an entity within the corporate structure then there might be a payment from one part of the corporation to the ‘Flight Department’. In this case the operator (‘Flight Department’) is under the control of the customer (corporation) so this would be non-commercial.
The regulations for complex aircraft operators
The requirements for non-commercial operators of complex motor-powered aircraft (NCC Operators) are not the same as the requirements for airlines, but they’re close. There are rules about how an operator is organised as well as those that dictate how the aircraft is operated.
NCC operators need to comply with Annex III to Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012, ‘Organisation Requirements for Air Operators’, known as ‘Part-ORO’. Part-ORO contains the management system requirements. In order to comply with the management system requirements NCC Operators need to have:
An ‘Accountable Manager’ who has overall responsibility for financing the operation and is accountable for safety;
A safety policy and safety risk assessment processes (i.e. a safety management system, or SMS);
Trained, competent personnel including ‘nominated persons’, who ensure that the operation complies with all the relevant requirements; a safety manager and a compliance monitoring manager;
Documentation including an operations manual; a minimum equipment list for each aircraft and a records system;
A compliance monitoring system.
NCC Operators have to ensure that flight crew receive all the required training. This goes beyond the training required to maintain the licensing requirements (e.g. type ratings and instrument ratings). Flight Crew need to have specific training when joining an operator (‘conversion training’), they will need to have annual recurrent training and checking and both of these will include CRM. NCC Operators will need to provide a command course for First Officers upgrading to Captain on multi-crew types and differences or familiarisation training if crew are required to operate different variants of an aircraft type.
These requirements will apply equally to ‘freelance’ pilots and those who are employed full-time with a single operator.
Aircraft with more than 19 passenger seats need to be operated with qualified cabin crew. The NCC operator has to ensure that these crew have received appropriate training. If the operator of an aircraft with less than 19 seats chooses to use cabin crew (even if not required) then these crew will also need to be trained.
Cabin crew need to pass a medical assessment and need to have initial, type-specific and operator specific training. They need to complete annual recurrent training and refresher training if they have not operated on a particular aircraft type for six months. All of these training programmes will include CRM.
As for pilots the training requirements apply equally to freelance or part-time cabin crew as to those who work full-time for one operator.
NCC Operators typically sub-contract many activities such as crew training, flight planning and ground handling. Even if sub-contracted the NCC Operator is responsible for these activities and has to include them within the scope of their compliance monitoring and safety management programmes.
NCC Operators are required to have an operations manual (OM) describing the organisation and the way that the aircraft are operated. The OM gives aircraft crew and other operational staff the information they need to do their jobs. The OM can incorporate OEM documents such as a ‘Flight Crew Operations Manual’ (FCOM) or ‘Pilots Operating Handbook’ (POH) published by the aircraft manufacturer. NCC Operators need to ensure that the manual is kept up to date and provided to all operational staff so there will be an amendment/revision and distribution process.
The owner or lessee of an aircraft is responsible for the continuing airworthiness of that aircraft including ensuring that the aircraft is airworthy, that all emergency and safety equipment is correctly installed and serviceable, that maintenance is performed in accordance with an approved maintenance schedule and that the certificate of airworthiness remains valid. For ‘large aircraft’, that is aeroplanes with maximum take-off mass of more than 5700kg and multi-engined helicopters, the owner must have a contract with an approved ‘Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation’ (CAMO) who will assume this responsibility.
The operating rules for non-commercial operation of complex motor-powered aircraft (CMPA) are in Annex VI to Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012, known as ‘Part-NCC’. The rules are designed to be ‘proportionate’, so they are not as onerous as the requirements for commercial air transport.
There are specific requirements for aircraft performance, fuel policy, terrain clearance, calculation of aerodrome operating minima and mass and balance. All of these requirements need to be documented in the Operations Manual so that they are available to crew.
Declaration and oversight
NCC Operators are not required to obtain an approval or certificate before they start operations. Instead they submit a ‘declaration’ to the appropriate competent authority. This means filling in a form giving details of the operation and confirming that the operation will remain in compliance with all the regulatory requirements. NCC Operators have to advise the Authority of any changes to the operation and any ‘Alternative Means of Compliance’ used.
Competent authorities have an obligation to verify that the declaration contains the required information, but this doesn’t require an immediate inspection of the operator. Authorities are also required to ‘verify continued compliance’ of NCC operators, so there will be audits and inspections. Where these inspections and audits reveal non-compliance with the regulation NCC operators are required to take corrective action within a given timeframe. If this corrective action is not effective, or for non-compliances that ‘seriously hazard flight safety‘ the Authority can limit or prohibit the operator’s activities.