Regulations for Air Operations and Air Crew training in Europe.

Basic Regulation

Back in 2002 the first European regulation ‘establishing common rules in the field of aviation’ were enacted. These rules have been amended and updated over the years so that the current ‘Basic Regulation’ on the subject is ‘Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European parliament and of the council (as amended)‘. This ‘Basic Regulation’ established the scope and intent of pan-European aviation rules together with some very general principles (the ‘essential requirements’) and established the framework within which more detailed rules were to be developed.

The Basic Regulation broadly applies to aircraft designed, manufactured and operated by organisations within the European Member States, as well as to the organisations and personnel that operate and maintain them. It also applies to airport operations and the air traffic control system. There are several exceptions to the scope of the regulation, such as historic aircraft, small airports and military or government aviation. For detailed information about the scope of the regulation refer to articles 1 and 4 of Regulation (EC) 216/2008; if you need assistance with interpretation then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Implementing Rules

The Basic Regulation establishes the ‘essential requirements’ for different activities within its scope, but does not layout the detailed rules. For this there are ‘implementing rules’ for each of the different domains. Implementing rules for the different domains have been developed progressively since the first Basic Regulation in 2002. Until implementing rules are developed for a particular domain national rules continue to apply in each of the Member States.

The text of the various regulations are available from the EASA website.

Amending and updating the rules

The European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Commission have dozens of people working full-time on updating and improving the regulations. If a regulation needs to be amended then a new regulation will be produced with details of the changed text. For example Commission Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 (the aircrew regulation) has been amended by Commission Regulations (EU) 290/2012, 70/2014, 245/2014, 2015/445, 2016/539, 2018/1065 and 2018/119. If you refer to the original aircrew regulation then you may well miss important changes. The system is ‘lawyer-friendly’ rather ‘user-friendly’.

In practice you need to make sure that you are referring to ‘consolidated versions’ of the regulation, such as the ‘Easy Access Rules’ published by EASA.

Acceptable Means of Compliance

The ‘implementing rules’ are ‘hard law’, i.e. you must always comply unless you have been granted an exemption or derogation from the rules (see ‘Flexibility Provisions’ below). In addition to this ‘hard law’ EASA publishes ‘decisions’ containing ‘acceptable means of compliance’ (‘AMC’) and ‘guidance material’ (‘GM’). These are called EASA Decisions because the Executive Director of EASA can decide to publish these whereas regulations have to be made by (at least) the European Commission.

AMCs describe how to comply with implementing rules. For example the implementing rule for training organisations says that “a training course shall be developed for each type of course offered” [ORA.ATO.125(a)]. The AMC then describes the requirements for a type rating course including the content of the training, duration, types of simulators to be used etc. The AMC is ‘soft law’ in that it is not mandatory to follow the AMC but if you comply with the AMC then you are presumed to have complied with the rule. You can propose another way to comply with the regulation but this has to be notified to the your competent authority who will evaluate whether you proposed ‘Alternative Means of Compliance’ is acceptable (see ‘Flexibility Provisions’ below).

EASA Decisions also include ‘Guidance Material’ (GM). Guidance material is just that, explanatory material that should help you to understand the meaning of a rule or provide further background information.

Flexibility Provisions

The Basic Regulation and its implementing rules are European regulation and are directly applicable in all the EU Member States. Anyone coming under the scope of the regulation is required to comply, but the Basic Regulation does contain a provision so that NAAs can grant exemptions or derogations to allow for specific situations where its not possible to comply with a rule. These provisions are in article 14 of the basic regulation, so they are known as ‘article 14 provisions’.

Article 14 of the Basic regulation contains three provisions that allow for deviation from the regulations:

  • Article 14.1: allows an NAA to react immediately to a safety problem;
  • Article 14.4: Allows an NAA to grant an exemption from the rules “in the event of unforeseen operational circumstances or operational needs of a limited duration”. The level of safety must not be affected.
  • Article 14.6: Allows an NAA to grant derogation from the rules where there is a need and where “an equivalent level of protection is achieved”.

It’s not going to be easy for most organisations to get an exemption or derogation. As well as convincing your NAA of the need and equivalent level of safety, the European Commission has to be notified and can require the NAA to revoke the exemption or derogation.

If your organisation needs assistance to prepare an application for an exemption or derogation then McKechnie Aviation are ready to help. More importantly we may be able to save you the bother by finding a way to comply with the rules.


Another provision that allows for some flexibility in applying the air operations and aircrew regulations is the ‘Alternative Means of Compliance’ or ‘AltMoC’. The organisations rules (ORO.GEN.120 / ORA.GEN.120) allow an organisation to use an alternative to the acceptable means of compliance (AMC) published by EASA. This does not allow a deviation from the ‘hard law’ (regulation) but does allow a deviation from the ‘soft law’ (EASA Decision, AMC). There two different kinds of AltMoC:

Authority AltMoCs. An NAA can decide to adopt an alternative means of compliance. The NAA must then make this AltMoC available to all organisations under its oversight. So if DGAC France issues a particular AltMoC then it is available to all organisations and people certified, approved or licenced by DGAC France, but not to operators from other Member States.

Organisation/Operator AltMoCs. A certified or approved organisation (e.g. an airline/AOC or ATO) can apply to the NAA for an alternative means of compliance. The organisation has to show that the intent of the rule is met, and demonstrate an equivalent level of safety to the published AMC. In order to do this the organisation has to give the NAA all the relevant documentation and procedures and a demonstration of compliance including a documented risk assessment. If your AltMoC is approved then EASA and the other member states will be informed. The details aren’t published, so the content can be kept confidential if it’s commercially sensitive.

AltMoCs that are approved by the NAAs are then scrutinised by EASA as part of its standardisation function. So far (April 2015) EASA has requested clarification and additional documentation for a large proportion of the AltMoCs that have been approved.

If the air operations or aircrew regulations present a difficulty for your organisation then McKechnie Aviation can help. We can help you prepare an AltMoC and the necessary deomstration of compliance, but we’ll work also work with you to see if there’s an easier way.

Where do these rules apply?

The European regulations apply directly in the 28 EU member states and the 4 EFTA states :


EU Member States (coloured green on the map):

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Untied Kingdom.

EFTA States (coloured blue on the map):

Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland.

There are some territories within Europe where the European regulations don’t apply, for example the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and San Marino. There are also territories geographically outside Europe where the rules are applicable, for example La Reunion in the Indian Ocean.

Several non-European countries are also adopting national rules based on the European requirements.

Oversight and enforcement

Although the regulations are now made centrally for Europe enforcement and oversight is largely the responsibility of individual Member States. Each of the different ‘implementing rules’ describes who is the ‘Competent Authority’ for different people and organisations. The ‘Competent Authority’ is the national aviation authority (NAA) that can issues certificates and licences and that has responsibility for oversight and inspections.

Person or Organisation (& reference)CriteriaCompetent Authority
Licensed pilot (FCL.001)An individual is free to apply for a pilot licence in any (one) member stateNAA of the state to which the pilot applied for a licence
Cabin crew (CC.GEN.001)NAA of the state where the person applied for an attestation.
Pilot training organisation (ORA.GEN.105)Principal place of business within the member statesNAA of the state where the organisation has its principal place of business
Principal place of business outside the member statesEuropean Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
Flight Simulation Training Device (FSTD) Operator (ORA.GEN.105)Principal place of business within the member states; device (FSTD) within the member statesNAA of the state where the operator has its principal place of business
Principal place of business within the member states; device (FSTD) outside the member statesEuropean Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
Principal place of business outside the member statesEuropean Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
Aircraft operator (ORO.GEN.105)Principal place of business within the member statesNAA of the state where the operator has its principal place of business

What’s a principal place of business?

The ‘principal place of business’ is important because it determines which European national authority is responsible for the certification and oversight of aircraft operators and pilot training organisations.

Principal place of business is defined as “The head office or registered office of the organisation within which the principal financial functions and operational control of the activities referred to in this regulation are exercised”. [ARA.GEN.105 / Annex I to regulation 965/2012]

Its worth noting that a lot of multi-national companies will have operations in countries other than their ‘principal place of business’, so the ‘Competent Authority’ isn’t necessarily going to be located in the same territory as the operations its overseeing.