The History & Development of Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) & Safety Assessment of Community Aircraft (SACA)

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Considerations by Sofema Online (SOL)


The SAFA programme started in 1996 and is focused on assessing the level of compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards of the airlines operating at the various airports which are within the jurisdiction of the European Aviation Authorities.

» The objective is to raise the overall safety level of airlines by requiring correction and prevention of identified discrepancies with ICAO standards.

Note: EASA standards may be more stringent than other regulatory standards whereas ICAO SARP are essentially baseline standards agreed upon by the signatories to the UN.

» The legal basis for the SAFA programme is the Chicago Convention, where article 16 states that “the appropriate authorities of the contracting State shall have the right, without unreasonable delay, to search aircraft of the other contracting States on landing or departure, and to inspect the certificates and other documents prescribed by the Convention”.

» According to ICAO Annex 6, part I, article, “States shall establish a programme with procedures for the surveillance of operations in their country by a foreign operator and for taking appropriate action when necessary to preserve safety”.

» Therefore, the SAFA program enables its participating States to comply with this ICAO requirement. The principles of the programme are simple: in each EU Member State and those States who have entered into a specific 'SAFA' Working Arrangement with EASA.

» Third-country aircraft may be inspected. These inspections follow a procedure common to all SAFA Participating States and are then reported upon using a common format.

» On 28 October 2012, the Implementing Rules on Air Operations entered into force as the new legal basis for the EU ramp inspection programme, replacing the original system established by the SAFA Directive and its implementing regulations with a new system represented by the new EU Ramp Inspections Programme. All these procedures are established by EASA at an European level and are disclosed on the EASA website.

» If an inspection identifies significant irregularities, these will be taken up with the airline and its oversight authority. When irregularities have an immediate impact on safety, inspectors will require corrective actions to be embodied before the departure of the aircraft.

Note: While there is a legal obligation to perform inspections on third-country aircraft, nothing prevents the European Member States from inspecting aircraft of air carriers from the other European States.

Concerning Mandatory Participation

For the EU Member States, participation in the programme is required by law.

The regulatory framework consists of the following:

» Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012 of 5 October 2012, including the implementing rules in its Annexes.
» Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM) to Part-ARO.
» Inspection Instructions on the Categorization of Ramp Inspection (SAFA/SACA) Findings (Safety Assessment of Community Aircraft = SACA).
» Guidance material in the form of a Ramp Inspections Manual (RIM) consisting of a full set of guidance assisting states in performing standardized ramp inspections.

Concerning Data Storage

» All reported data is stored in a computerized database set up by EASA. The database also holds complementary information, such as lists of actions carried out following inspections.
» The information held within this database is reviewed and analyzed by EASA on a regular basis.
» The European Commission and the SAFA Participating States are informed of any potential safety hazards identified.
» EASA has developed qualitative criteria with the aim of achieving a more focused approach regarding the SAFA inspection priorities.

Requirement for Participation in International Aviation Activities

The Chicago convention warrants a level playing field for all operators which are ICAO compliant, as it allows for international flights for such compliant operators.

» If an operator is sub‐ICAO standards, it should not participate in International Aviation “except with the permission of the State or States whose territory is entered”. In cases where there is an implicit mutual acceptance between two Contracting States on a certain sub‐ICAO Standard, one could consider that the operation is meeting the requirements of Article 40 of the Convention and therefore is ICAO compliant.
» In addition to the mutual acceptance by the two States, the sub‐ICAO Standard might also require the acceptance of any overflown State (depending on the concerned Standard, e.g. in the case of the ACAS II standard).
» Where such acceptance is in place involving one of the States participating in the EU Ramp Inspection Programme, such State is not required to raise a finding on the accepted non‐compliance, provided that a general remark is entered into the ramp inspection report specifying the details.

Note: The EU Ramp Inspection Programme has replaced the EU SAFA Programme and has two major components:

SAFA ramp inspections (for third country operators); and

SACA ramp inspections (for community operators – checked against EU standards).

In each Participating State, aircraft of operators under the safety oversight of another Member State or of a third country can be subject to a ramp inspection, chiefly concerned with the aircraft documents and manuals, flight crew licenses, the apparent condition of the aircraft and the presence and condition of mandatory cabin safety equipment.

The applicable requirements for these inspections are:

The ICAO international standards for aircraft used by third-country operators;

» The relevant EU requirements for aircraft used by operators under the regulatory oversight of another Member State;
» Manufacturers’ standards when checking the technical condition of the aircraft; and
» Published national standards (e.g. Aeronautical Information Publications (AIPs)) that are declared applicable to all operators flying to that State.

These checks are carried out in accordance with a procedure which is common to all the Participating States.

Their outcome is then subject to reports which also follow a common format.

Next Steps

Sofema Aviation Services (SAS) and Sofema Online (SOL) provide regulatory-compliant and vocational training courses. If you want to learn more about our services, visit the websites or email us at for additional guidance.

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