EASA’s comments on Pat Malone’s article ‘EASA and the R66 scandal’, which appeared in Pilot’s April 2014 edition
As a matter of principle EASA is fully committed to transparency towards the general public and stakeholders. However this principle has to be balanced against certain specific interests to protect, such as commercial secrets. Because documents provided by the industry in a certification process frequently contain commercial secrets, EASA is not at liberty to disclose such information to third parties outside the certification process. Instead, EASA’s policy in these cases is to advise anyone requesting such information to contact directly the applicant.
The article in Pilot Magazine contains both inaccuracies and misinformation and is biased. Therefore EASA considers a response necessary. It should be noted however, that EASA is not able to comment on all issues raised in the article respecting the confidential nature of the certification process, as mentioned above.
· Statement in article: ‘…four years after the helicopter was certified in the USA…the scandal of R66 certification in Europe is becoming the blackest stain on EASA’s already soiled reputation.’
o EASA’s clarification: There is neither scandal, nor any stain. The R66 certification in the EU encountered a number of difficulties, which mainly originated from the FAA decision to exempt the R66 from certain airworthiness requirements, initially setting a lower standard than the one prescribed today by our common EU and US certification rules. Under current EU rules EASA cannot issue ‘exemption’. As a consequence EASA instigated and agreed with the FAA and Robinson what is called an ‘equivalent level of safety’ (ELOS) to such rules. The demonstration of the ELOS was ultimately successful, but it took some time for everyone involved – including Robinson – to close the item to EASA’s satisfaction. The Agency cannot release further detailed information without the permission from the applicant.
· Statement in article: ‘…EASA’s certification charges are about to top one million dollars and are rising at the rate of around $25,000 a month’.
o EASA’s clarification: This statement ignores the fact that in the European system the industry pays the certification cost rather than the European taxpayer. The principles of the fees and charges system are established by the European legislator and the Agency, as an EU body, is bound to follow them. Commission Regulation No. 593/2007, also known as ‘Fees and Charges Regulation’ establishes applicable certification fees in proportion to the aircraft class, and to the duration of the exercise. In case of a full aircraft certification, EASA charges fixed fees for the first period of 12 months. After this first period, these fees are determined pro-rata until the certificate is achieved. The sooner an applicant is able to demonstrate compliance with the applicable European safety requirements, the lower will be the final charge.
· Statement in article: ‘Canada also refused to accept the FAA’s grandfathering, despite the fact that unlike other turbine helicopters, the R66 remains controllable hydraulics-off.’
o EASA’s clarification: This is not true. The hydraulics failure mode that was under discussion is unrelated and in no way mitigated by the helicopter being controllable hydraulics-off. As mentioned, FAA had initially ‘exempted’ Robinson from meeting the related requirements while under EU rules EASA cannot issue such ‘exemption’. After additional testing, the FAA and Robinson were able to demonstrate to EASA and other Authorities that the system presented an Equivalent Level of Safety to the requirements. As a result the FAA recalled its exemption.
· Statement in article: ‘…the litany of nit-picking that has occupied the last four years is nothing short of incredible. EASA has refused to accept FAA’s test results on tail rotor authority.’
o EASA’s clarification: Not true. This statement is not based on any true facts and has no connection with any real situation.
· Statement in article: ‘…the Pilots Operating Handbook had to be rewritten because EASA objected to the numbering and sequencing of the paragraphs’.
o EASA’s clarification: This is not true. EASA certainly objected to the actual content of the Handbook, specifically normal and emergency procedures.
· Statement in article: ‘Two and a half years ago it was discovered that there may be quality issues with a batch of nuts from a contractor who supplies dozens of aviation-related manufacturers.’
o EASA’s clarification: The nuts concerned are MS21042 standard parts. The issue is much wider, and it is certainly not limited to one batch or one manufacturer; deeper understanding of the issue is required.
· Statement in article: ‘There are thousands of these nuts flying around there, most of them on already-certified aircraft, and EASA is showing little concern over them. (None of the nuts has failed, they’re just suspect).’
o EASA’s clarification: It is not true. It has been well documented by different authorities that a number of these MS21042 self-locking nuts have failed, mostly through a single or multiple longitudinal cracks. EASA is closely following the issue in coordination with other authorities and among other actions has issued Safety Information Bulletin 2012-06R2 as well as a number of Airworthiness Directives on different products (e.g. 57-10-06-18, 2013-0225-E, 2013-0265-E, 2013-0273-E, 2013-0300-E and 2014-0037).
· Statement in article: “The Robinson R66 contains none of these nuts. However they are L4 and could theoretically fit on R66”.
o EASA’s clarification: Again, it is not true. All Robinson products, including the R66, make extensive use of MS21042 nuts, including in the L4 size. Robinson has issued correspondingly R66 Service Letter SL-01 titled “Cracked MS21042L-series Nuts”. Accident reports involving MS21042 nuts on Robinson helicopters are publicly available, for example ATSB AO-2011-016 or AO-2011-135.
Safety Information and Communications Officer/ Head of Communications