NCC vs AOC in Europe Part II. Business Aviation Private Operation vs Comercial. NCC
In this second part of the NCC/AOC analysis we will try to analyse more in deep the characteristics of NCC operation: how EASA & local CAAs supervise this operation and which are the requirements to begin the operation following NCC rules.
First of all, let us clarify that operating private following NCC rules doesn’t mean to do whatever the owner of the aircraft wants to do. In fact, NCC operation, in terms of safety is, or should be, equivalent to an AOC operation. There are some differences in terms of company structure, flexibility of some flight restrictions, but this is all. Or should be, because it will depend on how each local CAA is supervising this operation.
In fact, NCC operators must comply with the full set of Part M & Part 145 EASA rules (airworthiness & maintenance) as well as with most, but not all, Air OPS rules. Here is a table of what regulations are required for NCC operations:
The first requirement we need to comply with, is the signature of an NCC Declaration. Be careful, this is not just a paper to sign. Even if we are not concerned about the responsibilities we are assuming, the local CAA can check at any time if what is signed is complied with and, if it is not, suspend the operation and ground the aircraft, besides the possible sanctions to the individual or Organisation who has signed the declaration and to other people involved in the operation (crew, CAMO, etc.).
Be aware that signing the declaration may have civil and criminal consequences in case of breach, especially if the aircraft is involved in an accident or incident. We can loose a lot of money, insurance will probably not pay, and have even criminal responsibilities.
The second requirement, that we must guarantee through the declaration, is that we have a contract with a CAMO (Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation). It is mandatory to sign a contract with an EASA approved CAMO that will be the Organisation responsible to manage the airworthiness: control scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, modifications, repairs, etc.
Signing the declaration certifies also that we have developed and launched the following procedures/documents:
Operations Manual in compliance with Air-OPS.A Management System including SMS (Safety Management System)Operational approvals for the operations we want to develop: i.e. MNPS, RVSM, ADS-B, CPDLC, CAT II, etc.Minimum Equipment List (MEL)Crew training and supervision system.
All procedures and responsibilities must be included in the Operations Manual and SMS Manual. It is not a question of copy and paste a manual we have from another operator, we need to develop a fully personalised manual to describe our company and how we will work. Some people think that, as the manuals do not require an approval from the local CAA, they can use any document just to comply with the requirement and then operate as they want. This is a big mistake and can lead to serious consequences.
In the end, we are operating a complex aircraft and we want to maintain a high level of safety apart from complying with regulations. So, unless you want to operate as a pirate, make sure to gather a professional team, specialised in every area, to support the operation. You don’t need exactly the same structure of an AOC but you need something quite similar in terms of supporting people. Perhaps the main difference is that we may outsource most of the tasks instead having the people inside the own Organisation.
The structure that we need to create directly, subcontracted or combined, will be something like this:
How to begin to operate as NCC
Let’s imagine we have just decided to acquire a new, or pre-owned, corporate jet and we want to begin the operations as NCC. What do we need to do?
1.- Decide very carefully and with a highly experience professional advise, what aircraft is the best for the operation we want to develop. This is really an step to take before acquiring the aircraft and will be discussed in further articles, but it is a key issue that can determine or limit the operations we can afford in the future.
2.- Register the aircraft. Where? This is another complicate question that we will try to develop in future articles. For the moment, let’s say that where we register the aircraft will be important not only from the legal or tax point of view but also will determine what local CAA will be in charge. If you register the aircraft in the same country where the CAMO and NCC signatory company (or companies) is based, all aspects of the operation will be supervised by the CAA of that country. Otherwise, it will depend on bilateral agreements. Usually the CAA of the country of registration will manage the airworthiness while the CAA of the country of the NCC signatory will manage operational aspects.
3.- Do we want to manage the operation in-house, contracting every task or a mix? As in other cases, there isn’t one right answer for any owner as it will depend on the structure of each owner’s business or companies. We will analyse this issue later.
4.- Prepare an Operations Manual and SMS manual. As explained before, this is not an easy task. We must be sure that the manuals reflect what we are going to do and must be developed by professional experts.
5.- Sign a contract with a CAMO organisation. The CAMO has then to include the aircraft in the CAME manual and submit a Maintenance Program for approval.
6.- Submit the NCC declaration to the local CAA. The declaration can be signed by the owner or by any other entity that has a contract with the owner to manage the operations. There is not any requirement for EASA approval for that company. It can be an AOC, a CAMO or any other entity without an specific approval but with professional staff that can comply with the tasks described in the Operations and Safety Manuals.
7.- Ask for Operational Approvals: RVSM, PBN, MNPS, etc.
8.- Submit MEL for approval.
Once we receive the approval from CAA for all documents, including MEL, Operational Approvals, Maintenance Program, etc. we can begin the operations.
How long it takes? Well, it will depend of several factors:
1.- Local CAA or CAAs involved. Although EASA regulations are common for all European countries, we know that each local CAA is different.
2.- If we have already hired the right professionals and/or signed agreements with companies that can manage the full process will be very different than in the case we want to develop all aspects by ourselves.
3.- If we are dealing with different countries of registration/operation, we need to be sure that a bilateral agreement exists and coordinate with both ºCAAs how it will be applied.
We can say that the process can take from one week, if we have everything ready in advance, local CAA has agreed the process and we have contracted companies with experience in all areas, to many weeks if we want to develop our own structure and manuals after purchasing the aircraft or we begin to submit the documents to the CAA in the last minute.
What structure do we need to operate an aircraft under NCC?
We have several options depending on how each owner wants to operate or how is the structure of the owner’s enterprises.
Let’s analyse each possibility:
1.- In house full management. The first two EASA requirements that must be complied with are the signature of the NCC declaration and to establish a contract with a CAMO (Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation). We can create a CAMO but will be expensive and will take months to be approved, depending local CAA. We can also manage the Operations Manual and SMS Manual as well as sign the NCC declaration but we need to hire a group of professionals with experience in flight operations, crew management, safety & quality to prepare the documentation and also to manage the daily operations. We can also arrange a 24/7 dispatch department and even a handling department.
2.- Full outsourcing. We can easily sign a contract with an established organisation (or organisations) to manage all aspects of the operation. At least we need to contract a CAMO that can manage the airworthiness as this is a requirement of EASA regulations. There are companies that are also CAMOs that offer to prepare all the manuals (SMS, MEL, Operations Manual, etc.) and sign the NCC declaration. There are are even AOCs that offer a full service including CAMO, handling, dispatch, flight operations, etc. Or we can choose to contract different companies for each area depending on the support they can offer in each country and each area.
3.- Combination of in house and outsourcing. Some owners choose to prepare a small structure in house for flight operations, sign the NCC declaration and contract externally a CAMO, the dispatch services, handling, etc.
Which is the best structure? Well, we must study which one adapts better to our own structure and requirements. It is not the same if we want to operate one or two aircraft than five or six or if we have another company in our corporation that can have specialist to support some aviation tasks.
Usually, a full in house management will not be very profitable as we will be creating a similar structure of a commercial AOC just for our own private aircraft/s, unless we own several aircraft that flight a lot, what is not usual under NCC. Otherwise, we should go for a full outsourcing or a combination. CAMO will be always outsourced and usually handling and dispatching. If we don’t really want to be involved in the operation and we just want to fly the aircraft, then the best option will be to fully outsource all the operation.
To summarise: NCC operation can be less expensive and more flexible than AOC operation, but it will not be cheap and we cannot do whatever we want. I am sure that most owners of a business jet want safety above any other consideration and this require professional solutions.
In the following article we will try to analyse some particular questions of NCC operation in a !Questions & Answers” format. Do not hesitate to send us your questions and doubts concerning this kind of operation and we will try to answer them.