The Single European Sky (SES) Programme has introduced the concepts, and related processes, of the Certification of an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), and the Designation of the Providers of Air Traffic Services (ATS).
Article 7 of the Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 on the provision of air navigation services in the Single European Sky (the Service Provision Regulation), amended by Regulation (EC) No 1070/2009 of 21 November 2009, requires that “The provision of all air navigation services within the Community shall be subject to certification by Member States”.
The Regulation further specifies that certification will be carried out by National Supervisory Authorities (NSAs) in accordance with common requirements for service provision in the areas of:
- technical and operational competence and suitability,
- systems and processes for safety and quality management,
- reporting systems,
- quality of services,
- financial strength,
- liability and insurance cover,
- ownership and organisational structure, including the prevention of conflicts of interest,
- human resources, including adequate staffing plans,
States are responsible for ensuring continuing compliance by the service providers with the common requirements and with any conditions attached to the certificate (in accordance with Annex II of the Regulation).
The common requirements themselves are specified in Regulation 2017/373 - Requirements for providers of ATM/ANS and other ATM network functions and their oversight.
Article 8 of the Service-Provision Regulation requires that “Member States shall ensure the provision of air traffic services on an exclusive basis within specific airspace blocks in respect of the airspace under their responsibility. For this purpose, Member States shall designate an air traffic service provider holding a valid certificate in the Community.”
Within the designation process, Member States must define the rights and obligations to be met by the designated service providers.
Certification is regarded as an entry qualification to the market for ANS service provision. Once certified, a service-provider is legally qualified to provide ANS elsewhere in SES airspace. The legislation specifically requires Member States to recognise any certificate issued in another Member State.
It is understood that such recognition would apply to a competence level equivalent to that assessed within the certification process, and that any significant extension of capabilities required by a new service provision task would require a re-assessment of the service-provider.
The legislation provides the possibility of derogations from certain requirements for certification for certain specific forms of aviation activity and for certain types of service-provision, but in both cases subject to strict and monitored conditions. No derogation is possible in the cases of those requirements addressing technical and operational competence and capability, safety management, human resources, and open and transparent provision of services.
The use of certification differs in a number of ways from its application in other areas of aviation, such as that applied to aircraft or their components. In this specific SES context, it enables and facilitates an open market for ANS service provision. States do not necessarily have to rely upon nationally-based service provision, and may use services provided by certified service-providers from other States.
Indeed, the amended Article 7(6) of the Service Provision Regulation states that the “…the issue of certificates shall confer on air navigation service providers the possibility of offering their services to Member States, other air navigation service providers, airspace users and airports within the Community”.
The requirement for Certification applies to all cases of ANS service-provision, whether or not designation is also required.
With the adoption of the SES II legislative package, and of the Regulation (EC) No 1108/2009 extending the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) competence in the field of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services in particular, the scope of the certification process is extended to include “aeronautical products, parts and appliances, aerodromes and their equipment, operators involved in commercial air transport and in the operation of aerodromes, ATM/ANS systems and providers”, as well as “… organisations involved in the training and medical assessment” of pilots and air traffic controllers.
Implementing rules relating to the certification of the design, manufacture and maintenance of ATM/ANS systems and constituents, as well as to organisations engaged in the design, manufacture and maintenance will only be laid down when related to safety-critical issues identified following a detailed impact assessment study.
Conversely, designation applies in cases where it is necessary to have a single, unique agency providing the service, and competition or selection between multiple providers is not possible. Designation is therefore applied to ATS service provision and can, at the discretion of States, also be applied to the provision of meteorological services.
The process of designation confers upon a service provider the sole responsibility of providing a service in a specified area of SES airspace. In each case, the State concerned has the legal duty to define the rights and obligations to be met by the designated service provider.
In respect of Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) that extend across the airspace under the responsibility of more than one Member State, the legislation permits Member States to jointly designate one or more ATS providers.