‘PART-NCO’ to become UK law on August 25th

New EASA regulations governing the ‘non-commercial’ operation of aircraft are set to come into force in the UK on the 25th August. Although many of the ‘PART-NCO’ provisions closely resemble regulations previously published in the UK Air Navigation Order (ANO), some new requirements have caught aircraft owners and operators off-guard and there have been complaints that the new requirements have not been well-publicised in advance.

The European legislation relating to PART NCO was enacted in 2013 and adopted by many European states at that time. The UK used its powers of ‘derogation’ to delay the introduction of the new rules, in part to revise the Air Navigation Order in light of the new EASA rules. ‘PART NCO’ applies to non-commercial operations with aeroplanes, helicopters, balloons and sailplane. ‘Commercial operation’ means the operation of an aircraft in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration, which is available to the public or, when not made available to the public, which is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer. Morever, PART NCO applies specifically to those aircraft which are deemed to be ‘non-complex’. A ‘complex’ powered aircraft is defined as an aeroplane:

  • with a maximum certificated take-off mass exceeding 5 700 kg, or
  • certified for more than 19 passengers seating, or
  • certified for operation with a minimum crew of at least two pilots,
  • or equipped with (a) turbojet engine(s) or more than one turboprop engine.
  • Or a helicopter certified:
  • for a maximum take-off mass exceeding 3175 kg, or
  • for a more than 9 passengers, or
  • for operation with a minimum crew of at least two pilots.

It follows that an aircraft which does not meet the above criteria is ‘non-complex’.

Many of the PART-NCO provisions which bear close resemblance to previous ANO regulations are those relating to items such as Pilot In Command responsibilities, IFR operations, night flight and the carriage of passengers. Other PART-NCO provisions are more novel, for example restrictions on who may taxi an aircraft and a requirement that aircraft cannot be re-fuelled with AVGAS when passengers are on board. Other provisions formalise processes previously covered by operator procedures, for example regarding fuel reserves.

The PART-NCO requirements that have attracted the most comment are those concerning the carriage of safety and survival equipment. Although it has long been accepted practice that lifejackets should be carried (and worn, uninflated) when a single-engine aircraft flies over the sea beyond gliding distance of land, this practice is now formalised in law. Furthermore, the carriage of lifejackets is now mandated in aeroplanes when “…taking off or landing at an aerodrome or operating site where, in the opinion of the pilot-in-command, the take-off or approach path is so disposed over water that there would be a likelihood of a ditching.” Such a situation may exist, for example, when operating at an airfield near to the sea or a large area of water such as a reservoir or river estuary. FTN estimates that there are dozens of such airfields in the UK where the normal arrival, departure and circuit pattern could expose a single-engine aircraft to the risk of ditching in the event of an engine failure. For helicopters, PART-NCO requires the carriage of lifejackets in circumstances including when “…taking off or landing at an aerodrome/operating site where the take-off or approach path is over water.”

An extract from PART NCO:
NCO.OP.125 Fuel and oil supply — aeroplanes
(a) The pilot-in-command shall only commence a flight if the aeroplane carries sufficient fuel and oil for the following:
(1) for visual flight rules (VFR) flights:
(i) by day, taking-off and landing at the same aerodrome/landing site and always remaining in sight of that aerodrome/landing site, to fly the intended route and thereafter for at least 10 minutes at normal cruising altitude;
(ii) by day, to fly to the aerodrome of intended landing and thereafter to fly for at least 30 minutes at normal cruising altitude; or
(iii) by night, to fly to the aerodrome of intended landing and thereafter to fly for at least 45 minutes at normal cruising altitude.

Possibly the most controversial elements of the new PART-NCO requirements are those requiring the carriage of an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) on all flights regardless of the distance travelled or terrain over- flown. Thus these rules will even apply, for example, to an aircraft carrying out a circuit detail at its home airfield.

Although in most cases this requirement can be met by carrying a relatively inexpensive (circa £225) PLB, there is no doubt that like many of the provisions of this new legislation, even aviation professionals and operators or aircraft fleets have, until very recently, been largely unaware of the new rules they will very soon be required to adhere to.

An extract from PART NCO:
NCO.IDE.A.170 Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT)
(a) Aeroplanes shall be equipped with:
(1) an ELT of any type, when first issued with an individual C of A on or before 1 July 2008;
(2) an automatic ELT, when first issued with an individual C of A after 1 July 2008; or
(3) a survival ELT (ELT(S)) or a personal locator beacon (PLB), carried by a crew member or a passenger, when certified for a maximum passenger seating configuration of six or less.
(b) ELTs of any type and PLBs shall be capable of transmitting simultaneously on 121.5MHz and 406MHz.

Author: FTN

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