EASA Releases Proposed Regulation For AAM Vehicles

Credit: Skyports

Europe’s aviation safety agency on June 30 issued a proposed regulatory framework for operations of new vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL)-capable aircraft over cities.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) 2022-06, which would amend existing aviation regulations to address airworthiness, operational requirements, flight crew licensing and airspace rules for VTOL-capable cargo and passenger aircraft. The agency is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until Sept. 30.

EASA said the proposed rule set complements existing EU regulatory documents governing uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) or drones, the continent’s UAS traffic management system concept known as “U-space,” the certification of VTOL-capable aircraft and recent EASA guidance on the design of vertiports.

The agency’s release of the 295-page NPA marks Europe’s progress over the U.S. toward introducing into the airspace small commercial drones and new electric-powered eVTOL cargo and passenger aircraft—known collectively as advanced air mobility (AAM) vehicles by the FAA.

In a surprise policy shift this spring, the FAA informed fledgling eVTOL manufacturers that it will require them to certify winged vehicles as powered-lift aircraft under Part 21.17(b) “special class” rules instead of existing Part 23 regulations for airplanes. The shift requires that the agency now issue a Special Federal Aviation Regulation to recognize the new class of powered-lift aircraft within its Parts 91, 119 and 135 operating regulations.

EASA in its proposed rule coins new acronyms, including Innovative Air Mobility (IAM), which it defines as “the safe, secure and sustainable air mobility of passengers and cargo enabled by new-generation technologies integrated into a multimodal transportation system.” Urban air mobility (UAM) would be a subset of IAM operations “conducted into, within or out of urban environments.”

The document defines a VTOL-capable aircraft as “a power-driven, heavier-than-air aircraft, other than an aeroplane or rotorcraft, capable of performing vertical takeoff and landing by means of lift or thrust units used to provide lift during takeoff and landing.”

 “With this [NPA], EASA becomes the first aviation regulator worldwide to release a comprehensive regulatory framework for operations of VTOL-capable aircraft, which will offer air taxi and similar services,” says EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “The publication reinforces the leadership EASA is showing in this area of innovation. At the same time, we have done our best to address general societal concerns and the expectations of EU citizens with respect to safety, security, privacy, environment and noise.”

Cologne, Germany-based EASA has been out front in promulgating component certification and operating standards for new AAM vehicles and ground support infrastructure. The agency formally published a type certification standard for eVTOL aircraft, called the Special Condition for Small Category VTOL Aircraft (SC-VTOL-01), in July 2019.

In March 2022, EASA released Prototype Technical Specifications for the Design of VFR Vertiports (PTS-VPT-DSN), a document that describes the physical characteristics, required obstacle environment and visual aids, lights and markings of an operating site for VTOL-capable aircraft.

 The FAA’s Office of Airports has similarly released a draft engineering brief (EB)—EB 105—that provides interim safety standards for the design and operation of vertiports. Public comments on the FAA’s draft document came due in April.

Bill Carey

Based in Washington, D.C., Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.