February 11, 2013
Credit: Credit: Lufthansa Technik
Out of Reach
Europe's environmental aspirations and targets are once again set to stir up the aviation industry.
First there were the noise rules for aircraft operating to EU airports, then there was the controversial legislation to include aviation in the EU's Emissions Trading System, and now plans are taking shape to ban or further restrict the use of certain chemicals in aircraft manufacturing and the aftermarket.
European MRO companies are genuinely concerned about upcoming new regulatory requirements and probable prohibition of the use of various chromates such as chromium trioxide in their shops. If those requirements are put into place, aircraft maintenance providers in the 27-nation bloc will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to counterparts in non-EU countries. These new rules also could potentially compromise compliance with U.S. FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) safety standards and requirements for maintenance, repair and overhaul activities.
The culprit is Reach (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals). The legislation is the result of seven years of debate, is almost 1,000 pages long and tops the charts as the most complex bill in EU history. It requires companies to register data on 30,000 chemicals with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, Finland, seek authorization for the use of substances of very high concern (SVHC) and substitute these chemicals with safer alternatives for human health and the environment. SVHCs need to be authorized for specific uses if they appear in Annex XIV of the legislation.
The Reach chemical safety regulation came into force in mid-2007 with implementation to be phased in over a decade. European OEMs and MRO providers already have witnessed supply chain disruptions for crucial chemicals and compositions—such as sealants, adhesive paints and flame retardants—because some producers or importers opposed the heavy administrative burden of registering the properties of their substances with the ECHA.
“We have encountered supply chain disruptions for certain products we need for approved maintenance. Since 2010, mostly, some sealants were displaced from the EU market without any announcement because manufacturers did not want to go through the complicated, lengthy and expensive registration process,” Lufthansa Technik's manager corporate environmental management, Ralf Wunderlich, tells Aviation Week.
The tentacles of Reach are now widening and this will have far broader consequences for Europe's OEMs and MRO organizations. Last October, the European Commission (EC) launched the “comitology” legislative procedure to add various chromates to Annex XIV. They are unique in that they are covered under type certificates that establish compliance with FAA and EASA safety requirements.