Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published an in-depth article on China's past and current forays into aircraft manufacturing. The story provides an excellent case study in the operation of international safety standards in the aviation sector. It would be impractical for a state to perform a safety check on every foreign aircraft entering its airspace, so a state will instead recognize the airworthiness certificate granted by the aircraft's state of registry. Of course, it would be impractical for the state of registry to conduct the thousands of hours of engineering, testing, and scrutiny that went into the aircraft's design and manufacture, so the state of registry will rely on a type certificate issued by the state of manufacture, and will then issue its own certificate with regards to the aircraft's continued airworthiness on the basis of an evaluation of the aircraft's current condition and the operator's adherence to maintenance requirements. For this system to work, states need to have confidence in the ability of other states to honestly and competently assess the airworthiness of aircraft both at the type certificate stage and the continuing airworthiness stage. For a new manufacturer to successfully enter the commercial passenger aircraft market, airlines will not only need to be reassured about the quality of its products, foreign states will want to know that type certificates issued by the manufacturer's home state are based on a diligent application of international standards. Transparency and cooperation will be necessary if Chinese aviation officials are to convince their counterparts in foreign markets that they can be trusted to vouch for Comac's work.