February 19, 2013
The aviation industry supports balanced and thoughtful regulation of chemicals—with a goal of across-the-board public safety. As the Competitiveness Council meets today, with Europe’s REACH regulations on the agenda, the industry hopes it will keep in mind that balanced approach. The EU REACH (short for review, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals) regulation came into force in 2005. The aviation sector supports its overall goals, but it has some concerns about potential bans on substances that have critical use in aerospace often with safety implications.
Chemicals, like chromates for example, prevent corrosion and wear on aircraft fuselages and components. Many of these products are essential to aviation safety—indeed, their use is necessary for airlines and aerospace firms to certify compliance with the safety agencies’ requirements.
In some cases, these products have no viable near-term replacement. Boeing and other industry partners are engaged in intense research to find next-generation agents, but there is currently no single product that can replace the full usefulness of these chemicals. And even if a replacement were to become available soon, it would need to be fully tested and certified for safety and phased in slowly in order to be compatible with aircraft already in service.
It will be important therefore that the Commission and the Competitiveness Council consider the specific situation of aerospace in the REACH process. These chemicals are absolutely necessary for safety, and more coordination and dialogue with industry and the safety authorities are necessary to prevent deeply adverse effects on the competitiveness of European airlines and aerospace firms. A balanced approach to chemical safety will take the bigger picture into consideration.