The Aviation Blog

Avoiding chemical imbalance

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.

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  1. The Association of European Airlines issued a Press Release on the Reach regulation and its very negative impact on the aviation industry. You can find our statement, that was issued last Monday, herunder:

    18 February 2013

    The European airline maintenance industry will be heavily affected unless the
    The Association of European Airlines (AEA) regrets the fact that the Commission’s general report underestimates the negative impact of REACH on downstream users of chemicals such as the airline industry.
    AEA supports the general objectives of REACH with regard to the safe use of chemicals. However, the aviation maintenance industry makes substantial use of chemicals, including so-called Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), to fulfil stringent aviation safety requirements specified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Despite many years of research, no viable alternatives are on the horizon which would substitute them.
    The recent proposals would result in administrative burden, huge bureaucratic costs and potential supply chain disruptions for the airline industry. Moreover, regarding environment and worker protection the proposals would provide no added value since the industry already has introduced the necessary measures in these areas. The proposals would also jeopardise the competitiveness of the European industry: since the legislation would only refer to the EU, aircraft operators will be incentivised to move their activities to non-EU countries.
    “REACH is another unfortunate example of EU legislation that undermines the competiveness of the European airline industry”, said Mr Athar Husain Khan, acting Secretary General of AEA. “We therefore call the European policy-makers together with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to formally involve the European Aviation Safety Agency in REACH-related consultations in order to find a viable solution for this problem”

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