July 2021 | Content by George E. Riebling, NAPMA Deputy General Manager

One Step Closer Toward NATO Airworthiness Recognition

In June 2021, NAPMA and the NAEW&C Force successfully cleared a significant airworthiness milestone when a NATO Assessment Team (NAT) paid a virtual visit to the staffs of the NE-3A Operational Airworthiness Authority (OAA) and Technical Airworthiness Authority (TAA). The NAT visit marked the culmination of two years of work toward completing the NATO Recognition Process (NRP) of the airworthiness policies and procedures jointly employed by NAPMA, as the TAA, and the NAEW&C Force, as the OAA.

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Why is the NRP important? To answer that question, you must go back to 2013 when NATO Headquarters released its Airworthiness Policy (NAWP) with the aim of establishing a robust framework to ensure the airworthiness of “all aeronautical products, parts and appliances provided on behalf of NATO.” The NAWP requires that “all work associated with the airworthiness process shall be performed by authorized individuals employing approved processes within organisations accredited / approved by a NATO recognized airworthiness authority.”

For most nations that contribute air assets to support the NATO mission, the recognized airworthiness authority resides within that nation. For NAPMO, the policy is much more complicated. In June 2012, the 16 NAPMO Nations approved its own unique airworthiness policy that shares responsibility between the nations while establishing the Force Commander as the OAA and the NAPMA General Manager as the TAA.

As with most new policies, it took NATO HQ few years to determine exactly how to execute the NAWP, but, in 2016, the NAWP Implementation Plan was published while clarifying that the NAWP’s goal was “not to establish a supranational airworthiness authority,” but “to assure NATO member and partner nations that aircraft and components used for NATO operations and mission are certified by NATO-recognized Airworthiness Authorities.” To accomplish this goal, NATO HQ, under the leadership of its NATO Airworthiness Executive, created the NATO Recognition Process (NRP).

Over the past two years, the Force’s operational airworthiness staff, led by Mr Steve Rea, and the NAPMA General Manager’s technical airworthiness staff, led by Mr Mike Diaz, have been analyzing how to answer a plethora of questioned posed by the NAT. Unfortunately, the NAT’s questions were designed for a National Airworthiness System and not a unique “multi-national” system like the one employed by the NAPMO nations. This made Mr Rea and Mr Diaz’ jobs infinitely more difficult, but, in the end, their steadfast efforts enabled the NAT to assess the NAPMO airworthiness system against a recognized standard to determine where the NAPMO system passed muster and where improvements could be made.

In June 2021, the NAT visited NAPMA and the Force with a diverse team of airworthiness experts from the NAE’s Office and several NATO nations. The NATO grilled the Force Command and NAPMA airworthiness staffs for 12 hours on all aspects of NAPMO airworthiness compliance. Early feedback from the NAT indicates that they were satisfied with what they saw and heard.

Now, the NAT will compile its findings in a report and submit the report through several boards for review. If the report successfully clears these last hurdles, the NAPMO nations will know by Christmas if NATO Recognition is achieved. In the meantime, the NAPMO Nations and all of us who work at NAPMA and the Force should be confident in our unique, but effective, Airworthiness system and owe a great deal of gratitude to the airworthiness staffs at NAPMA and the NAEW&C Force Headquarters for moving NAPMO one huge step closer toward airworthiness recognition.

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