Safety is an everyday thought at Aireon. Not just within our safety team, but across the entirety of the organization.
In 2019, Aireon received initial ATM (Air Traffic Management)/ANS (Air Navigation Services) certification awarded by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This followed a rigorous audit program ending with the approval for Aireon to operate as an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) and provide surveillance as a service, and it was valid until December 2020. EASA is recognized as the competent authority in Europe and the process followed to the issue of the certification, is comparable to the regulatory certification process in other regions of the world.
The certification considered all safety aspects of the Aireon service, from the receiving antenna on the Aireon payload, all the way to the delivery point of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data at the customer site. Nearly two years after the initial grant of the certification, and following ongoing oversight by EASA, Aireon was recertified at the end of 2020. This confirms that operations and maintenance of the system continue to remain safe and Aireon continues to be compliant with EU regulations. There is no expiration date associated with the new certificate.
A great analogy to compare the two certificates, is thinking of the initial certification to receiving a learner driver’s license. Back in 2019, Aireon’s certification was mostly based on what we had written down in manuals and said we were going to do – we did not have an operational history, or if you will, driving record. Hence, EASA based the initial grant of the certificate on Aireon’s written procedures and processes. Now two years later, they are focused on our actual implementation and management of safety risks and how we maintain the system, our “driving track record”, and we passed the test! We now have a full driving license – we’re no longer beginners!
Now that Aireon is a mature service, the regulatory approach has adapted slightly. The audits performed by EASA are now performance-based, focused on the management side of Aireon’s operations: safety support management, security management, compliance monitoring, contract activities…etc. We are no longer the ‘new kids on the block’ and we do not get any special exemptions at this point. Think of audit findings as penalties on your license and like a driver’s license, the certification can be withdrawn at any time if Aireon does not adhere to regulatory standards of safety, in other words if we get too many penalties or points!