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Air safety: Third-country aircraft using Community airports

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Air safety: Third-country aircraft using Community airports

Recent experience has shown that third-county carriers using Community airports do not always comply with international minimum safety standards, which could place Community citizens travelling with these carriers or living near Community airports in danger. In this context, this Directive aims to improve air safety by ensuring that third-country aircraft using Community airports comply with international safety standards. Checks will be carried out in compliance with the international safety standards listed in the annexes to the Chicago Convention of 1944 to which all the Member States of the European Union (EU) are party.


Directive 2004/36/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on the safety of third-country aircraft using Community airports.


Within the framework of the Community’s overall strategy aimed at maintaining a high uniform level of civil aviation safety in Europe, the Directive establishes a harmonised approach to the effective enforcement of international safety standards in the Community by harmonising the rules and procedures for ramp inspections of third-country aircraft landing at airports located in the Member States.

State aircraft, as defined in the Chicago Convention, and aircraft of a maximum take-off weight of 5700kg not engaged in commercial air transport are excluded from the scope of this Directive.

Collection of information

To this end, the Member States are obliged to ensure that information is collected and disseminated so as to establish sufficient evidence for taking the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of passengers and people on the ground.

Useful information is considered to be:

  • important safety information accessible, in particular, through pilot reports, maintenance organisation reports, incident reports and complaints;
  • information concerning action taken subsequent to a ramp inspection, such as aircraft being grounded, aircraft or operators being banned from the Member State concerned;
  • follow-up information concerning the operator, such as corrective action implemented and the recurrence of discrepancies.

Ramp inspection

Each Member State will put in place the appropriate means to ensure that third-country aircraft suspected of non-compliance with international safety standards landing at any of its airports open to international air traffic are subject to ramp inspections. The competent authority must pay particular attention to aircraft in cases where:

  • information has been received indicating poor maintenance condition or obvious damage or defects;
  • it has been reported that the aircraft has performed abnormal manoeuvres since entering the airspace of a Member State;
  • a previous ramp inspection has revealed deficiencies;
  • the competent authorities of the country of registration may not be exercising proper safety supervision.

Member States may carry out ramp inspections in accordance with a spot-check procedure in the absence of any particular suspicion, provided that they comply with Community and international law. Inspections must be carried out in a non-discriminatory way.

Exchange, protection and dissemination of information

The competent authorities of the Member States will participate in a mutual exchange of information. Such information shall, at the request of a competent authority, include a list of airports in the Member State concerned that are open to international air traffic with an indication, for each calendar year, of the number of ramp inspections performed and the number of movements of third-country aircraft at each airport on that list.

Whenever a report shows the existence of a potential safety threat, the report is to be quickly communicated to each competent authority of the Member States and the Commission.

Every year the Commission will publish an aggregated information report available to the public and the industry stakeholders containing an analysis of all the information.

Grounding of aircraft

10. In its original version, the Directive granted the Member States the possibility of grounding all aircraft which failed to comply with safety measures. This provision, included in Article 9, was repealed by Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 on the establishment of a Community list of air carriers at risk.


The first measures to enhance safety in civil aviation were reflected by the adoption in 1996 by the European Commission of a Communication entitled “Defining a Community Aviation Safety Improvement Strategy” proposing to enhance safety in civil aviation by ensuring that aircraft comply fully with the safety standards defined by the Chicago Convention, signed on 7 December 1944.

In 2001, the Commission proposed to enhance air safety globally [COM (2001) 390 final] and to adopt a Directive on the safety of third-country aircraft using Community airports.

The European Aviation Safety Agency, created in 2002, participates in the enhancement of air safety by developing common standards and ensuring that they are applied correctly.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2004/36/EC



OJ L 143 of 30.04.2004

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005



L 344 of 27.12.2005

Directive 2008/49/EC



L 109 of 19.4.2008


Commission Regulation (EC) N° 351/2008 of 16 April 2008 implementing Directive 2004/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on la prioritisation of ramp inspections on aircraft using Community airports [Official Journal L 109 of 19.4.2008].

Commission Regulation (EC) N° 768/2006 of 19 May 2006 implementing Directive 2004/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the collection and exchange of information on the safety of aircraft using Community airports and the management of the information system [Official Journal L 134 of 20.5.2006].

Commission Report on the European Community SAFA Programme (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) — (Aggregated Information — Report — 1 January to 31 December 2007) [Official Journal C 231 of 9.9.2008].

Commission Report on the European Community SAFA Programme (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) — (Aggregated Information — Report — 30 April to 31 December 2006) [Official Journal C 42 of 15.2.2008].

Last updated: 11.08.2008