A long time ago in a far away place. Well, that’s how it seems, and it was more than 17 years ago.
A flight ban was placed on Turkish airline Onur Air back in 2005. At that time, I was in my first full year in Cologne, Germany building up the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). We were well on the road managing the handover of responsibilities from activities of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) to EASA. However, the European legislation that empowered EASA was in a first and most basic version. This was planned to be so because taking on aircraft certification work was a big enough task to start the new Agency.
The JAA had coordinated an aircraft ramp inspection programme and maintained a centralised database for its members. This was where a member state would inspect an aircraft arriving from a third country to ensure that international rules were fully met. The SAFA programme was launched by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) in 1996. SAFA standing for Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft.
Onur Air failed such inspections, and the Dutch government imposed a flight ban. Similar bans were imposed by Germany, Switzerland, and France. However, if my reflections are correct the airline moved operations to Beligum where there was no ban. As you might imagine this caused concern amongst EU Member States. Where everyone had agreed to cooperate on aviation safety matters there seemed to be a degree of incoherence.
Long before the first EASA Basic Regulation, which by the way, didn’t address this subject, there was Regulation 3922/91. I remember a hastily convened committee composed of representatives of the Member States and chaired by the European Commission (EC). The “3922” committee hadn’t sat for years but then it sprung into action in response to the lack of a consistent approach to airline safety bans across Europe. I was there representing EASA.
So, the EU Air Safety List was born and the associated legislation to support it. Even though the UK has left the EU, and left EASA this safety list remains the basis of the UK’s own Air Safety List. Adding and removing air carriers and States that fail to meet internationally agreed safety standards is work that no one State should do alone.
[For safety’s sake, this should not be one of the parts of adopted EU legislation the UK Parliament wants to sweep away with its planned new Brexit law].
POST: Current list The EU Air Safety List (europa.eu)
 Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91 of 16 December 1991 on the harmonization of technical requirements and administrative procedures in the field of civil aviation.