National aviation authority

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A national aviation authority (NAA) is a government statutory authority in each country that oversees the approval and regulation of civil aviation.


Due to the inherent dangers in the use of flight vehicles, NAA's typically regulate the following critical aspects of aircraft airworthiness and their operation:

  • Design of aircraft, engines, airborne equipment and ground-based equipment affecting flight safety
  • Conditions of manufacture and test of aircraft and equipment
  • Maintenance of aircraft and equipment
  • Operation of aircraft and equipment
  • Licensing of pilots and maintenance engineers
  • Licensing of airports and navigational aids
  • Standards for air traffic control

Depending on the legal system of the parent country, the NAA will derive its power from an act of Parliament (such as the Civil or Federal Aviation Act), and is then empowered to make regulations within the bounds of the act. This allows technical aspects of airworthiness to be dealt with by subject matter experts and not politicians.[1][2]

The NAA may also be involved in the investigation of aircraft accidents, although in many cases this is left to a separate body (such as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in Australia or the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the USA), to allow independent review of regulatory oversight.[3]

The NAA will regulate the control of air traffic but a separate agency will generally carry out air traffic control functions.

In some countries, the national aviation authorities build and operate airports themselves, including non-airside operations such as passenger terminals. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is one such national authority. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom or the United States, private companies or local government authorities are responsible for airports. The Heathrow Airport Holdings in the United Kingdom is one such private company, operating Heathrow Airport along with others. The Massachusetts Port Authority is a local government authority operating an airport, Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The independent development of NAAs has resulted in differing regulations in country to country. This has required aircraft manufacturers in the past to develop differing models for specific NAA requirements (such as the BAe Jetstream 31), and difficulty for airlines to travel into foreign jurisdictions. In an effort to resolve these issues, the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) was signed in 1944. This then led to the establishment by the United Nations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 1947 which now oversees member states and works to implement regulatory changes to ensure best practice regulations are adopted.[4]

Major national aviation authorities[edit]

See also[edit]