National aviation authority
- 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, a 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.
A 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 United States), to allow independent review of regulatory oversight.
A 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, including non-airside operations such as passenger terminals; the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is one such national authority. In other countries either private companies or local government authorities own and operate individual airports.
The independent development of NAAs resulted in differing regulations from country to country. This required aircraft manufacturers in the past to develop different models for specific NAA requirements (such as the BAe Jetstream 31), and impeded airline travel into foreign jurisdictions. The Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) was signed in 1944 and addressed these issues. 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 that best practice regulations are adopted. A European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), with regulatory and executive tasks in the field of civilian aviation safety, was created in 2003. It is not a national authority as such, and European Union members continue to have their own agencies.