Malta further enhances its aviation legislative framework through the introduction of the new Air Navigation Act

Malta has continued to strengthen and streamline its aviation legal framework, through the coming into force of the Air Navigation Act, Cap. 641 of the Laws of Malta (the “Act”), on the 1st January, 2024.  The Act, through Art. 99, effectively repeals the:

  • Civil Aviation (Air Operators’ Certificates) Act (Cap. 218 of the Laws of Malta);
  • Air Navigation Order (S.L. 499.09);
  • Civil Aviation Subsidiary (Air Transport Licencing) (Fees) Regulations (S.L. 499.33).

The Act applies to Maltese registered aircraft and their crew irrespective of their geographical location, as well as any aircraft (irrespective of their state of registry) present in Malta and performing overflight operations in Maltese airspace.  State aircraft are excluded.  The Act thus regulates aircraft navigation within the Maltese airspace and stipulates technical compliance standards.  The Civil Aviation Directorate of the Authority for Transport in Malta (“TM CAD”) is the relevant competent authority established under the Act to perform this oversight.  TM CAD shall also be responsible for the compliance and technical standards being met in the operations of Maltese registered aircraft.  Moreover, TM CAD is mandated to implement air safety standards imposed by the Chicago Convention and EU regulations in the field of aviation safety.

TM CAD, by means of the Act is also empowered to do the following:

  • Creating a reporting system for compiling incident reports;
  • Issuing regulatory instruments (which may include any order, directive, protocol, guideline, memorandum, notice or circular; all binding and having the force of law once published on the TM CAD portal) to enforce safety standards; and
  • Imposition of penalties for any violations (subject to the concept of ‘just cause’ introduced by the Act).

An Aviation Appeals Board (Board) was also created by the Act.  The Board is empowered to hear appeals against decisions made by TM CAD or the Director General.  Any party feeling aggrieved by an alleged unreasonable decision, imposition of penalties or any procedural unfairness may file an appeal within a twenty-day time limit.

The Act also incorporates EU Regulation 376/2014 relating to the reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences in civil aviation which aims at preventive measures to enhance safety in aviation.  TM CAD will be the competent authority in Malta for this purpose, based on the principles of Just Culture, being introduced by virtue of this Act and strengthened by the establishment of a Culture Monitoring Group in compliance with the relevant EU Regulation.  The recently developed concept of Just Culture ensures that there is no disproportionate punishment for actions, decisions or omissions and punishment is only imposed in cases of reportable events, gross negligence and/or wilful or destructive acts.

It is evident that Malta is seriously committed to maintaining a comprehensive legislative framework in place to support the growing aviation sector. Since the introduction of the Aircraft Registration Act in 2010 and the successful implementation of the Cape Town Convention and the Aircraft Protocol into Maltese law, the industry has seen a remarkable growth spurt in a relatively short period of time.  These recent amendments continue building upon these achievements, reinforcing the legislative framework to robustly support the industry’s ongoing growth and to ensure that Malta remains an attractive jurisdiction for all players in the aviation industry.