What does REACh mean for the aerospace industry?

By Patric Scheidner
Corporate Vice President Global Head of Aviation, Space, Rail

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to reverberate across the aerospace industry, many airlines face ongoing challenges, not least plummeting passenger numbers. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts a 60% drop across Europe in 2020.

Financial support in the form of government bailouts may come with stringent conditions, which are often related to sustainability.

REACh regulations are part of that sustainability.

What are REACh regulations?

REACh is the EU’s chemicals regulatory framework, designed to reduce the level of chemicals in the environment to protect human health and the environment itself. It addresses the production and use of chemical substances and their potential impact in these areas. This regulation came into force on 1 June 2007.

According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which oversees REACh, the onus is on the companies themselves to identify and manage the risks associated with the products and substances they manufacture and market in the EU. They must prove that the substances can be used safely and provide full risk management measures to all users.

Within REACh regulations, companies fall into one of the following three categories, the manufacturer, the importer, and downstream users. All chemicals manufactured in or imported into the EU must be registered by each legal entity. Similarly, downstream users must ensure that use and exposure conditions of chemicals comply with the use and exposure conditions registered by the manufacturer or importer.

To summarize, companies must ensure that manufacturers, importers and their customers are fully aware of all health and safety information on products supplied.

What do REACh aerospace regulations mean for the industry?

The move towards greener technologies and replacement of harmful chemicals with safer alternatives is strongly driven by two key factors:

  • Restrictions and regulations, as well as the support for substitution of safer substances by ECHA. Nearly 1 in 5 companies cite restriction as the main reason for replacing harmful chemicals.
  • Demands from customers for sustainability.

These two key drivers mean that the move away from the use of harmful chemicals is also becoming a central component of corporate strategies and policies.

In the aerospace industry, over 1,700 substances are under regulatory control, including surface treatments and materials such as paints, sealants and fire protection. Businesses which adopt a ‘greener’ mindset, are also the most innovative according to ECHA.

One example of this innovation is UK based SWMF who offer REACh compliant TSA (Tartaric Sulphuric Acid) as a replacement for chromic acid anodising as an example of a less harmful coating. 

Other alternatives include substitution aluminium with stainless steel passivation and conversion coatings.

In my previous blog, I highlighted the move towards innovation across the aerospace sector, by developing lightweight materials and meeting requirements in areas such as Fire Retardancy, Smoke Density and Toxicity (FST). In the aerospace industry – as in other sectors - REACh may be seen as a roadblock by some, but it forces us to look ahead, to become more innovative, to work together and lead the way on vital issues such as sustainability.

For instance, Airbus tracks, registers, assesses and declares all regulated substances while working on the development of alternatives. It also collaborates with its vast supplier network to identify safe and sustainable substitutes to harmful products and has created a cross functional team to ensure the effective management of regulated substances.

REACh aerospace regulations also enable us to protect our customers and our employees, which has to be a priority.

At Henkel, our Product Safety and Regulatory Affairs Team (PRSA) is responsible for our global response and commitment to REACh. With our team, I review the aerospace regulations covered by REACh, related to new and ongoing restrictions for aerospace products.

What are your thoughts on innovative REACh compliant regulations?  I’d really like to hear from you. Please do connect with me on LinkedIn.






Learn more about the role REACh regulations play in the Aviation sector:

About the author

Patric Scheidner

Corporate Vice President Global Head of Aviation, Space, Rail


Patric has been serving the chemical industry for more than 25 years.
He has mainly supported customers in Heavy Industries across four continents. His focus has been to develop customer-centric organizations and processes following continuous improvement methods, such as Lean Six Sigma. Being experienced in Supply Chain / Operations as much as Sales he fostered a culture of increasing customer value through the optimized combination of chemistry, process improvements, equipment as well as digital interfaces.

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