Since August 26'th 2016 the new EASA OPS regulation for non-commercial operations is in effect in all EASA countries. Here is an overview of the most important changes:
VFR in typical non-complex GA Aircraft (NCO regulation)
For VFR flying in typical GA aircraft the changes in most countries will be limited. Some of the noteworthy items are:
Cost sharing of direct costs for up to six private persons is now allowed (EU 965/2012 Article 6 item 4(a))
It is now allowed to carry articles, which otherwise would be classified as dangerous goods "where carriage aboard the aircraft is advisable to ensure their timely availability for operational purposes" and "this is regardless of whether or not such articles and substances are required to be carried or intended to be used in connection with a particular flight." It means that for instance the carriage of extra oil, de-icing liquid and other operationally relevant items is now permitted. (NCO.GEN.140 ammended July 2016)
It is now possible to develop a Minimum Equipment List (MEL) in order to fly with equipment which is out of order. The MEL does not have to be approved but it must be sent to the Competent Authority and it must be based on a Master MEL from the manufacturer/type certificate holder (ref. NCO.GEN.155)
The oxygen requiremens are now more operational so the previously defined hard limits at 10- and 13.000 ft are no longer binding provided the crew can operate safely and the passengers are not harmfully affected. (NCO.OP.190 ammended July 2016)
For IFR in typical non complex GA Aircraft (NCO regulation)
Pay attention to the requirements for the selection of alternates since these requirements may have changed for pilots in many countries. Basically, the requirement is that the destination OR alternate must be 'weather permissible' meaning at or above the operational minimums at the time of intended use (ref. NCO.OP.140 and NCO.OP.160). If the weather at the destination is forecast to be VMC from one hour before to one hour after the expected time of arrival no alternate is required.
Pilots in several countries will experience that the equipment requirements for IFR has been eased and made more operational. One altimeter and one radio is sufficient unless airspace requirements dictate otherwise. For navigation equipment you must have the necessary equipment to fly according to your flightplan and in case one instrument fails there should be sufficient left to allow the flight to be completed safely, even if not according to the original plan. (ref. NCO-IDE)
Note that the RVR requirement for take-off may be a bit hard to deduce since is not directly mentioned in part NCO. The minimum for most GA pilots will be 400m RVR for take-off since you will need a specific Low Visibility approval in order to go below this limit for take-off. Note that this this is quite a but more restrictive than it has been previously in many countries.
For landing a Low Visibility approval is required to go below 550m RVR and further guidance on RVR is found in GM4 NCO.OP.110. As guidance material this not binding, but surely a good starting point. If the State has published a minimum RVR for a procedure this must of course be respected as 'State minima'.
Template manual for small operators of complex aircraft (NCC regulation)
Operators of complex aircraft like for instance small jets and aircraft over 5700kg are now required to file a declaration and have an operations manual and a management system. Particularly for the very small operator with maybe just 2-3 persons involved in the flight operation this can be a challenge. To help these operators IAOPA Europe has published a template for an NCC Operations Manual which is written from the ground up with the intent of fulfilling all relevant requirements in Part-NCC and Part-ORO in a simple way that is suitable for the very small NCC operator.
Through an extensive use of references to relevant regulation and appendices the core operations manual is kept down to just over 20 pages. Further, the most common variable items are all listed in the "Operator's Reference" section at the beginning of the manual. This should make the implementation quite an achievable task even for a small NCC operator. The NCC light template manual can be downloaded here
For larger operators please refer to the more extensive template manual here
Relevant links for new OPS rules:
Link to EASAs consolidated version of the OPS regulation from May 2016 incl. EU Reg. 965/2012.
Careful! The above document is 1683 pages. For non complex aircraft Part-NCO applies. For complex aircraft Part-NCC and Part-ORO are the applicable parts.
Link to Part-NCO alone
Link to the latest ammendment of the OPS regulation from July 2016.
This ammenment contains important alleviations regarding for instance oxygen requirements, an exemption for twin-turboprops below 5700kg so they can operate according to Part-NCO and removal of the requirement for an operator to have a special approval for PBN operations like GPS & LPV approaches.
What is the difference between regulation, AMCs and Guidance Material (GM) - what do I need to follow?
The regulation is the legally binding law that you must always follow. If you follow the Acceptable Means of Compliance you are certain to comply with the law.
The regulation however also allows you to create your own Alternative Means of Compliance (AltMOC). This must be compliant with the regulation. For non-commercial operations with a complex aircraft (NCC) you must submit your AltMOC to the Competent Authority as stated in ORO.GEN.120. An approval of the AltMOC is not required but the Competent Authority must review the AltMOC and forward it to EASA. For non-commercial operations with non-complex aircraft (NCO) there is no requirement for you to submit your AltMOC to an Authority since Part-ORO does not apply for NCO operations.