CAA: UK GA will benefit from streamlined regulation

 - March 30, 2011, 9:50 AM

Successful partnerships with UK government departments and national and European regulators are the fruits of several years’ investment in discussion and representation by Britain’s general aviation community, according to industry leaders. “There is an awful lot to be proud of,” said British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) chief executive Guy Lachlan, following the lobby group’s annual conference last month. He praised the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for its “deliberate, outgoing and inclusive” approach as it prepares to publish a five-year strategic plan to streamline, and add value to, safety regulation.

In other evidence of partnership, a “workshop” was scheduled for late March between customers and immigration officials at the UK Border Agency and aviation stakeholders to discuss plans for an enhanced system for reporting UK inbound business aircraft flights. The conference also heard that business aviation is heavily involved in development of European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) flight-time limitation rule-making and UK implementation of EASA flight-crew licensing regulation.

Partnerships Central to the Five-year Plan

UK Civil Aviation Authority non-executive chairwoman Dame Deirdre Hutton welcomed the BBGA conference as an opportunity to correct “the view held by some in the GA community that the CAA doesn’t place that much importance” on the industry. “Your contributions to the economy, the industry and society are highly valued and respected, as are your ideas and opinions,” she told members. “The BBGA brings commonality to a large area of GA: fostering cooperation, and providing a clear, united voice.”

The industry, and general aviation in particular, faced challenging times: increasing fuel cost and decreasing avgas availability; flight training migrating to places with more favorable weather and tax regimes; constraints on airport access; and European regulation-compliance costs. In addition, to come are the transition to EASA Ops and licensing regulations, start of European Union aviation emissions trading and the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Acknowledging that the bulk of its legislation had been in place since 1982, the chairwoman said a major development program is under way at the CAA: “We were trying to operate with a system and legislative framework in dire need of being brought into the 21st century. We’re embarking on a giant leap, in the form of [a] five-year strategic plan we will publish in May.”

So, what can British GA expect? “First, we will be more transparent. Second, we will have a better understanding of the risk we regulate. We will be more streamlined–we can’t continue to allow costs to increase and expect industry to pick up the tab–and work more closely with industry. And last, we will be more user-friendly.” In addition, there will be benefits for the general aviation community. “For example, if we’re making airspace more efficient for commercial operations, then we’re taking the opportunity to make it better for all [other] airspace users, too.”

A major change at the CAA is being generated by a strategic review of safety regulation, dubbed SR2. “The compliance framework approach has served [UK] aviation well and delivered high safety levels, [but] this is a reactive approach and the challenge is to be proactive,” said Hutton. “SR2 will help us enhance safety and value for money.”

SR2’s aims include:

• working toward an integrated “total system,” avoiding conflict and eliminating overlap;

• “targeting” resources on priority issues;

• being clear and consistent in the CAA’s approach to Just Culture; and

• embedding new skills and competencies where required.

Unless “action is taken now,” the environmental impact of aviation “will grow by comparison, as we watch [that of] others shrink,” she warned. “The CAA doesn’t have powers to directly regulate the industry’s carbon emissions, [but] we can and will contribute indirectly. Any improvements can potentially impact on noise and air quality,” which she knew concerned GA.

The theme of partnership arose again on the topic of Europe. Hutton said the CAA’s primary immediate focus had to be the EASA, which it supported strongly. “Once you have a single market everyone must play by the same rules, and industry rightly wants a single, efficient regulatory system. We have created complex arrangements, with the EASA and national [aviation] authorities having separate, but overlapping, functions. We must think of a system with the EASA and NAAs working in close partnership.”

Another challenge is airspace, with the CAA chairwoman announcing a “stakeholder workshop” as part of a radical rethink of the UK system, which is “crowded, complex and increasingly difficult to manage” as a result of challenges from airport expansion, new international routes and changes in technology. Accordingly, she urged the GA industry to participate in discussions about a proposed “Future Airspace Strategy,” to outline plans for UK airspace up to 2030. “This really is a case of the more you put in, the more you’re going to get out,” concluded Hutton. o