Aviation & Brexit 5

You might ask what’s a “Statutory Instrument”?  Well, in the United Kingdom they are a key form of delegated or secondary legislation.  That’s distinct from Primary legislation, which in the case of civil aviation is the Civil Aviation Act 1982[1].   Part III of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 calls for an Air Navigation Order (ANO).

The latest UK Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2016[2] is a Statutory Instrument.  The UK ANO forms the legal basis for many areas of civil aviation that are regulated at a national level.  In effect, it gives the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is powers and its responsibilities.

The UK ANO is amended from time to time to provide the links between European legislation and national legislation.  This Statutory Instrument needs to reflect the general details of the civil aviation regulatory framework that’s expected to work.

It’s well worth remembering that, unlike the USA, the European civil aviation system is not a federal system.  To work effectively, it needs the common European part and the national part to work together harmoniously.  That has been achieved with remarkable results.  It has been an achievement that has enabled great efficiency, a fertile environment for international commercial success and safety improvement.

Taking one example in the filed of aircraft airworthiness.  Today, “certification” is defined as meaning: any form of recognition that a product, part or appliance, organisation or person complies with the applicable requirements including the provisions of this Order (ANO) or the Basic EASA Regulation and its implementing rules, as well as the issue of any certificate attesting to such compliance.

If Brexit happens many choices are open to the legislator.  That’s the Government and Parliament in the UK.  One would be to maintain links to the Basic EASA Regulation.  Another would be to delete all references to the Basic EASA Regulation and reference an alternative new text.  Naturally, there are numerous combinations and permutations that can be imagined.  Whatever happens the resulting new Statutory Instrument(s) will need to comply with existing international obligation namely; the Chicago Convention.

Here I’ve described a great deal of detailed work and no doubt its sitting on someone’s desk.  Above I referred to “certification” but that’s just one aspect of a much wider range of aviation activities.  Clearly, its one where errors and omissions are likely to be costly to industry and ultimately the traveling public.  Normally, consultation and deliberations on significant legislative changes take place over many years.  Thus, it’s reasonable to be concerned about what might happen over the coming year.  Simple this is not.

[1] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1982/16/contents


[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/765/contents/made


Aviation & Brexit 4

I must say, I feel more positive about the prospects for the UK’s continuing participation in the workings of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  Yes, we (UK) remain mired in uncertainty.  Yes, it’s the non-transport politicians who are making the running and yes, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  But at least a good deal of serious consideration is being given to possible scenarios for a post-Brexit world.

Top of everybody’s list in aviation is that the UK should continue its membership of EASA[1], at least for the much-discussed transition period or implemention period as it might better be called.  Although this does mean losing voting rights and the opportunity for Directorships to be taken up by Brits, there’s enough advantages to keep the wings of aviation flying.

In the European aviation system, one of the key committees established by European law, often called the EASA “Basic Regulation” is the: EASA Committee.  This is a high-level committee that handles: “common safety rules in the field of civil aviation”.  Now, the Agency’s rulemaking procedure is such that it submits its formal technical opinions to the decision-making process of the European Commission, which is, in effect, the EASA Committee.  So, to influence future European aviation rules it’s important to be present and able to speak at the meetings of this key committee.

The examples of Norway and Switzerland show that non-EU Countries can exercise a degree of technical influence at this level.  In fact, this is not surprising since much of that which is taken forward requires a high degree of consensus to work in an integrated system.  Also, both Norway and Switzerland are represented on the EASA Management Board[2].  Which is reasonable because they both make financial and staffing contributions to the Agency.

I think, Switzerland shows a way forward.  Not for reasons that the Country is like the UK.  After all, it’s smaller, it’s federal, speaks many languages and we don’t have the Alps.  On the other hand, Switzerland, like the UK has a manufacture that depends on access to a global marketplace and is well connected to around the world.  Also, in recent times, their federal aviation authority has been progressive in the field of aviation safety management.

There’s a chance of reaching Brexit day with no clear vision of the future but having a basic contingency is better than nothing.   Naturally, I would rather see the UK play a full part in European aviation as it has with great success in past decades.  Sitting in the second row at the table isn’t the best place for a Country with our incredible heritage.   There’s no barrier to being European and being Global even if there’s a block in the minds of some Westminster politicians.  As the joke about being lost and asking directions goes: “I wouldn’t start from here, Sir”.

[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeuleg/301-xiv/30117.htm


[2] https://www.easa.europa.eu/the-agency/management-board/members


Aviation & Brexit 3

The European Union has civil aviation agreements with many Countries.  In their current form, those international agreements will not apply to the UK when it leaves the EU in a year’s time.  Unless otherwise specified, the EU will see the UK as a Third Country after the leaving date. Transition arrangements may happen to maintain a degree of stability.  However, post Brexit, the EU cannot bind other Third Countries to respect an agreement it has with one Third Country.  Each is a sovereign State with aviation interests of its own.

As an outcome, the legalities and the political reality may not be the same in 2019 but change will take place in the negotiating strength of the EU, UK and other Countries.  In other words, pre-Brexit agreements bind parties but post-Brexit there’s much more of a “free for all”.  Touting a slogan like: Global Britain, is fine for a domestic audience but cuts little weight in hardnosed negotiations where one party is vulnerable due to its need for continuity.

The implications of Third Country status are already being played out as the News items on the Galileo satellite system are showing.  Naturally, EU Member States have privileges with respect to EU funded projects.  It’s not surprising that the benefits of membership do not automatically extend to non-members or former members.

As an illustration let’s take one small technical example.  For good or ill, there’s a high expectation that our skies are going to see Drones flying around everywhere and anywhere.  Well, not exactly since there’s need for a tight regulatory framework and enabling technology to be put in place to ensue that Drones can be exploited safely.  This effort must be done so that the results will work throughout the whole of Europe and wider if possible.

Amongst the standards for Drones there’s discussion about E-Identification and Geo-Fencing.  Two technical features that could be mandated to ensure that every Drone can be identified, and every Drone can be restricted from going to prohibited places.  Those developments are expected to have a significant role for the Galileo satellite system.

The UK being outside of the mainstream, isn’t going to mean exclusion from all the technical discussions but when it comes to hard and fast decisions then that’s a different matter.  There will be standards and there will be legislation to make the market work.  In cases like this one, rather than taking back control the path the UK is taking is giving up control.

Aviation & Brexit 2

On the road to the Brexit many questions remain unanswered.  I’m writing this article responding to several assertions that I’ve seen made in the social media world.  On aviation, here I’d like to add my perspective given that the subject is not straightforward or simple.

The European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA has a membership that extends beyond the EU Member States.  International cooperation has been a key activity of the European Commission and EASA since its establishment.  This is quite rational and reasonable given that civil aviation is one of the most international businesses in the world.  One role EASA has is to promote European and worldwide standards.   Its long been recognised that regulatory fragmentation has a detrimental impact on all aspect of civil aviation, including safety.

The EU has written agreements with many Countries[1].  There are working arrangement, bilateral agreements, memorandums of understanding and examples of technical cooperation.  Four non-EU European States are EASA Member States.  If a Country is not an EASA Member States it is called a “Third Country”.  This term is significant because it’s used extensively in existing European aviation legislation.

In 2006, Switzerland become a member of the EASA. It was the fourth non-EU country to adopt EU aviation safety legislation after Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.  These four non-EU countries are represented in the Agency’s Management Board and their nationals are eligible to work for the Agency in Cologne.

Reports suggest that the door to EASA membership is open to the UK.  This proposal of Agency membership is greatly favoured by industry bodies and many of the UK’s international partners.  The benefits are notable, and it does provide for a degree of continuity for an industry where long-term planning is essential.  The traveling public would benefit from that continuity too.

An integrated aviation safety system in Europe isn’t just an abstract concept, it’s a reality.  We learn from each other’s experiences and that learning is fed directly into day-to-day aircraft operations.  Its not hyperbole to say that Europe is the most advanced aviation region in the world.

The UK’s history is one where we have made immensely significant contributions to the development of aviation safety regulation in Europe.  In my view the benefits of continuing along this road outweigh, by a huge margin any speculative benefits of regulatory divergence.

Over the next year, negotiations will address the detailed agreement to describe the way forward for UK-EU civil aviation.  Building on our positive achievements would seem to be the wisest and safest course of action.

[1] https://www.easa.europa.eu/easa-and-you/international-cooperation/easa-by-country/map


Aviation & Brexit

There’s several recent articles written about Aviation and Brexit.  Some are better than others.  All raise vital points for discussion.  Here, I thought I’d write this page to deal with one or two anomalies that often crop up.

Brexit is going to complicate aviation in Europe.  Absolutely no doubt about that fact.  However, the earth will not stop rotating and all planes will not stop flying on one day.

In aviation there are international bodies, intergovernmental bodies and the European Union.  With full agreement by the Member States, from its origins in the Treaty of Rome through all the Treaties, the EU has expanded its range of activities.  Now, before any further discussion it’s useful to look at the division of competences within the EU.  Transport is a shared competence between the EU and EU countries.   That means the EU countries exercise their own competence where the EU does not exercise, or has decided not to exercise, its competence.

Thus, changes in European aviation didn’t happen in one massive swoop, they are on-going and will be on-going for a long time into the future.  In all aspects of aviation, the EU and EU countries can legislate and adopt legally binding acts, but they don’t have to unless there’s a need.

By 1992, the foundations of a common transport policy had been laid[1].  The notion of a shared competence continues to be important throughout subsequent developments.

Another key point is to remark is that transport should not been seen in isolation.  As European policy developed so the environment became more prominent.  Aviation and policy related to research and innovation should not be separated.  Also, consumer rights is a key component.  This meant that not only did the Member States and European Commission need to work closely together but the different directorates of the Commission had to coordinate too.

Now back to international bodies, intergovernmental bodies and the European Union.  Grandmother of them all is ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal.  It’s sometimes referred to as the House of the States.  192 of them to be precise.  ICAO has a regional structure.  Its European office is in Paris.  To complicate even more, the Paris office is shared with, the European Civil Aviation Conference[2].  ECAC is an intergovernmental organisation that was established by the ICAO and the Council of Europe.  So, even if no EU aviation interest existed there is a set of institutions addressing European aviation.  And I haven’t even mentioned EUROCONTROL.

Much of what has been written recently refers to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  This EU body came into operation in September 2003.  It had been discussed, debated and theorised over a decade or more.  Built on the foundation of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), initially EASA took over the task of aircraft certification.  Gradually, the remit of EASA was expanded.

This happened in a way that was fully aligned with the notion of shared competence.  The European aviation system is not a federal system as it is in the US.  EASA and the National Aviation Authorities work together.  One maybe tasked to write new rules and the other would be tasked to implement those rules.

If we take the subject of licencing as one example of the work of EASA and the NAAs.  In civil aviation, pilots, engineers and air traffic controllers need licences to work.

I’ve seen it written that post-Brexit, licences issued by UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will no longer be valid for operating in the EU when the UK ceases to be an EU member state.  However, in an international context it’s not that simple.  Today, EASA licences are issues by the NAAs, including the UK CAA.  These licences are fully compliant with ICAO Standards and Recommended practices.  As such it would be difficult for a European State, as an ICAO Member State to not recognise UK issued licences without some good technical reasons.

Where the UK may need to re-establish its competence, if it did drop out of the EU system would be in the field of aviation rulemaking.  Even then it could just copy the output coming from the EU and EASA in Cologne and put a UK label on it.

The situation could get exceedingly messy.  In this next year, methodical, patient and smart civil servants in both Brussels and London need to put down on paper exactly how the new arrangement will work.  That can’t wait too long because eventually the auditor will come knocking on the door and ask all sorts of difficult questions.

[1] https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/transport_en


[2] https://www.ecac-ceac.org/


Fair Markets

There are those totemic Brexit issues that keep surfacing.  Maybe they are not the ones that are top of the list on your way to work or the supermarket, but the media are fixated by topics like the British Passport.

So, let’s talk about passports.  Listening to a Government Minister on the radio this morning its like they had no choice but to award a major contract to a foreign company.  Well, that’s the first misguiding steer of the day.  Other European countries make this a matter of security and thus set aside from the single market procurement rules.  It’s just another example of Brexiters giving a false steer to get themselves off a hook.

The move to buy future British passports from a European company may be perfectly justified based on quality and value for money.  Those who carp about an affront to nationalism need to think carefully about what they are suggesting.  Even if Brexit happens, in a post-Brexit world Government procurement will still need to be fair, open and consider the need for a “level playing field” for contractors and suppliers.

One of the most basic tenants of trade is the notion of reciprocation.  In other words, I’ll buy your goods and services if you buy my goods and services.  The assumption being that we all want the best goods and services supplied at the best price.

True that a large section of Brexiters are out and out nationalists.  As such they don’t care much about getting the best possible deal if its restricted to the Country’s borders.  Having a stamp on it to say that its 100% British is the only consideration even to the extent of damaging our export markets.

European procurement rules give us access to a market place worth 100s of billions.  It would be an almighty foot shooting exercise to cut ourselves off from that market.

Fishy parrot

Without a doubt the Brexiteers have betrayed British fishing.  On the table is a proposal for Britain to effectively remain in the EU Common Fisheries Policy for almost two years after March 2019.  Yes, this is a practical and pragmatic measure in a long and detailed negotiation but its runs in the opposite direction to the one pushed for by the likes of backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Ministers have defended their position by asking the hard core Brexiters, who like to think they run Britain, to hold fire and play a long game.  This is much like asking your favourite football team to carry on loosing because one day over the horizon they might just win.

All this political theatre continues apace even when there’s no clear Fisheries Policy to replace the one we have now.

It’s bazaar to see angry fishing protesters throw dead fish into the Thames river outside The Houses of Parliament in London.  Perhaps a nice meal for a passing gull or Conger Eel.  Today, indeed there are such fierce fish in the river Thames[1].   It’s a good sign of how much this major tidal river has been cleaned up over numerous decades.

I don’t need to say that; British rivers were in an alarming state before Britain joined the EU.  Concerted environmental action[2] across Europe has improved the situation markedly even though problems remain.  The Thames clean-up campaign has been an internationally success.   This most British of estuaries supports over 120 species of fish, is a key nursery ground and plays a big part in supporting North Sea fish stocks.  I don’t know what the protesters think is going to happen if Britain leaves the EU.  The management of fish stocks will continue to be a complex issue that no one Country can monopolise.

Brexiteers will betray the fishing industry.  Brexiteers will betray the framers.  Brexiteers will betray every single British subject (or citizen).  Its just a matter of time.  Doesn’t matter if its March 2019 or 21 months later the betrayal is inevitable.

It isn’t dead fish we should be picturing but the dead parrot[3] of Brexit.

[1] http://thames-explorer.org.uk/knowledge-base/wildlife/forna/fish/


[2] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/basics/health-wellbeing/clean-water/index_en.htm


[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Parrot_sketch


Wrong turn

Let’s be clear.  Brexit is built on a fantasy.  It’s a massive disruption aimed at the wrong target.

Yes, we know the world has changed since the formation of the European community.  Yes, we know China and India are growing more rapidly than Europe.  Yes, we know no one likes the language of rules and regulations.   But to use these three as reasons for unilateral separation from our nearest neighbours is as likely to succeed as a five-year-old is to master quantum physics.

Global connectivity, interaction and interdependence are growing.  Like it or not, no one Country is going to be able to halt social and technical “progress” unless its willing to make its people poorer.  There’s always the dark ages option.

Sure, this makes people like me, over 50, uncomfortable and romantically starry eyed about so called simpler times.  My career started in the pre-digital world where computers were filing cabinet sized number crunchers only States and big companies could afford.  Today, with talk of Artificial Intelligence not as science fiction but as science fact, its hard to know what will happen next.

For these reasons, and more major institutions need a radical shift in gear.  It doesn’t matter if they are international, regional, national, city, town or village we need to do business differently.

So, where Brexit pits one against another it’s a hundred percent wrong.

In the background

IMG_1899Here, I thought I would write a few observations having recently talked to several people who supported Brexit.  Conversations that were as civil as if they had happened in a church vestry.

Although the language used in published Brexit document, either from Whitehall or the European institutions is dull, measured and technical it’s soon turned into emotive hyperbole by the media.  The mundane horse-trading that is part of normal negotiations is hijacked by brain numbing capital headlines.  Sterile legalistic words suddenly become personal attacks and vengeful actions.

Its like there’s an insatiable need to turn administration into high drama.  None of this media magnification and political hype helps the process one little bit.  Its happening and all parties are doing it, but the aggression and sharpness is greater on the pro-Brexit side.

What I find astonishing is the emphatic and dogmatic way in which some of those who voted to Leave the EU speak and write.  Language is coloured by absolutes.  There’s little attempt to understand that a considerable number of people disagree with leaving the EU.

Gross stereotyping is happening on both side of the argument.  If anything, this just has the impact of hardening the attitudes of those committed to each camp.  Leavers are accused of being xenophobes.  Remainers are accused of being disrespectful.

Finding words to characterise the situation, what comes to mind is that it’s like a mock civil war being fought in thick mud.  Life changing and messy but recoverable if some good will can be found.

It seems both camps agree we have an incompetent Government implementing the process.  Upheavel without benifit is a costly way to roll the clock back.

As huge generalities, a couple of points are clear to me.  These get more acute the older people get.  One: the British people never like being told what to do especially when its written down.  Order is preferred over chaos but don’t make too many rules.  Two: complaining is not the natural British way.  Bottling up unhappiness’s until they explode is far more the British way.

Brexit will fail because its twisting and turning and tying itself up.  Most fundamentally it’s not dealing with the real reasons for people’s unhappiness.   The public will give their vedict in the end.  In fact, they may do that sooner than the pudits think.

These notes may be extremely useful if there is a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Uncertain rules

Simon Whalley’s[1] analysis shows that there’s a lot that remains uncertain.  Even with the UK exploring the terms on which the UK could remain part of the European Aviation Safety Agency [EASA] there is no assurance of success.  If an accommodation is achieved there’s still the thorny problem of being subject to rules that will be put in place without a UK vote for or against.

It might be that the undeclared strategic aim of the UK Government is to diverge from the European framework of rules.  That would make EASA membership a transitional arrangement.

Given my experience, I’m forced to look at the evolving situation as the past gone into reverse.  In the 1990s we were slowly but surely moving away from British Civil Airworthiness Requirements (BCARs) towards European ones as being organised by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA).  This progressive movement, of over more than a decade, created the stepping stones that made EASA possible.  If we put all that into administrative reverse it will take a couple of decades to get to a situation of greater autonomy.  Even that will not mean absolute control given the UK’s obligations within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the large number of bilateral agreement that will need to be put in place to replace the European ones.

I don’t deny that divergence may have one or two benefits.  However, I will agree that the costs of divergence far exceed any of the potential benefits or, at least, that is the experience of the past.

Take the case where there is a major fatal accident of a civil aircraft on British soil.  Post-accident, there is the potential to change aviation rules faster if the only consideration is a domestic outcome.   Divergence will then certainly then arise quite rapidly.  What can be bad about that?  Well, there are a couple of issues.  Rapid rule changes can be highly politically driven running the risk that the true nature of a technical problem is not addressed.  Also, given the extremely rare occurrence of fatal accidents there’s a lot to be gained from aggregating information.  If all energy and effort is focused on national problems much can be missed.  In other words, the accident that others have maybe the accident you have tomorrow, if you don’t pay attention.

Pro-Brexit reporters have commented; if Australia and New Zealand can do it why can’t we?  That is; to not have an empowered regional organisation addressing aviation.  Also, such remarks have been addressed about the Gulf States.  Look at these large aircraft operators and they don’t have an EASA, do they?

The truth is complex.  A lot of these simple analogies don’t stand up to scrutiny.  In fact, at international level more and more regional groupings are being established and recognised by ICAO.  Also, the highly integrated and interconnected nature of design, production, maintenance and operations in Europe does mean we are not like any other global region.

Although we (UK) are in reverse gear let’s hope that a handbrake turn takes place before we hit the barrier.

[1] https://www.aerosociety.com/news/brexit-and-easa-a-way-forward/