Aviation & Brexit 11

The clock is ticking on negotiations.  It was on 29 March 2017 that the UK notified to the European Council its intention to leave the European Union (EU).  For quite a while the reassurance that has been going around the aviation industry is that: “no deal” Brexit is “not the likely outcome”.

Now preparations for the next meeting of the European Council (Article 50) are well underway as the next meeting takes place this month.  Some are saying that; unless real and substantial progress is made by the European Council meeting, the Brexit deal could fall through.  So, the unlikely may become a bit more likely.  What would that mean?

Let’s spend a minute or two considering the “no deal” outcome.  Basically, as the name suggests, we arrive in March 2019 and nothing is formally agreed between UK and EU.  This would be an unprecedented situation.  In aviation we are accustomed to having abnormal and emergency procedures to address failures but, as far as we know, no such procedures exit for a Members State to crash out of the EU.  It might be obvious to say but I sincerely hope that someone is considering the shape and form of such procedures, even if it’s possible they will never be used.

Back to the “crash out” scenario.  The UK’s long and successful membership of the EU has meant that most aviation agreements struck before entry[1] are null and void or have been superseded.   There’s little documentation to resurrect that would make sense in the current environment so defining relationships would have to fall back to the most basic international provisions.

From the EU perspective, the default would seem to be that the UK becomes one “third country” in a long list.  That’s a “third country” without aviation agreements like for example; Turkey or Ukraine.

Just considering air operations.  Europe has a centralised system to authorise “third-country” operators undertaking commercial air transport operations into the EU.   So, all UK aircraft operators that wished to fly into Europe would first need to apply for TCO[2] approval.

On the positive side, TCO is about establishing that an air operator is compliant with the applicable standards of the ICAO Annexes to the Chicago Convention.   In the case of the UK, initially this should be administrative given that UK air operators’ aircraft are currently in the European system.

In the longer term this can mean more audits and inspections dependent upon the performance of air operator in question.   In this event it’s interesting to speculate if the UK would extend its own assessment of foreign operations.  Clearly, the paperwork piles up and however focused and well managed this administrative and technical work maybe, it’s the sort of duplication everyone has been trying to eliminate for the last 40 years.   Turning the clock back.

[1] 1 January 1973

[2] https://www.easa.europa.eu/easa-and-you/air-operations/tco-third-country-operators


Aviation & Brexit 10

I’ve heard some discussion about resurrecting British Civil Airworthiness Requirements (BCARs).  Somewhere in a box, I still have my blue covered copy of Section A.  Back in the early 1990s, this was the airworthiness requirement that we applied to all aircraft for which the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had primary responsibility.   The document was first published back in July 1989 and has been updated many times.   Embodied in its text are words that once empowered UK airworthiness surveyors of which I was one.  Yes, given the judgements expected of technical staff we were called “surveyors” rather than inspectors or administrators.

Now, BCAR Section A[1] is still applied but only to aircraft that are not part of the European system.  Generally, these are the so called “Annex II” aircraft.  BCAR Section A does not apply to those aircraft that have been the responsibility of the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) since 28 September 2003.  Although for a long-time prior to EASA’s formation procedures developed for widespread European cooperation.   It’s worth noting that the structure and form of these national airworthiness procedures is quite different from the current European regulations.  They have a uniquely British heritage as they expanded on the Air Navigation Order (ANO) and its regulations.

So, with Brexit, if the Withdrawal Agreement that is on the table, is accepted, a transitional period will run to the end of 2020.   During this period, it’s assumed that the present rules and procedures will continue to apply as now.  Although there remains the risk that the UK could “fall off the cliff edge,” it isn’t likely that BCARs will be called back into use as they were in the 1990s.

There would be some major difficulties applying the historic procedures to the latest generation of aircraft and keeping agreements with other Counties going at the same time.  That said, it’s possible BCARs could be resurrected but in a new way.  One approach to providing national airworthiness procedures in 2021, would be to cut-and-paste the EASA Implementing Rule Part 21.

There isn’t much to be gained by reproducing all the requirement texts because it would be just as easy to have a one-line legislative statement to adopt the output of the European system.  If new BCARs are created they must be maintained and that task is always bigger than anyone estimates.

Unfortunately, the pervasive impact of popular politicisation may take a hand.  That could result in a complex hybrid of procedures developing where some parts are common and other parts diverge.  If it happens, our post-Brexit era could create the need for a great deal of airworthiness administrative management which naturally has to be paid for by someone.  However, this happens the UK must have a sound, stable and reliable system to deal with the responsibility for Type Approval of aircraft and all that implies.

[1] https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplication.aspx?appid=11&mode=detail&id=220


Aviation & Brexit 9

So what next?  Amongst the topics to be discussed by the UK and EU will be Transport and building our future relationship after we leave the EU[1].  This does seem broad and general and late when considering the timescales involved.  This comes after UK Government Ministers meet with aviation industry representatives to talk about Brexit[2].  So, at least a view of national aviation interests has been heard by Ministers and officials.

It remains the case that a great number of people are in the dark over Brexit preparations.  The “wait and see” approach is meaning that investments are being held off.  It’s likely, a transition will come in time but its impossible to know its magnitude either for March 2019 or January 2021.  So, for the moment, the general attitude seems to be: everyone for themselves.  Make whatever contingency measure you like as it will not be the Brexit negotiators who will take responsibility for the outcome.

To follow-on with a calm note, I’ll put the question; who remembers 28 September 2003?  It’s the date of an abrupt transition in the world of airworthiness.  It was the time at which the EU Regulation (EC) No 1592/2002 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) came into force.

To quote: “The Agency shall undertake the certification tasks incumbent upon it pursuant to Article 15 as from 28 September 2003.”  In one day responsibility transitioned from a national authority to a European Agency.  EASA had to carry out on behalf of Member States the functions and tasks of the State of Design, Manufacture or Registry when related to design approval.

Yes, I remember many dissenting voices clambering to say how that day would bring about chaos and disaster for civil aviation.   Also, I must remark that a considerable number of them were politicians in the UK.  Now, it was a bumpy ride but because of good will on the part of most authorities and organisations the transition worked.

So, what are a few of the differences between now and then?

  • One: It took at least 20 years of planning and the whole Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) experience so that this first Basic Regulation could enter into force;
  • Two: Happy or unhappy, everyone who needed was pointing in roughly the same direction 15 years ago;
  • Three: International partners were well informed as to what was happening;
  • Four: A sound legal framework defined roles and responsibilities and
  • Five: Dispute resolution mechanisms were clear.

From all this, it can be concluded that it’s more than concerning that we (UK) are where we are, with less than a year to go to leaving the EU.  The lack of clarity in direction and different Government departments with different agendas does not bode well for the next couple of years.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/topics-for-discussions-on-the-future-framework-at-forthcoming-meetings


[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/aviation-industry-welcomes-brexit-roundtable


May Vote

IMG_2351What do the May local elections tell us?  The message is important since this was the biggest test of public opinion since the UK General Election in 2016.  It was real votes in real ballot boxes.  I see the outcome in three parts.

Firstly, two old dinosaurs locked in a never-ending battle.  Both looking bruised and battered.  One wins a bit and the other loses then the other wins a bit and so on into perpetuity.  Stale leadership and tired policies leave both in the doldrums.  The two fossils of British politics: Labour and Conservative Parties.  Neither has a vision for the future.

Secondly, the good news is that the Liberal Democrats are climbing back to represent a real force in British politics.  The Party has a younger spirit than the rest.  Its energetic and hard working.  Big wins represent an endorsement of their position as a Party with ideas and competent deliverer of services.  They are the main ones to see the true folly of Brexit.

Thirdly, it’s also good news to see that UKIP has breathed its final breath.  If there’s any justice, the BBC and the newspapers will now stop paying so much attention to this antiquated relic.  UKIP is no more however much its corpse wriggles.

In addition since I didnt want to say fouthly; the Greens continue to have a patch of ground that they alone occupy.  They do split votes and upset outcomes but that’s all part of our dreadful first past the post system for local elections.

May 2018 may not have been transformational, but it does firmly point a direction.  Yesterday’s Party policies and sound bites are running out of steam.  Neither of the two biggest UK Parties have much to offer except more of the same.  This is not a good situation of a mature Country to be in at a moment when its about to step into the unknown.  It’s time to turn around and set a new direction.