Brexit and Aviation 29

The negotiations continue but the water is muddy brown and impenetrable.  EU-UK technical level meetings took place on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  The assurance has been given that there are few remaining issues with the Withdrawal Agreement and the future relationship discussions.  On Friday there’s to be a principals’ meeting with Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, and Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU.

Raab is confident a deal between UK and the EU is: “within our sights.”  But the news this week has been up and down like a yo-yo.  One minute there’s optimism and broadly 80% of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is concluded.  Next minute we must remind people that a “no deal” scenario is getting closer and closer.  There’s so much day-to-day game playing that it’s difficult to be either optimistic or pessimistic.

I must congratulate presenter Hannah Fry.  Last night, by chance, I watched her BBC 4 programme called “The Joy of Winning”.  That was an hour well spent.  She successful opens our eyes to game theory.  Not an easy thing to do in a way that keeps people watching.  Adventures in maths don’t normally top the viewing figures.  For this one-hour I’d recommend you give it a go.

Made me think – is anyone applying game theory to the Brexit negotiations?  And if they are what does each side judge to be a win?

Switching to Aerospace.  A win for Europe’s Aerospace sector would be either no Brexit or an outcome that maintains much of what has been won over decades.  Europe’s Aerospace is a success. It employs at least 120,000 people in the UK[1].  The fact is the industry is highly integrated within the EU.  Billions are done in international trade.  And a common rulebook makes that work.

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raaab maybe an improvement on his predecessor.  In these final months, I hope he has a sound winning strategy that is a win-win for both the UK and EU.

A so called “no deal” Brexit would be an unmitigated tragedy.  It would be evidence of abject failure in negotiations.  It would signal to the world a grave weakness at a time of pressure and venerability.

Is “no deal” part of a game?  Like the MAD that we lived through in the 1980s – that’s the Mutually Assured Destruction of the Cold War.  I don’t suppose we will know until the UK Government papers are released in 30 years’ time.  I prefer to think that it is a form of game theory otherwise I must concede that we are run by ideological extremism in favour of Brexit at any cost.  Not a nice thought to end the week on.

[1] @ADSgroupUK

Britain deserves better

Post-Brexit Britain will be more bureaucratic. The recently published Government papers are full of new regulatory regimes, doubling up of registration and extra processes for British business and consumers.  When Ministers say, like Dominic Raab: “the UK will be better off outside the EU in any scenario…” we all know these are meaningless words.  It’s his job to say that sort of nonsense even if this is turning reality on its head.

For the Conservatives it’s too late to change direction.  They know that their negotiating strategy has fallen apart.  Focusing on the negative, like threats of a “no deal” have done, has alienated potential partners.  During negotiations, blaming people for intransigence has been a diplomatic blunder of the first order.  It’s reinforced the solidarity of the potential partners.

The first batch in a series of Technical Notices on “no deal” assume a great deal of good will on the part of the EU.  Some of them ignore the constraints that apply because of existing legislation in Europe.  In an emergency, circumventing Regulations can be done but its going to be hard if the only reasons are ideological and pressures are like a game of Russian roulette.

The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016.  The world of early 2019 will not be the same as the world of early 2016.  Populism remains but its not gathering any head of steam.  It’s a minority of ideological radicals who keep pushing their cherished project.  We don’t have to accept their view of the world.

We need a #PeoplesVote.  But we need a positive campaign about the benefits of European solidarity.  A campaign must present the facts and expose the lies of the last referendum.  Britain deserves better.

Brexit and Aviation 28

The EU has already produced a series of notices on “Brexit preparedness”.  It’s now the turn of the UK to publish notices.  Taking the current course, the UK plans to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.   What happens at that point remains a subject of much debate and discussion.  Many hours of media time are dominated by speculation and those desperate to influence public opinion.

Brinkmanship is the apparent escalation of threats to achieve one’s aims.  For brinkmanship to work, both sides escalate their threats.  We never seem to be on the brink of anything good.  Most “brinks” are on the edge of catastrophise, cataclysm, disasters, ruin, suffering or harm.

Pro-Brexit people often dismiss any such talk as, so called: “Project Fear”.   That’s disingenuous because it’s an unscrupulous attempt to hide what brinkmanship is by definition.  A threat, or outcome that no one sensible wants is ineffective unless it’s credible.   It’s no good blaming anyone for this dreadful state of affairs.  If the doctrine of – nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – continues, then this is what will happen.

Also, its foolish to think that this situation will only exist in the UK – EU relationship.  It’s most likely to be encountered whenever the UK is negotiating with a larger Country or region.  So, if Brexit happens we had better get used to it.

Naturally there’s the potential for errors or misjudgements.  History is littered with brinkmanship gone wrong.  It always better to have a life jacket than not have one but whether it will be any use or not is quite another matter.

Today, civil aviation is not on the list of how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal[1].

There are some inferences that can be taken from the notice on “Regulating medicines”.  Basically, that’s the UK will continue to apply and accept the application of EU regulations even if there’s no deal.  Ideally, the UK would like to remain part of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

An attempt at humour, and the Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich scenario after Brexit, fell flat.  That said, most of the scenarios for no deal Brexit are Bl**dy Ludicrous Threats (BLTs).  Better to stop this folly altogether and adopt a more practical, pragmatic and proportionate approach to EU Membership.



Brexit and Aviation 27

In civil aviation, deal or no deal, the Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed in Chicago on 7 December 1944, which provides for implementation of the measures necessary to ensure the safe operation of aircraft will continue to apply in all European States.

Deal or no deal, The UK will remain a member of European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and EUROCONTROL.  But even before REGULATION (EEC) No 3922/91 of 16 December 1991 on the harmonization of technical requirements and administrative procedures in the field of civil aviation a great deal of work was being done to harmonise of technical requirements in Europe.

Deal or no deal, the 508 million of the current EU28 want high levels of civil aviation safety and common technical requirements in Europe.  Simply put the public demand will continue to be to strives to improve safety and protect the environment.  European skies see over 10 million flights a year and that’s growing.

Frankly, to do any different would be a grave dereliction of duty.  Each European country is unique.  However, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, if you are a passenger on an international flight you expect the same level of safety as everyone else.  Competition can drive improvements in industry but no one sensible or sane competes on safety grounds.

So, talk of “no deal” isn’t of any usefulness because there will always be a deal of some kind.

Tomorrow Ministers are set to publish the “no deal” Brexit plans that have been worked-up.  Whether this is healthy or unhealthy isn’t so much about what they contain as the state of mind that produced them in the first place.   The irrational beliefs at the heart of Brexit have little to do with practical reality.  The honest practical reality is that there will be deals.

No half-way houses

What do you do in a deeply divided country like ours?  They say perception is all.  Spend just 5 minutes reading Hard Remain Tweets and then 5 minutes reading Hard Leave Tweets.  These two communities will NOT reconcile in anyone’s lifetime.   We have Internationalist English and the Nationalist English.  They live in different worlds and their beliefs are poles apart.  They delight in insulting each other in ever more creative ways.  Both believe the other one is sabotaging their dreams.  Strong deals, good deals, bad deals, weak deals or no deal, whatever the final deal a large proportion of the English population will object to it even if they haven’t a clue what it means.  We all know the status-quo is not tenable but where do we go from here?  The traditional “bell curve” of politics is taking a holiday.  That’s where once many politicians looked to position themseleves with the central moderate majority.

Let’s be clear that at a time of such troubles we need to get back to fundamentals.

“The first duty of the Government is to afford protection to its citizens.”  My interpretation of the word “protection” takes in: safety, security, justice, economic wellbeing, social solidarity and environmental protection.

This is where the two camps are NOT equal.  Wherever you are, you do need to pick a side.  Appeasement has a poor history in all nations.

A quick look at the Brexiters priorities leave no doubt, in my mind that they are authoritarian and unscrupulous.  Here’s a range of thing they want to do:  One Party rule.  In Parliament, shut down the House of Lords, as they say; no second house needed.  More popular referendums to keep politicians on a leash.  Returning capital punishment.  Pulling up the draw-bridge to all but the wealthy.  Privatisation of the BBC, NHS and other public bodies.  Wholesale deregulation.  Drastic cuts in welfare to let people sink or swim.  Making dissent and protest crimes of treason.  This list is a sample from Brexiters current on-line discussions.

Public safety, security, justice, economic wellbeing, social solidarity and environmental protection, will all be in jeopardy if they succeed.   An outcome that “will be regretted for generations” is on the cards right now.

Let’s be clear the opinion to remain as an EU Member State is no longer the status-quo.  The world has moved in the last two-years.  A new dynamic exists in Europe as we face the challenges of Trump, Russia, China and the huge tech giants who dominate our lives. Nationalist voices will continue to make noise but that should on a level playing field with moderate voices.

If democratic States are to thrive and ordinary people not lose out, Government and its institutions must listen to their people.  There is a growing demand and support for a #PeoplesVote.  Let’s have that vote and show that the real deal is the one people want.

Brexit and Aviation 26

On my desk is coaster that says: “30 Years MOR Scheme 1976-2006”.  It has the Civil Aviation Authority logo above the words.  Now that was worth celebrating.  Three decades of Mandatory Occurrence Reporting in civil aviation in the UK[1].

It would be difficult to put a number on the number of potential accidents and incidents prevented by the learning that has flowed from thousands of MORs.  Nevertheless, there are certainly people who have been spared the fate of being involved in life threatening events.

1976 was my first year of paid employment.  It was a glorious hot summer.  In the autumn, I started an apprenticeship with no idea that the path of my career would lead to me working with MORs.

At that time, I was working out how to do engineering drawing and make precision items using machine tools.  If remember right, being on a flat roof at Yeovil College experimenting with a solar water heater.  Working out how to stop it leaking and pump at the right times.

Not my biggest interest but aviation was around me given the presence of Westland Helicopters in the town.  That company had its own apprentice training school.  Many of the college apprentices like me worked for small engineering companies that depended on Westland’s.

I recollect this because, at that time, my memories of a fatal aircraft accident were of the one that led to the establishment of the MOR system in the UK.  In 1972, British European Airways flight 548 crashed in Staines killing 118 people on board[2].  This was a British aircraft, operated by a British company on British soil.  A sad and tragic event.  I plan to go to see the Trident memorial window in St Mary’s Church in Staines.  The 118 stars in its border represent those who died.

The UK has contributed considerably to shaping the rules that now apply in Europe.

When I arrived in Cologne in 2004, the Directive 2003/42/EC was in place.  This wasn’t the strongest piece of legislation and although it required EU Member States to have an MOR system it was weak on getting people to share information.  That’s one of the big benefits of such approaches.  It’s to learn from others so that you don’t have to experience the same problems.

Now, to give it the full title we have: Regulation (EU) No 376/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences in civil aviation, amending Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Directive 2003/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Regulations (EC) No 1321/2007 and (EC) No 1330/2007 Text with EEA relevance.

Yes, that’s a mouthful but the text of the Regulation is invaluable to make a system of collecting and sharing MORs throughout the whole European aviation system.  Will the UK continue to participate in this European system post-Brexit?  Everyone assumes it will but the answer to the question how is – no one knows.





Looking back from ahead

Now, maybe I’ll last until 2040.  Sure, as eggs is eggs, I won’t last forever.  Looking back from that world ahead, what will we be taking about when we remember the 2010s?  What will be then the history of 30 years back.  So, today that’s like looking at the 1980s.

Got to make a few assumptions if this is going to make any sense.  Technology will have continued its onward march.  World population will be about 9 billion.  Climate change will be in the News.  We will be amazed by the discoveries that science makes.

Just about everything will be more interconnected, interactive and interdependent than ever was imagined.  But some people will still be living in the house they grew up in.  Some communities will be on the up and others left behind.

What will the social, economic and political world look like in 2040?  Perhaps enduring themes will remain our preoccupation.  It seems to me that we go through cycles.  One time we wish for autonomy, sovereignty and independence.  Next time we wish for community, solidarity and union. In time the pendulum swings backwards and forwards.

So, looking back on the late 2010s the UK Brexit experiment is the pendulum hitting the end stops.

Will it be reflected on as good or bad?

I’m going to say bad.  One of the key reasons for saying this is that Brexit became an obsession that continued long after the attraction faded.  The bigger problems that we all faced were not addressed by Brexit.  It became a side show that enthralled the UK but meant little to the rest of the world.

To take a quote from an unlikely hit film of 1994: “You can’t stop progress” (Muriel’s Wedding).  By the way, that didn’t work out so well for Muriel’s father who took pride in trying to get rich from corrupt deals.  Perhaps a more erudite quotation is in order: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. George Bernard Shaw.

If advice from 2040 comes flying through a worm hole in space and time it will be: change direction in 2018 because Brexit will just mean disappointment.  Work on the worlds real problems.

Brexit & Aviation 25

Changing perspectives on Brexit, I’ll consider it more from the point of view of being an air passenger.  I’ve written about aviation’s regulatory framework and the impacts on industry, but I fly too.  So, what’s likely to change with the passing of March 2019?

Today’s UK News is about the UK-based airline Virgin Atlantic and their story on ques at London Heathrow airport[1].  On 6th July, non-EU visitors had to wait for up to 2 hours and 36 minutes at Heathrow.  That’s a lot to add to the end of a long-haul flight.  Brits may be accustomed to queuing, but it annoys and frustrates most people.

I’m lucky.  I have a shiny new British passport with the words “European Union” on the front cover.  As a British passenger, I can use the electronic passport gates which currently are open to EU passengers.

Currently Europe’s busiest airport, that’s the EU’s busiest airport isn’t offering good services to non-EU visitors.  Will this change after March next year?  Or will EU passengers get more hassle than they do now?  There’s media speculation about a Brits only immigration line at airports but what could that possibly mean in reality?  No one knows.

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004[2] isn’t liked much by the aviation industry but passengers have been happy to see this legislation enacted.  Now, will an Air Transport deal between the EU and UK include consumer rights such as flight delay compensation?  Even if the intent of this Regulation is copied into UK law it wouldn’t be much good applied to non-UK airlines.  I understand that Switzerland participates in 261/2004.  So, it should be possible for a post-Brexit UK to participate in the legislation.  This needs to happen otherwise British passengers delayed by EU airlines will not be appropriately compensated.  A notice to this effect has been published.

When traveling we like to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues.  Today we get mobile phone roaming in the EU at domestic prices.  This requires continued regulation of prices by UK and EU networks. Will this end?  No one knows.

The UK Government continues to say: “Our focus is making a success of Brexit and attempting to get the best deal possible. A deal that is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and the European Union. And one that takes in both economic and security cooperation.”

Flying to and from the UK may change after March 2019.  Unless the above issues are fully addressed the experience maybe a lot worse than it is today.  So, be prepared.



[2] Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights……………………….

West Side Story – PROM 39

My 5th BBC PROM for the year turned out to be an absolute sensation.  PROM number 39 was the John Wilson Orchestra performing Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

Luckily, I got one of the limited number of promming tickets that went on sale at 9 on Saturday morning.  I was standing in the arena of the Royal Albert Hall on the west side, naturally enough.  To a packed Albert Hall, the performance kicked-off at 8 pm.

Ross Lekites took the part of Tony.   Mikaela Bennett was Maria.  The two were perfectly matched.  There was back-up from an ensemble of London theatre school students all dressed in white tee shirts.

Last night was a rare presentation of the theatre score as an authorised concert version.   This does compress the story considerably.  In fact, the evening ends abruptly as Tony is suddenly shot.  This wasn’t about dance or detailed stories  but about the fantastic songs and the wonderful music.  For a couple of hours, the Albert Hall became Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1950s.

Oddly contemporary, racial animosity and gang warfare aren’t something that was left in the 50s and 60s.  Although this was a hugely uplifting performance, the story is one of tragedy.  A tragedy like the gangs and hideous knife crime of these times.

I remember snippets of the film of West Side Story.  The film followed the the shows success in 1961, so that’s been around nearly as many years as I have.  It was a film that was part of the Sunday TV matinees of my childhood.

The musical plays on the story of Romeo and Juliet.  Its themes will remain popular for as long as there’s youth, conflict, innocence and love.  Every song is memorable.  Only a heart of stone would not be moved by moments of the plot.  Last evening ended all too soon.  A special moment in time.  A BBC PROM that we can be thankful made it on to this year’s calendar.

Brexit & Aviation 24

Like it or not, the holiday season will end.  Facts are incontrovertible.  The UK and EU have just a few months to finish a Withdrawal Agreement.  This is to allow for scrutiny and ratification in both the UK and the EU’s 27 Member States.  A Withdrawal Agreement must be signed in October and that’s just days away.

Let’s look at one more civil aviation issue.  The continuing airworthiness of a civil aircraft is dependent on the exchange of information between authorities and organisations across the globe.  This is flow of information is practically improved if working arrangements or bilateral agreements exist between Countries.  These are built on mutual interest, trust and a long-established familiarity with each other’s regulatory systems.

Yes, the duties of Countries under their obligations as signatories of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, dated 7th December 1944 (known as the “Chicago Convention”) exist but these are the basics and even then, those basics are often given scant regard.

In the 1970s, some European civil aviation authorities started to co-operate to produce common “Joint Airworthiness Requirements.”  Even before the 1990 Cyprus arrangement[1] in Europe, both the US and European authorities had been working to harmonise rules and reduce duplication of regulatory activities.

Today, a mature EU-US bilateral is in place.  So, if a British manufacture wishes to export an aviation product to the US it can do so with relative ease.  As per Subpart G 21.A.163 of Commission Regulation 748/2012, the holder of a production organisation approval may issue authorised release certificates (EASA Form 1) without further showing.   That EASA Form 1 is then recognised in the US.

The Treaty’s Article 50 clock stops at the end of March 2019.  It’s reasonable to ask the question; what Authorised Release Certificate will be used in the UK after that date and will it be recognised?

Anyone know?

All the loud yah-boo politics, so loved of Westminster, doesn’t offer an answer.


NOTE 1: The EASA Authorised Release Certificate is known as the EASA Form 1.

NOTE 2: The FAA Authorised Release Certificate is known as the FAA Form 8130 -3, Airworthiness Approval Tag[2].



[2] Reference:  FAA Order 8130.21H—Published August 1, 2013, Effective February 1, 2014.