Flying pig award

IMG_5252I tried but I failed.  When asked is there, for aviation, an upside to Brexit? I didn’t come up with anything that would justify the action.  That’s me.  Someone who is used to the ideas of cost-benefit analysis and the rational thinking that usually backs it up.  Regulatory impact assessments used to be insisted upon by politicians wary of difficult rule changes.  Let’s face it, over decades we have chosen to do things, or not do things based on consultation, rational discourse and detailed analysis.  Those evaluations where always scrutinised to the nth degree.

Now, here we are doing something big that has no, or extremely little benefit and a huge almost unfathomable cost.   If Brexit were documented in a notice of proposed amendment,[1][2] then it would get a horrible slating.   It would end up in the waste-bin within a short space of time.

These are my views.  If I’m true to the labels that I just put on myself then I’ll ask if others have a different interpretation.  This is where the flying pig comes in.  The expression “pigs might fly” goes way back in time.  For hundreds of years it has been used as a response to overly optimistic prediction made by naïve people.   It’s to say: that’s impossible in a jokey way but ever mindful that in a parallel universe such antics maybe commonplace.

That said, history is on my side.  Back in 1909, the pioneer aviator Baron Brabazon of Tara, known to his friends as John Theodore Cuthbert Moore Brabazon, took a piglet aloft in his private biplane strapped into a wastepaper basket in a move to prove that pigs can take flight.

Perhaps somewhere pigs do fly now.  In a sense they do, as livestock in cargo aircraft designed to move them from A to B.  Generally, however intelligent they maybe as beasts, they haven’t figured out aeronautics just yet.

The question is: please describe a significant benefit that Brexit provides to civil aviation for the passenger or for the industry or the environment?

To win the Flying Pig Award the answer must be practical, realistic and based in fact.

Minor changes that benefit just a few privileged people will not cut it.  It’s the hundreds of millions of typical passengers that I have in mind.  It’s the industry that employs hundreds of thousands and it’s the local, regional and global environment.

I think my shiny silver pig money box is quite safe.

Sorry for passing over the two most notable upsides, namely: Blue passports and a Brexit 50p coin.





Brexit and Aviation 41

There’s a distinct possibility that I will repeat myself in these articles.  This should not be a problem.

Most of what happens in life is a matter of probability.   There’s a high probability that I’ll have dinner this evening but there’s a low probability my local MP will dine with me.  When dealing with risks the best anyone can do is to make both qualitative and quantitative assessments of the likelihood of the occurrence of an event.  How good these turn out to be rather depends on the quality of the information upon which these assessments are made.

At this moment, there is a growing likelihood of a “No Deal” outcome to the Brexit negotiations.

Reasons being the continuing lack of a Parliamentary majority for the possible offer, stubborn pride of those involved and delayed planning.  It’s utterly pointless to even think about the blame game – yet.  Whatever happens, big changes will have to be made to cope with the new situation.

Early in the year, prudently the EU published a series of notices concerning the “No Deal” outcome.  These were stark and based upon the UK becoming a “Third Country” with a blank sheet of paper in front of it.  That’s a Country with no special arrangements with the EU.  The basic reality of that case is that companies, organisations and individuals wishing to continue business with the EU post-Brexit may need to establish a presence in the EU 27.  They may need to seek new approvals or new recognition of their qualifications and/or licences in an EU Member State[1].

UK technical notices offer the intention to unilaterally recognise EU certificates, licences and standards in the wish to minimise disruption, at least for a short time.

Recently in the UK Parliament, the Director General at the UK Department for Transport DfT[2], told the Public Accounts Committee that agreements on air services between Britain and the EU comprise “an area of growing concern to us”.  Naturally, it would be sensible and mutually beneficial for both sides of the EU-UK negotiations to provide certainty and stability to people and businesses as soon as possible. Whilst significant efforts are being made to ensure the conclusion of an agreement on an orderly withdrawal, there’s a lot of remaining ground to cover.  With around 5 months before the planned leaving date of 29 March 2019, detailed negotiations over air services have yet to get going.

As an aside, it’s strange how the truth of this precarious situation is often not evident from any viewing of the questions and debates in the House of Commons.  I don’t say, UK Parliament because the House of Lords often seems to be more up to speed with EU matters than the Commons.

Last evening, I had the opportunity to stroll around both the Lords and the Commons[3].  I can see how its quite possible to become detached from everyday reality in a place so steeped in history.  It looks more suited to page boys running around with handwritten notes than the high-speed interconnected world outside the building.  100 years ago, great reforms changed the shape of our society.  To me, there’s need for another dramatic round of reforms to at least try to be in the 21st Century.







Brexit: where now?

The text of an 8-minute speech made at “Negotiating Brexit: where now?” an event organised by The UK in a Changing Europe in London.

I’ve just noted that there are a couple of similarities between the aviation industry and the finance industry: Fragmentation is bad, industry owns the risks, and there will be some unexpected outcomes

My name is John Vincent, I formerly worked for the UK Civil Aviation Authority

Then went to Europe in 2004

To help set up EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency which is based in Cologne.

I had 11 happy years helping to build that Agency.

So, it saddens me greatly that we find ourselves in the situation that we do today

Aviation is a global and Aviation is multifaceted

It is one of the more highly regulated, just as finance, industries and there’s good reason for that

Regulation comes in the form of – social, economic, safety and with growing importance environmental regulation

It (Aviation) achieves incredible performance.  If you think we are flying a billion passengers (not flights) around Europe every year

And they (flights) are done with a level of safety that they are

It proves that the regulatory system is working very effectively indeed

It’s a multifaceted industry so all these aspects of regulation will require a different or new approach as we move away from the European system

Whether it’s Design, Manufacturing, Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul

There is the Continuing Airworthiness of those aircraft that are flying

Whether it’s the Air Navigation Service Providers

I sorry about the list but it’s how many aspects there are to the industry

The Airlines who hold the Air Operators Certificates

The Airports

Approved Training Organisations

Whether that’s training pilots, engineers or air traffic controllers.  There’s cabin crew training

Commercial pilots licencing

The new world of drones and vertical take-off aircraft – Uber flying taxies

Flight training examiners

Licensed engineers

Even private pilots

We have spent several decades harmonising European rules

At great effort on the part of the UK

And contrary to what many Eurosceptics will tell you

The UK has been exceedingly influential in the way in which these regulations have been established

When I started in this business we had BCARs – British Civil Airworthiness Requirements

We went through a period with an organisation called the JAA – Joint Aviation Authorities

Which was like a club

And then back in 2003, we had the formation of EASA

A tremendous amount of effort and work put in by UK specialists (and many others), UK regulators

We have led in Europe

There are many other areas, apart from the ones I’ve mentioned that are also affected by the changes that are coming

Research and Innovation for example

Whether we will be able to participate in Horizon 2020 or whatever comes next

Aviation is not a static business – it’s very dynamic

Even in the area of accident and incident investigation there are now European harmonised rules

Consumer protection – another example

There are rules that give you compensation if you are delayed at the airport too long

I’ve mentioned the environment – noise and emissions

The EU has played a very important role within ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation

In moving forward rulemaking on the environment

It’s been pivotal in implementing change

Now, the assumption is (general) a cut and paste of the whole of the regulations affecting aviation to incorporate them in UK law

So, you will expect to see, if there is a Withdraw Agreement, a huge Statutory Instrument that takes lock, stock and barrel all the rules that are applied and embeds them in UK law

Now if that works that should facilitate a relative smooth transition

You might ask what the point in the first place is for the change

Then comes the question of – what about the future?

Will there be regulatory divergence?

Or will we continue to be members of EASA?

And will we continue, as Norway and Switzerland are, non-EU Member States but participating in the EU system.

These two Countries are relevant (to our situation).  Norway has a large operator

Switzerland has a manufacturing industry

So, will we continue to be an influential force in Europe?

And thereby and influential force in the world?  And I say and influential force in the world

Because you cannot believe the rate at which China is training young engineers

If we are to sustain our position as a success in aerospace

Then we have to be as innovative as our colleagues (competitors) are

The world is not stopping because we are doing Brexit

We have to (in some way) ensure that we can compete

And I have doubts that an independent UK that is moving away from this infrastructure that we have built (together)

A fellow over there asked me, before I came up to speak, is there something positive you can say?

Maybe there is

A smaller regulatory entity can be more innovative

Not so much with the Hard Law but in the Soft Law and the standards that are applied

So, if we are trying to enhance urban mobility, for example, or facilitate the use of electric aircraft and the environmental improvements the maybe a smaller more dynamic regulator can do it faster

But even then, this can’t be done in isolation

They would have to work closely with others across the globe.





Brexit and Aviation 40

There are some documents that are essential for the smooth operation of aviation.  When it comes to moving products, parts or components of aircraft around the world the Authorised Release Certificate is key.  This certificate must be trusted and accepted by those who receive it.  Even with an international framework that describes how this is done this acceptance is not automatic.

In Europe, the format of Authorised Release Certificates has been harmonised after decades of work.  In addition, work has been undertaken harmonise the instructions for completing these standard release forms.

The EASA Form 1[1] is the Authorised Release Certificate provided by a manufacturing organisation (Part-21 POA holder) for stating that a product, a part, or a component was manufactured in accordance with approved design data.

What that means is that the form accompanies an aircraft product, like say an engine, and if it’s not valid that product cannot be used.  Organisations doing maintenance, repair and overhaul must keep detailed records when working on an aircraft.

As an example, in Europe we may have a British manufactured aircraft engine being fitted to a Spanish registered aircraft in a German hanger by an engineer who holds a Dutch licence.   For this to happen in an approved manner the paperwork must be accurate, complete and valid.  If the EASA Form 1 coming with the British manufactured aircraft engine is not recognised, then the work described above cannot take place.

I’ve described this situation because there’s the possibility that in a full “No Deal” Brexit there will be no automatic recognition of a British issued EASA Form 1.

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned the EASA Form 1[2].   The reason for mentioning it again is that I became more acutely aware of this problem when visiting a major conference and exhibition in Amsterdam.  On Wednesday last, I chaired a one-hour panel discussion on: “Regulatory Changes and Challenges”.  This included a Policy Specialist (Brexit) from the UK CAA.   He described the preparatory work that’s being done and some of the differences in positions between UK published papers and EU published papers.  To date, the UK CAA and EASA are not in formal talks.  Both are ready to initiate technical discssions but this is being held up by the lack of clarity in relation to the withdrawl agreement (See exchange of letters from June/July).

I conclude that rash headlines that suggest a “No Deal” option is doable are way off the mark.  The regulatory maxim – trust but verify – must be satisfied one way or another.




Brexit and Aviation 39

Accident Recorder

Reading reports of air accidents is not everybody’s cup of tea.  Nevertheless, the insights they contain are a constant reminder that no matter how safe civil aviation maybe, it can always be better.  There’s always something to learn.

This week, US accident investigators issued a report on what could have been an immense catastrophe.  Planes full of passengers came within 60 feet of each other as an Air Canada flight[1] was about to land on a taxiway by mistake.  This happened just before midnight on 7 July 2017 in San Francisco.  The US National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB) said that: “Over 1,000 people were at imminent risk of serious injury or death.”

As people have commented this is a stark reminder of the worst civil aviation accident that ever occurred.  In 1977, 593 people died when two Boeing 747 planes collided on a runway in Tenerife on the Canary Islands.

Because of the San Francisco incident, the NTSB is considering recommending that accident cockpit voice recorders record the last 25 hours of flying time.  The current US rule is for 2 hours and then the recording overwrites.

So, what has this got to do with Brexit?

After a series of accidents in the last decade, including the Malaysian Boeing 777 mysteriously lost over the ocean (flight MH370), Europe acted.  A detailed rulemaking process resulted in a EU Regulation[2] that includes key changes to mandatory accident flight recorder rules.  These required changes to planes that must be made in a practical manner to meet a deadline specified in the EU Regulation[3].  The rule applies to large planes manufactured after 1 January 2021.  Clearly, that date is after Brexit’s infamous 29 March 2019.  I cannot imagine that, whether the UK is in the EU or not, it would make any changes to this planned implementation date.  However, a mandatory action, like this one must be incorporated in the applicable national legislation.  That is how it would be applied to British registered planes.

That’s the interesting point.  Will all those European actions with implementation dates after 29 March 2019 be copied into UK law?  It would be good to see the answer “yes” written down.

POST POST NOTE: I hear the answer is “no”.  Although all the applicable European law will be copied into UK law a mandatory date that is in the future will be edited out.




[2] COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) 2015/2338 of 11 December 2015 amending Regulation (EU) No 965/2012 as regards requirements for flight recorders, underwater locating devices and aircraft tracking systems.


[3] ….with respect to the carriage of CVRs with extended recording duration for large aeroplanes, provision should be made for the introduction of CVR with a recording duration of 25 hours on board aircraft, manufactured after 1 January 2021, with a maximum certificated take-off mass of over 27 000 kg.

Brexit and Aviation 38

Today’s batch of posted Government notices have a weakness that is too obvious to mention.  Piecemeal publications addressing what seem like random subjects on decidedly technical issues are great for the administrators and lawyers of service providers.   However, there’s no easy to understand information for the general public.   It’s good to know what the implications of “No Deal” are for package holidays[1] but little of what is provided will help the average British shopper.  If someone buys a holiday packages from an EU based travel company, they may or may not be protected depending upon whether that company has a UK business.  Try explaining that to someone scanning the INTERNET and comparing travel deals.  Yes, the fine print always matters but if you think you’re dealing with a reputable travel company and the price is right, a Government technical notice may not be high on your mind even if you know it exists.  The national media are making their own reading of the notices and that paints a gloomy picture for spring next year in the UK.  Here’s the view from ITV.

So, my advice is; have a good winter break and don’t book anything for April 2019.  It would be as well to look at the individual airline and travel company too.  Some will be better prepared than others.  Some will have special terms and conditions to cope with potential problems.  Some will still be pretending the change is minor or will go away.

Another of the big Brexit issues that isn’t given much attention is the coincidence of risks.  What I mean by this is that; normal emergency planning is focused on one major event.  A hurricane, a banking crisis, a plane crash are all examples of catastrophes where a Government should have an emergency plan.

The problem with Brexit at 00:00 on 29 March 2019 is that everything will happen at once.  I’m not saying the weather will change, although who knows? but each sector will go through a significant transition at the same time.  Even within each sector, like Aviation, every part of it will have to transition in one moment.  Some parts will be impacted, and others will not.

Trying to anticipate all the combinations and permutations of interdependencies and interconnections that will be impacted is a daunting task.  Because of the limited time and the sheer complexity of the task even a good analysis will miss important connections.

On the political front all we hear is – it’ll be alright on the night.  It may be comforting to think that a smooth and orderly Brexit is possible in ALL scenarios.  However, you would be foolish to be taken in by such an assurance.   Unprecedented disruption is likely in a real “No Deal”.

I’ve got a couple of events in the calendar where Brexit will be a topic.  One is a conference in London called: Negotiating Brexit:  Where Now? Conference[2].

The other is a “Regulatory Changes and Challenges” panel session at MRO Europe[3], taking place in Amsterdam between 16-18 October.







Brexit and Aviation 37

Let’s lift our eyes up from the endless ping-pong at Westminster and look across the globe.

It’s 25C and sunny in Montréal, Canada[1].   It’s one of the best times of the year to visit the city with the kaleidoscope of leaf colours.  In the heart of the city is the mountain site of Mount Royal Park.  Now, it’s a beautiful place to walk and take the air.  Based in that fair city, many of the world’s States have a permanent mission to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).   The city has a long association with civil aviation.

The 13th Air Navigation Conference[2] has just opened in Montréal.  Almost 1300 delegates from 110 countries and 32 international organisations are meeting at ICAO.

That includes all the European Union (EU) and all its Member States.  At the Air Navigation Conference European Coordination meetings are held.   Europe is presenting: 13 Working Papers and 7 Information Papers[3].  3 of those Working Papers are from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Europe is also represented by European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) and European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL).   So, you can see that coordination is of the utmost importance.

I see that Kirsten Riensema, a former UK Air Navigation Commissioner was elected Chair of the 13th ANC.  That’s a demanding role.

I was fortunate to be part of the European delegation at the 12th ANC back in 2012[4].   These international conferences advance topics such as; the safety, efficiency, interoperability and capacity air traffic systems for the future.   A united approach is the best one to bring about results.

Today, the UK is a vital part of that European delegation.  It’s unclear where the UK will stand when the 14th ANC comes around.









1st rule – Count

At moments of fundamental change, I wonder: what is the first rule of politics?  A lot the possible first rules of politics are cynical or so basic it’s easy to forget their importance.  I like James Hacker from the BBC series Yes Minister: “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied”.  Another rule in that vein is: “It’s never the crime, it’s always the cover-up.”  One of the more useful first rules, attributed to a US politician, is: “You can’t win unless you’re on the ballot.”  That rule I’ve often practiced.  It doesn’t matter how low the likelihood of winning a vote maybe the simple fact is that; first your name must be on the ballot paper.

Here’s a first rule that’s fundamental in a democracy.  Lyndon B Johnson’s first rule of politics is one of the best, namely: “practitioners need to be able to count.”  Commentary and speculation fill enormous amounts of air-time and space but in the end the kind of Brexit we get, if at all, will be down to a count.

Learn to count as a basic first rule.  Even with the most fantastic deal, if the votes are not there to make it happen it will not happen.  That means; European and British politicians lining-up in Parliament to vote for a deal.  It means; Countries lining-up to ratify a deal.  It means; getting from A to B without too many major hiccups.

Reports are that UK Government whips are in talks with 25 Labour MPs to push a deal through Parliament.  May’s Cabinet is giving her one last chance to sell a Brexit plan.

The run up to the 18 October, European Council (Art. 50) will see complex arithmetic being done repeatedly.  Will the sums add up?  And if they don’t why shouldn’t the question be put back to the people?

Anyone able to count can see that the current situation is extremely precarious.  My personal judgement is that the current optimism, that there will be a non-disruptive Brexit Withdraw Agreement, that satisfies enough of the key players is inappropriate.

Maybe that’s why it’s being reported that the European Commission plans a fast-track a process to address the potential turmoil of a “No Deal” Brexit.  That would mean putting in place emergency means to amend rules in just a few days.

There’s wisdom in being prepared.


Y2K was real

Brexit uncovers the stark difference there is in the way people assess risk.  There’s a range of responses to alerts, concerns and warnings.  Legitimate concerns are being raised by respected professional organisations who have a great deal of accumulated experience.  Yet, a large group of people react with a dismissive attitude to these concerns.  Often that that’s the form of simple statements like; we’ve been through all this before, it’s all fear mongering and this wasn’t a problem before 1973.  Brexit concerns are real.

I’ve found one of the most irritating and wrong dismissive statements is about the “Millennium bug[1]”.  It goes something like this: you remember all that fear mongering back in the late 1990s?  Everything was going to stop and grind to a halt, but it didn’t.  It was all a waste of money because nothing happened.  That’s what’s happening now with Brexit.

I admit that standing here in 2018, what happened around 1999 does sound bizarre.  A massive public information campaign altered everyone to the problem that computers of the time had with the practice of representing the year with two digits.  In our INTERNET age none of this makes much sense.  However, this basic design deficiency of the date roll-over at the start of the year 2000 had the potential to cripple 20th Century computer systems.

Risk management is about identifying problems and then putting in place measure to deal with those problems.  It’s all very well to dismiss problems after the event.  In fact, after enormous efforts have been made to overcome those problems.  That simple hindsight view can be downright foolish and dangerous.  It can be to invite catastrophe.

Since, at the time I was working avionic systems at the UK CAA, I can tell you of the real experience of solving the Y2K problem[2].  Yes, it was a real problem with the real potential of crippling aircraft computer systems.  Not every case was critical and not every case was fixed.  A great deal of work was done surveying those aircraft computer systems.  Checking that potential failures were identified and fixed or that the systems were retired.  Processes and procedures were put in place to make sure aircraft continued to fly safely.

The work done was a success.  That success was evident because no lives were lost, no major disruption took place and life continued smoothly after midnight on 31 December 1999.  So, now when I hear people quote this event as an example of fear mongering and it’s immensely irritating.  It’s more than that, it’s downright senseless to walk around with such ideas.

Today, our more complex and interconnected computer systems are threated in different ways.  Cyber attacks are real.  It seems strange to have to say that, but they are real.  Alerts, concerns and warnings should be heeded.  It’s negligent not to prepare.  I’m with the Scouts moto[3].







Brexit and Aviation 36

No week goes by without Brexit developments.  This week has been no exception for European aviation and aerospace.  In the background there’s been the UK Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.  All that has been revealed is that we are still in limbo land or a limbo in the air, as one might say.

The UK Government technical papers for a Brexit ‘No Deal’ scenario for Aviation Safety, Flights and Aviation Security have been out for several days.  The variety of different commentaries ranges from the don’t bother – this will never happen to the downright cataclysmic grounding of all flights.

Nevertheless, the impact of a “no deal” scenario is still being understated because of the long-term regional repercussions.  The lines on the map that divide up airspace in Europe are changing.  If other nations, see that we can not deal with that reality why would they open their skies to us?

The Royal Aero Society have updated their thoughts on the implications of Brexit[1].

On the rules for slot allocation at airports, the current rules for the allocation should remain unchanged in the event of “no deal”.  However, a proposed “recast” of the current EU Slot Regulation is planned.  A problem arises in that the UK will not have a say on future EU legislation to create a market for slots and this has its own downside.

On the profesional aviation personnel side, concerned aircraft engineers are seeking information about a non-negotiated EU exit.   British issued Licenses that are now valid in the EASA Member States, will not be valid in those States as of midnight (00h00) on 29 March 2019 unless a deal is done.

Now the EU institutions are engaged in identifying and putting in place new preparedness measures in anticipation of Brexit.  This week it is worth taking note that EASA has started to process applications for Third Country approvals from existing UK approval holders[2].  There’s additional administration and costs but at least organisations holding recognised approvals have a pathway to retaining those approvals.

On a subject that may at first glance seem unrelated the European Aerospace Associations have announced a Safety Management System (SMS) Industry Standard[3].   Here we can see the practical advantages of having a common rulebook.

During my time at the UK CAA, I was a member of the Prospect Union[4] (Formerly IPMS).  I’m pleased to see their recent publication on the future of aviation and Brexit “safety and resilience – not a race to the bottom”.  One of their recommendations is new to me and I must admit the idea hadn’t occurred to me before.  It is “breaking up the Civil Aviation Authority and establishing a new UK Aviation Safety Agency” thus further separating the functions of economic regulation and safety regulation.  Somehow, I don’t think that’s the biggest concern just now.