There is a buzz in the media about commercial pilots’ licences.

It’s almost as well to start with the question: why do pilots need a licence?  The roots of pilot licencing go to the earliest days of flying.  Quickly it was realised that specific attitudes, skills and knowledge were essential to be able to fly safely.  To start with licences were not mandatory.  That changed markedly when civil aviation became commercial.  The need for mandatory licencing was well established in the 1940s when the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) came into being.

Today, Article 32 “Licenses of personnel” of the Chicago Convention is clear:

  1. a) The pilot of every aircraft and the other members of the operating crew of every aircraft engaged in international navigation shall be provided with certificates of competency and licenses issued or rendered valid by the State in which the aircraft is registered.
  2. b) Each contracting State reserves the right to refuse to recognize, for the purpose of flight above its own territory, certificates of competency and licenses granted to any of its nationals by another contracting State.

Today, the EU Basic Regulation and its implementing rules apply in the UK.  Today, we have a harmonised system with mutual recognition in 32 European States[1].  We respect and recognise each other’s pilot licences.

Tomorrow, post March 31, 2019, the EU Basic Regulation will not apply in the UK[2].  Tomorrow, UK law may be a straightforward copy of the exiting EU law.  At that time mutual recognition is not guaranteed unless an agreement is in place.

So, EU will need to decide – will it recognise a National licence from a “third country” that uses the “same” rules?  Will any recognition be dependent upon rules continuing to be harmonised?  What level of standardization auditing will maintain confidence that the system works?

I can’t answer these questions (yet).

POST: It’s 3-years on from this posting. A licencing imbalance has prevailed during that time. As of 1 January 2023, the UK will cease to recognise EASA-issued licences and certificates for the operation of UK (G-registered) aircraft. Whatever happened to hopes for mutual recognition? Pilot licensing | BALPA

[1] Licences issued by the National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) according to a set of common rules applied by the European Aviation Safety Agency, known as EASA – Flight Crew Licensing (EASA-FCL).


Brexit and Aviation 30

The summer holidays are ending, and the prospect of autumn is all around.  Fortunately, the summer weather continues, and the BBC PROMS[1] have one more week to run.  The House of Commons returns on Tuesday, 4 September[2].  Already, UK MPs are lining up in front of the media with 101 opinions on where Mrs May is right, wrong, sad, mad and maybe the only game in town.

Where the political pendulum will settle is anyone’s guess.  To give it a jolt there’s the Party conference season to come too.  I’ll be down in Brighton this year.

In the statements coming from negotiations in Brussels[3], last week there’s some constructive and positive sounding words.  The UK’s White Paper contains the recognition of the European Court of Justice as the ultimate arbiter of EU law.  This sticks in the throats of Brexit fundamentalists.  But it is pragmatic, as it’s the only way that 27 remaining EU Member States can be bound.   This does open the door to the UK’s wish to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Typically, several airlines release their late spring schedules for the following year in September.  That task is going to be tricky this year given the uncertainty that continues as negotiations unfold.  The schedule from 1st of April 2019 will likely mean that tickets sold will have terms and conditions saying this is subject to a new regulatory environment.

In my view the notion that UK airlines will be unable to fly into and out of the Europe is not plausible[4].  There’s been a lot of sensationalist media coverage and some badly written papers about what is theoretically possible as a worst-case scenario.  There may be fewer routes, higher costs and restrictions, but it’s overwhelmingly in the interest of both sides that flights continue post-Brexit.  It’s clear that the EU is not going to ignore its own legal framework, but parties reciprocate when it’s in their interests to do so.

What my advice?  Plan a good winter break somewhere in Europe.  The days of cheap flights to unusual destinations maybe ebbing away.  At least from us in the UK.  It’s sad to see such a curtailment of freedom of movement.  The blame lies firmly on the shoulders of a generation of unimaginative politicians.










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

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.

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.





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……………………….

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.

Brexit & Aviation 23

Hearing hard core Brexiters herald statements from IAG S.A.[1] about working though Brexit is strange to say the least.   By the way, if you’ve never heard of them the International Airlines Group was created in 2011, is one of the world’s largest airline groups and includes British Airways.  It’s a Spanish registered company with shares traded on the London and Spanish Stock Exchanges. IAG operational headquarters is in London.

At the point of the 2016 UK referendum IAG shares took a hit.  Ever since then there has been a consistent recovery in their position.  Brexit, or no Brexit they are well placed on both sides of the fence.  Today, their airlines have Air Operator Certificates (AOCs)[2] in the EU.  After the end of March next year its likely those AOCs will remain unchanged.   The basis for their UK operators validity will shift from European Regulation to National Legislation.

Despite the high level of integration of the European aviation market place there is no single European registry of aircraft.  Each ICAO Contracting State has its own aircraft registry.

However, to fly into the EU all non-EU aeroplane operators must have a Third Country Operators (TCO) authorisation[3].  This is a way of ensuring that non-EU aeroplane operators are compliant with all applicable technical standards of the Annexes to the Chicago Convention.

In the EU the authorities undertake ramp inspections of aeroplanes in operation.

Naturally, after the end of March next year aeroplane operators who transition from being EU operators to non-EU aeroplane operators will need a TCO authorisation.  In theory, this should be an administrative matter since the transitioning operators already meet the applicable standards.

The TCO authorisation process can require that an audit be performed at the operational premises of the aeroplane operator.  This is one of the tasks undertaken by the European Agency EASA.

It’s worth noting that the TCO only considers the safety-related part of foreign operator assessment, whereas operating permits (commercial traffic rights) are issued by individual EU Member States.   In many Brexit articles these often a confusion between safety related rules and commercial related rules.  It’s generally the case that operating permits are not granted unless the TCO is in place first.

So, far from the Brexiters cries of: “take back control” the result of all this is that our interdependence across Europe changes but remains.  And for very good reasons too.





[3] Commission Regulation (EU) No 452/2014 (the ‘TCO Regulation’)

Brexit & Aviation 22

The politics of the day would seem to be “divide and rule”.  Not an entirely unknown approach and, when conducted in the open, can make you look silly if it doesn’t work.

There are three parts to the European Union that need to be convinced that the Withdrawal Agreement they see on 18 October is one they wish to accept.  The three are: the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament.  The most powerful is clearly the Member States as they sit in the Council of the European Union[1].  This week the UK is attempting to influence the Council through influencing Member States that it thinks could be persuaded to be sympathetic to the UK Government’s White Paper proposals.

The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU Member States every 6 months.  The Austrian presidency of the Council runs from 1 July to 31 December 2018[2].  That explains why Mrs May has been in Austria.  Tonight’s news would suggest that trip isn’t going all that well.  Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has told Mrs May it’s “important to avoid a hard Brexit”.

Romania has the Council presidency from January to June next year.  They are the ones who may have to wave the UK goodbye or not as the case maybe.

If there is “no deal” between the EU and the UK there is no automatic fall-back position for the aviation sector.  It will be a unique situation where the EU Member States continue to apply all the existing rules and regulations and a “new” neighbouring State becomes unpredictable.  The Brexiteer lobby entirely misleads the public when saying: “it will all be alright on the night.”

As the UK leaves the EU and becomes a “third country” it will cease to be part of the fully-liberalised EU aviation market.  The UK can’t fall back on old bilateral agreements it had with the US and other EU countries since these were superseded and are obsolete.  Their restoration is extremely unlikely.

As a contingency, a number UK operators and businesses are expanding or setting-up new bases within the EU.   This could work for them, but they’ll have to show that a majority of the ownership of their shares is in the EU.

Naturally, simple goodwill could sort much of this out at the last minute. However, goodwill will be in short supply if there is no successful conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement.  Even with this essential transition agreement the outcome is a standstill until the end of 2020.

The story the Brexiteers are telling in public is crazy.   They say: If there is “no deal”, there will be no catastrophe.  It’s all this so called: “project fear”.  But if there is a catastrophe it’s not our fault, it’s everyone else’s fault.  They are already allocating blame for an event that is avoidable.