Still work in progress

Has it really been 100 days since the final, final, final Brexit day? 

The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020.  A Withdrawal Agreement (WA) that the UK Government agreed with the EU, established a transition period that came to an end the day this year started.  Now, a new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has been in force for 97 days. So, it’s not a bad time to have a go at writing a 100-day review.  It’s often a period of reflection that is used to assess a newly elected politician.  It gives an indication of the direction of travel. 

Last year, although it was a top priority of UK industry to stay in, the UK has left the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) based in Cologne.  So, there’s no official UK participation in the EASA activities by right and the UK is treated as any other 3rd Country.  EU law no longer applies to the UK. Much of what was previously applied has been swept up in new UK Legislation[1]

Regulation-wise, to figure out where we are now, it’s necessary to combine the officially published corresponding text of UK Legislation and EU Commission Regulations with the EASA Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material, including amendments.  Some smart people have done this work, but the challenge will be keeping the whole paperwork construction up to date. 

Informed commentators have often said that a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) are needed between the EU and UK.  To some extent the TCA starts the ball rolling by calling for the establishment of a number of committees. 

On the basis that there’s far to much still in flux to discuss, I’ll bite off one key aviation related subject. 

Despite the massive impact of the COVID pandemic on international civil aviation there remains a demand for qualified engineers.  In many ways their roles as Airworthiness Inspectors or Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineers have become even more important than ever. Traditionally, there’s no doubt that the UK has been good at training aircraft engineering personnel. Students from all over the world have gained their licences in the UK.  It’s one of the most demanding professions in the world but their dedication to the highest standards keeps flying safe. 

Whilst the UK was a member of the EASA system a licence granted in the UK by an approved organisation was recognised throughout the EASA Member States and beyond.  One of the powerful arguments for continued participation in EASA was the avoidance of the duplication of approvals, certification, and licencing. Each duplication comes with a fee and time consuming paperwork.

The political decisions having been made and that’s exactly what we now have in place. Duplication. In fact, it’s worse than that because there’s asymmetry in the current situation. 

The UK CAA advises Part 66 licence holders to take action to minimise impact on their privileges.  There are several combinations and permutations that can be considered.  There’s a useful updated section of information for licensed engineers on the UK CAA website[2]

Engineers who continue to release EU-registered aircraft to service outside the UK will need to transfer their licence to the National Aviation Authority (NAA) of an EASA Member State. If an engineer works outside the EU and UK, on EU-registered aircraft, a UK Part-66 licence will no longer be valid. 

If an engineer has a non-UK Part-66 licence they will be able to continue to work on UK-registered aircraft for up to two years after the end of the transition period, unless your licence changes or expires (whichever occurs soonest).

There’s also an exemption for engineers who hold a EU Member State issued EASA Part-66 licence who only received
or changed their EASA licence after the departure of the UK from the EU.

All of this is high politics because a Part 66 licence, UK or EU is granted on the same technical basis. Yes, there’s potential of regulatory divergence or new ways of doing business in future. However, it’s difficult to understand what the justification for any divergence might be but the possibility exists.  And as avid Brexit supporters like to point out the UK is no longer subject to EU legislation.  That has no impact of the UK’s need to meet its international obligations. Both UK and EU need to be complient with the ICAO Convention.

There’s much work in progress. Now, is a moment when it all looks like a kitten as been playing with a large ball of wool that has rolled down a staircase.


[1] https://info.caa.co.uk/uk-regulations/

[2]https://info.caa.co.uk/uk-eu-transition/licensed-engineers/

Mars flight

I was wondering – is there air on planet Mars? It’s one thing to say is there life on Mars? We’ve been asking that big question of generations. But can we use the word “air”? There’s a thin atmosphere on Mars but can you call it air? The rover that’s there will be listening for sounds in what is 95% carbon dioxide. That kind of atmosphere on Earth would be our worst nightmare.

Let’s look at the definition of that everyday word – air.  Air is the mixture of gases which forms the Earth’s atmosphere and which we breathe.  No way could we breath on Mars.  That gas we depend on, oxygen is down to about 0.1%. Taking that basic definition then Mars does not have “air” in the common sense.

I’m going down this rabbit hole because of the references to Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter that is being prepared for flight. This innovative flying machine has been landed on Mars and is being referred to as a helicopter.  Now, a Helicopter is a heavier-than-air aircraft supported in flight chiefly by the reactions of the air on one or more power-driven rotors on substantially vertical axes[1].

Oh dear, there’s that reference to the air as per planet Earth.  I may be being an aviation pendant, but this could be the time to revisit the definition of helicopter and change the word “air” to “atmosphere”. Afterall, if there’s a gas of sufficent density then flight is possible with the right equipment.

Ingenuity could also be known as a Rotorcraft.  It undeniably has two rotors, so it must be a craft supported in flight chiefly by the reactions of an atmosphere. Since we are entering a new era of aviation as a human built extra-terrestrial vehicle makes a controlled flight for the first time, revisiting definition could be appropriate. 

Then Airworthiness is then better expressed as Flightworthiness. Maybe, Aircraft ought to be Flightcraft. There’s a history here given that a craft that hovers is called a Hovercraft. Which is more important? What it does or what it does it in?

Whatever the nuisances of these internationally used definitions in English, the wonder of this fantastic achievement is not lost on me.  This moment only happens once. The first time the immense challenges of controlled flight on another planet are overcome we are in a new era of aviation. 

Flying in a hostile cold, thin atmosphere will be amazing. Take-off and landing several times will be astonishing.  What magnificent engineering design. Rotors spining at 2400 rpm. This robotic rotorcraft will test the feasility of flying on another world. Imagine what that will open up. From me, all the best good fortune to the team who made this possible. Lift-off and come down in one piece. Looking foward to seeing the pictures.


[1] Annex 8 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation

Flight, Risk & Reflections 7.

Turbulence ahead. The week past has been one of more of continuous buffeting. Are we going to see a deal not? Is the door open or closed? And so, the wrangling between the UK and the EU manages to fill yet more media headlines, but no one is any the wiser. 

To repeat one of the few certainties, the United Kingdom (UK) has left the European Union (EU) and the transition period is in place until 31 December 2020.

During the week, the UK’s Transport Minister has confirmed that a No-Deal Brexit could ground UK – EU flights[1]. Although this negative scenario is unlikely the UK Government seems remarkably unconcerned about the whole subject. There’s an expectation that the EU to bring forward contingency measures to save the day[2]. More temporary measures, more uncertainty and more contraction of services. Not a good approach to take in the situation. 

Overwhelmingly, Aviation wants the UK Government to focus on reaching a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) with the EU[3]

A year ago, claims were made that a UK-EU deal would be easy, in-fact that it such a deal was “oven ready”.  It’s now that we struggle to understand why the endless wrangling continues and that the No-Deal Brexit outcome is still on the table. We (UK) are tittering on the brink of the greatest failure of statecraft since the Suez Crisis in 1956.  Then with his health ruined and his political credibility brutally damaged, Sir Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister in 1957, resigned. Will such a fate be waiting for British Prime Minister Johnson?

Johnson says the UK is primed ready for: “Australia-style terms” if a No Deal Brexit happens at the end of the year. This is pure theatrical political rhetoric designed to ratchet up tensions and appease members of the Conservative Party. It’s blatantly irresponsible nonsense since there’s no such thing as an Australian deal. 

It’s Monday and the fourth meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee under the Withdrawal Agreement will takes place in London. No doubt the mood of this meeting will be tense. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. 


[1] https://www.cityam.com/brexit-no-deal-could-ground-uk-eu-flights-grant-shapps-admits

[2] https://euobserver.com/tickers/149765

[3] @PauleverittADS

Flight, Risk & Reflections 5.

In the UK, not only has the amount of flying reduced dramatically but the places people are going has changed. Whereas a year ago long-haul air traffic dominated international passenger numbers that has changed[1]. The breakdown in transatlantic travel is notable. Greece and Turkey are now top destinations. Leisure travel and the international hubs in Istanbul and Dubai are major players. It will be fascinating to see if, over time these changes stick.

It’s a new week and another week of EU-UK negotiations. Brexit talks could be in the final stretch.  The agenda for the 9th round of talks in Brussels includes aviation[2]

The calls for “no compromise” on the part of the hard-core Brexit supporters is far from the reality of what is needed to move the talks forward. EU and UK negotiators both need to compromise to get a workable deal. Unfortunately, even during this pandemic, the culture war rages on in the UK.

It’s likely that the subject of future governance will be more important for the EU after the UK Prime Minister’s announced he was planning to break his word on the Withdrawal Agreement.

The end of the UK transition period with the EU, on December 31 is unmoveable. For British citizens, travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change from 1 January 2021[3]. What makes this more difficult is that Government guidance is still peppered with the words “might” or “may.” By contrast, a vote of the citizens of Switzerland has just upheld the pillars of its relationship with the EU. Unlike the UK, they will have the freedom to move, live and work in Switzerland and the EU.


[1] https://www.gridpoint.consulting/blog/the-changing-shape-of-the-uk-airline-market

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ninth-round-uk-eu-future-relationship-negotiations-29-september-2-october-2020

[3] https://www.gov.uk/visit-europe-1-january-2021

Flight, Risk & Reflections 1.

Lucy Worsley’s stories about the biggest fibs in history are entertaining but enlightening too[1]. So, often competing versions of history get rewritten to fit the time and a place. It takes a while as the ebb and flow of social and political life chew on the facts. What’s different now is that we are living through a time when history is rewritten almost every week. The power and speed of social media throws up a massive churning of material and some of it never settles. That said, for those of us who were awake in 2015-16 it was easy to see that the direction of political travel was going to end in disaster. It’s a horrible play with no pleasure to say: I told you so.

The agenda for next week’s continuing round of EU-UK negotiations, in Brussels are now published[2]. It’s good to see that aviation has got a slot. We can all hope that the negotiations will make progress by compromise and reason and not get lost in more dogma and ideology. Usually August is a quite time in Brussels. Let’s hope that makes it a fertile environment for quiet reflection. 

At the moment, it seems the UK Government would rather focus on migrants making a Channel crossing than the future of the Country’s economy. With a quarterly drop of more than 20 percent in the UK economy, it becomes obvious why. The UK economy has been hit worst of all the G7 countries. The UK is now formally in recession.

In the past, there’s no question that UK air passengers enjoyed fantastic connectivity, both in terms of number of the destinations served and number of airlines flying routes. Today, sadly the story is one of decline from a peak. Passenger numbers are down significantly.

Aviation is critical to the UK especially with the mismanagement of the whole Brexit process. Aviation is one of the biggest connections the Country has with the rest of the world[3].  Allowing it to flounder and changing travel decisions weekly is a disaster[4]. This week the UK government added France, Malta and the Netherlands to the current ‘quarantine’ list.

BREXIT and COVID are a double whammy.  Add to that confusion and lack of direction and the results are devastating. 


[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9680968/

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/negotiation-7th-round-eu-uk-agenda.pdf

[3] https://www.wearefinn.com/topics/posts/ads-calls-for-industry-safeguards-after-record-gdp-fall/

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/uk-aviation-coronavirus-cancelled-flights-quarantine-travel-a9668891.html#Echobox=1597329649

Flying, Democracy and Safety 1.

woman in white face mask
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

National lockdowns are being effective in controlling COVID-19 outbreaks. The tricky part is that the fear that has been induced in people to encourage compliance with the lockdowns means that any relaxation of rules is going to be difficult. That’s only right and proper, given that the management of risk is a delicate balancing act. Not only that but fatality totals have risen to truly staggering levels.

What is evident is that the way the international air transport industry has been working, its systems, procedures and business models are going to need a radical shakeup. Coronavirus is a game changer. According to @IATA the impact of COVID-19 crisis on long-haul travel is to be “much more severe and of a longer duration” than what is expected in domestic markets.

Aviation safety work is important per se, but it has the added value of maintaining public confidence in air transport. In the past, a minority had a fear of flying.  For as long as we have COVID-19, the situation is different. Now, it’s likely that many more people will be finding alternatives or putting off flying either for business or pleasure.

Governments have introduced measures and restrictions at borders. If these stay in place summer holidays are going to be off this year.

The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) continue to try to create a new partnership. The agenda for this week’s round of EU-UK negotiations have been published[1].  It’s good to see that Aviation Safety gets a couple of hours on Wednesday, 13 May 2020.  No doubt a progress report will be forthcoming by the end of the week.

There’s still a possibility that a limited deal could be struck by October 2020.  However, it continues to look unlikely that the UK will seek an extension to talks despite the risks. With confirmation that the UK is in an economic recession the hard-line on the Brexit negotiation time limit looks suicidal. The combination of events is extremely bad.

The great Brexit divide in British politics is alive and kicking. It’s deepening as people harden their views under the weight of the Coronavirus crisis. The political slogan of 2016: “Take back control” now sounds hollow and meaninglessness.

If the EU-UK negotiations fail and a No-Deal Brexit outcome results the harm it will do to ourselves and to our allies, friends and neighbours will be unforgivable in normal times.  It will be unbelievably irresponsible in the middle of an economic and health crisis.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/brexit_files/info_site/hl-agenda-round-3.pdf