Foot shooting

In the 1970s and 80s, Europe’s aviation industry strove to create common airworthiness codes. In 1983, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed that bring together 11 national authorities, including the UK. These countries agreed to improve European safety regulation; develop common codes and common interpretation of those codes and extend cooperation.

Given the immense efforts the UK applied to creating the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and subsequently the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) it is unsurprising the hope of continuing involvement remained until the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was signed.

Leaving the European system of aviation safety regulation is a consequence of the political choice of a hard Brexit. Exiting EASA membership was not accompanied by leaving other European institutions. However, the implications of no longer being an EU Member State have rippled through out the whole aviation system. As the UK becomes less Eurocentric so the rest of Europe becomes more Eurocentric. Yet, the UK will surely wish to continue to exercise influence within regional bodies. This is incongruous but it is a political choice, and such choices have consequences.

Another case of immense efforts, the UK applied, was to collaborative working in aerospace research. UK organisations and academic institutions benefited significantly from participation in the Horizon Europe project and its predecessors. This is being run down despite assurances given in the TCA. An impasse has arisen over the political shenanigans related to the Irish border.

Now, the lawyers have got involved there is surely nothing good that will come if it[1]. The overall message is negative. With Conservative leadership candidates stirring up anti-EU sentiment just to get votes, it’s hardly likely there will be a reconciliation any time soon.

Yet again, the UK is perfecting the art of shooting itself in the foot. A sad situation. By the way, I do think this situation will be resolved in the fullness of time. The EU published a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe in November 2021. To quote:

(g) Global engagement: Develop a coherent global engagement strategy and common tools, promoting shared European values and principles for R&I in terms of international cooperation and capitalising on the attractiveness of research in the Union; ensure the Union’s scientific and innovation strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy; promote a level playing field and reciprocity based on fundamental values; enhance R&I partnerships and strengthen, broaden and deepen collaboration with third countries and regional organisations.

The last line ties in nicely with the TCA and creates a need to solve the issue of UK engagement. That would be wise for both parties in the end.

POST 1: The consequences are real Thanks to Brexit, I lost a €2.5m research grant. I fear for the future of UK science | José R Penadés | The Guardian

POST 2: Grants lost At least 115 UK researchers to lose their ERC grants – Research Professional News


[1] https://sciencebusiness.net/news/uk-launches-legal-case-against-eu-over-horizon-europe-association

In praise of the BBC Proms

I’ve only done three, so far this year. That’s two in the arena and one in the gallery. The Royal Albert Hall is the place to go for the BBC Proms[1]. I’m an amateur. I stand at the Proms. This is my 4th year.

I say, I’m an amateur because the guy I was standing next to, a couple of evenings ago, has been Promming since 1967. It seems to be a bug that once it’s bitten you escape becomes impossible. Promming tickets are released on-line on the morning of the day of a concert.

Music has a power that transforms this Victorian citadel of culture into a centre of magical experience. It’s as if the world ceases to exits and all there is becomes engulfed in that wraparound auditorium. As if it were the centre of the universe. It’s the impact of the soundscape, the people, and the building that produces a mysterious combination. It’s a unique mix.

Live performance has a transformative effect. Post-COVID it’s one of those experiences that was most missed during the pandemic. It’s so evident how dull and grey the world becomes without it.

Acoustically the hall is flawed. Nevertheless, wherever I’m standing, or occasionally seated, there’s a special feeling as oceans of sound flood over the audience. Yes, there are superior concert halls. I was lucky to live within walking distance of the Koelner Philharmonie[2] when in Germany.

The Royal Albert Hall is in a league of its own. It has a heritage and creates an atmosphere that is unmatched both for the things that work and those that don’t. Yes, you need a bank loan to buy a beer and the wiring looks as if its 150 years old.

I’m not musically knowledgeable, or did my education point me in that direction. Our dishevelled music teacher desperately tried to interest my cohort of 1970s kids, but he was pushing a rock uphill the whole way. He knew his unfashionable message, dusty texts and scent of smoke and alcohol were way out of sync with his students. Discipline wasn’t his speciality either.

In fact, I discovered a lot in the school music room by it was nothing to do with music, or its history. Ironically, at the time, music was a huge part of our lives as T-Rex, Bowie, The Who, Slade, glam rock, and disco hit their peak. If I could advise my younger self, it would be to say; learn an instrument. Anyone would do. It really doesn’t matter which one. It really doesn’t matter how well. A skill acquired as a teenager carries throughout life.

By the way, I’d recommend the tour of the hall[3].


[1] https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/proms/bbc-proms-2022/

[2] https://www.koelner-philharmonie.de/en/

[3] https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/tours-and-exhibitions/royal-albert-hall-tour/

Objects falling from the sky

In so far as I know, no person on the ground has been killed by an object falling from a commercial aircraft in flight. I’m happy to be corrected if that situation has changed. Strangely, in contrast there are plenty of reports of people falling from aircraft and being killed as a result[1]. Additionally, there are cases of parts shed by aircraft that subsequently contribute to an aircraft accident[2].

The most frequent reports of falling objects, in and around airports are not parts of an aircraft but that which is in the atmosphere all the time. Namely, ice. When it hits the ground in the form of a hailstorm it can be damaging. In flight, it can be seriously damaging to an aircraft.

What I’m writing about here are the third-party risks. That’s when an innocent individual finds themselves the target of an improbable event, some might call an act of God. Ice falls are rare. However, given the volume of worldwide air traffic there’s enough of them to be alert to the problem. As soon as ice accretes to create lumps bigger than a kilo there’s a real danger.

Can ice falls be prevented? Here again there’s no doubt some are because of poor maintenance or other preventable factors, but others are just nature doing its thing. Regulators are always keen to collect data on the phenomena[3]. It’s something that goes on in the background and where the resources allow there can even be follow-up investigations.

Near misses do make the newspaper headlines. The dramatic nature of the events, however rare, can be like a line from a horror movie[4]. Other cases are more a human-interest story than representing a great risk to those on the ground[5].

It’s worth noting that falling objects can be quite different from what they are first reported to be. That can be said about rare events in general.

I remember being told of one case where a sharp metal object fell into a homeowner’s garden. Not nice at all. The immediate reaction was to conclude it came from an aircraft flying overhead. Speculation then started a new story, and the fear of objects falling from aircraft was intensified.

Subsequently, an investigation found that this metal object had more humble terrestrial origins. In a nearby industrial estate a grinding wheel had shattered at highspeed sending debris flying into the air. Parts of which landed in the garden of the unfortunate near-by resident.

One lesson from this tale is that things may not always be as they first seem. Certainly, with falling objects, it’s as well to do an investigation before blaming an aircraft.  

POST 1: There’s a threat outside the atmosphere too. The space industries are ever busier. That old saying about “what goes up, must come down” is true of rockets and space junk. More a hazard to those on the ground, there is still the extreamly unlikly chance of an in-flight aircraft getting hit Unnecessary risks created by uncontrolled rocket reentries | Nature Astronomy

POST 2: EASA Safety Information Bulletin Operations SIB No.: 2022-07 Issued: 28 July 2022, Subject: Re-Entry into Earth’s Atmosphere of Space Debris of Rocket Long March 5B (CZ-5B). This SIB is issued to raise awareness on the expected re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere of the large space object.


[1] https://nypost.com/2019/07/03/man-nearly-killed-by-frozen-body-that-fell-from-plane-is-too-traumatized-to-go-home/

[2] http://concordesst.com/accident/englishreport/12.html

[3] https://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/Make-a-report-or-complaint/Ice-falls/

[4] https://metro.co.uk/2017/02/16/10kg-block-of-ice-falls-from-plane-and-smashes-through-mans-garage-roof-6453658/

[5] https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/national-ice-block-falls-aircraft-and-smashes-familys-garden-1078494

Social media is changing aviation safety

You may ask, how do I sustain that statement? Well, it’s not so difficult. My perspective that of one who spent years, decades in-fact, digging through accident, incident, and occurrence reports, following them up and trying to make sense of the direction aviation safety was taking.

In the 1990s, the growth of digital technology was seen as a huge boon that would help safety professionals in every way. It was difficult to see a downside. Really comprehensive databases, search capabilities and computational tools made generating safety analysis reports much faster and simpler. Getting better information to key decision-makers surely contributed to an improvement in global aviation safety. It started the ball rolling on a move to a more performance-based form of safety regulation. That ball continues to roll slowly forward but the subject has proved to be not without difficulties.

Digging through paper-based reports, that overfilled in-trays, no longer stresses-out technical specialist quite the same as it did. Answers are more accessible and can reflect the real world of daily aircraft operations. Well, that is the theory, at least. As is often the case with an expansion of a technical capability, this can lead to more questions and higher demands for accuracy, coverage, and veracity. It’s a dynamic situation.

Where data becomes public, media attention is always drawn to passenger aircraft accidents and incidents. The first questions are always about what and where it happened. A descriptive narrative. Not long after those questions comes: how and why it happened. The speed at which questions arise often depends on the severity of the event. Unlike road traffic accidents, fatal aviation accidents always command newsprint column inches, airtime, and internet flurries.

Anyone trying to answer such urgent public questions will look for context. Even in the heat of the hottest moments, perspective matters. This is because, thankfully, fatal aviation accidents remain rare. When rare events occur, there can be a reasonable unfamiliarity with their characteristic and implications. We know that knee-jerk reactions can create havoc and often not address real causes.

In the past, access to the safety data needed to construct a context was not immediately available to all commers. Yes, the media often has its “go-to” people that can provide a quick but reliable analysis, but they were few and far between.

This puts the finger on one of the biggest changes in aviation safety in the 2020s. Now, everyone is an expert. The immediacy and speed at which information flows is entirely new. That can be photography and video content from a live event. Because of the compelling nature of pictures, this fuels speculation and theorising. A lot of this is purely ephemeral but it does catch the eye of news makers, politicians, and decision-makers.

So, has anyone studied the impact of social media on developments in aviation safety? Now, there’s a good topic for a thesis.

Identity

Britan was never part of the Schengen Agreement[1]. I get that. In the days when I was commuting backwards and forwards between the UK and Cologne, Germany, I always had to show my British passport. So, although we once had freedom of movement in the European Union (EU) that document was essential to prove identity. Afterall, we do not have Identity cards (ID) in the UK. Even inside the Schengen Area[2] it’s necessary to carry personal identification. I remember being told off by a policeman for not having ID, other than a UK driver’s licence, on a high-speed train on the trip between Cologne and Brussels. He was fine about it, but it was a friendly – don’t do it again.

Generally, British people do travel overseas. Many of us travel for holidays and business, and in Europe, Spain is one of the most popular destinations.

The number of British people holding a British passport could be well over 80%. This is way ahead of Americans, for example[3]. This doesn’t take account of British passports that may have expired or been lost or destroyed. However, the remarkably large number of British people with passports does underline our love of travel.

I came back from a week’s sunshine in Grand Canary on Monday evening. It’s the second time I’ve been through the airport on that island. Entering the spacious modern airport, the first part of the process is relatively easy. Check-in and drop bags were shared with a great number of tired travellers. Even the hand baggage security check was straightforward.

It’s not until the gate number came up, and the long walk to the far end of the terminal was needed did it appear that the British experience was different. The departure gates were in a glass box wrapped around the end of the terminal. To get into the glass box it was necessary to go through passport control.

For those, like me there were electronic passport barriers. The ques there were shorter than the manual checks. The electronic passport barriers worked. However, on the other side of the glass wall was another que and a uniformed official checking passport. After that there was a desk where each passport had to be stamped. So, that’s 3 checks and an official exit stamp.

So, what’s the value of this added bureaucracy post-Brexit? I have no idea. What’s more upon boarding the aircraft for the flight home, the gate staff check passports again. So, that’s 4 inspections of passenger identity. 5 if the check-in desk procedure is included. British passports may have thick cardboard covers, and secure bindings but their strength as an international travel document has diminished since Brexit.


[1] a treaty which led to the creation of Europe’s Schengen Area, in which internal border checks have largely been abolished.

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/pages/glossary/schengen-agreement_en

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/record-number-americans-traveling-abroad-1377787

Caught in the crossfire?

There’s no doubt the relative calm of the beginning of this century, yes, it seems extraordinary to say that has gone and a series of international events confront civil aviation’s way of working. It’s dramatic. In Europe, most countries, and their industries are shifting the way they operate.

Unfortunately, any reasonable observation shows that the situation for aviation is worse in the UK. Well, that is worse than the UK’s former partner States in the European Union (EU).

In times of difficulty partnerships, between counties and in industry help make the absolute most of economies of scale. It’s difficult to plan when constantly firefighting. It’s like that comic story about crocodiles and draining the swam. It’s difficult to think ahead when surrounded by crocodiles.

I agree with the article posted by David Learmount[1]. The massive efforts to achieve international harmonization in aviation regulation, over decades is of incalculable value. I have been lucky enough to work with exceptional people across the globe and played a small part in helping that move along.

In fact, I’d go further than David. I remember, quite a while ago, attending a lecture at the Brooklands Museum[2]. It was about the history of post-war UK Government involvement in aerospace manufacturing[3]. It wasn’t a happy story. It went a bit like a soap opera with technical excellence mixed with commercial incompetence and political interference. The overall lesson was that going it alone, piling on the world beating rhetoric and an inability to forge working alliances spells disaster. Whereas coming together, working cooperatively, and building multinational partnership pays dividends. Airbus being a prime example.

I joined the European Union Aviation Safety Organisation (EASA) as the start of its operation. It was a huge privilege. It was a rare opportunity. I mean, how many people get to set-up a new aviation authority, let alone one that works for so many States in Europe? I was proud that the UK took a leading role in making this venture happen. It was a progression that had been careful and thoughtfully developed and steered over decades.

What we built was a uniquely European solution. It isn’t a federal construction as we see in the United States (US). In Europe, National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) remain a key part of the system. The part that was new in September 2003 was to overcome a major deficiency of earlier cooperative working. That was the unfortunate habit nation States have for saying that’ll do the same thing but then not doing the same thing in practice.

David mentions the tricky subject of UK Additional Requirements for import. This is when the UK demanded a special difference between its aircraft and those of other countries. Often expensive and making it difficult to move aircraft around. I remember some UK Additional Requirements found their way into new European requirements and others were removed. That was a painful transition period. In aviation, technical requirements are often born of experience of accidents and incidents.

Today, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) works with a set of technical requirements that have been rolled over from the UK’s time as an EASA Member State (2003 – 2021). This presents opportunities to take a new path. Sounds tempting, if only you look at the subject superficially.

International technical standards never stand still. Big players invest resources influencing the direction that they take. Two of the biggest international players in respect of aerospace design and production are EASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

So, UK CAA is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Unless it can significantly influence the big players the only practical way forward is to adopt what they produce (rules, regulations, standards, guidance material). Now, the UK CAA has considerable technical experience and maintains a high reputation, but it does not sit at all the tables where the major decisions are made.

This is the concern that David mentions in his article. The unnecessary ideological exit from EASA membership, that came with Brexit places the UK in a third-party arrangement. Not good.

It’s not like the world has suddenly become dull. Frantic development efforts and huge sums of money are being pumped into greening aviation. Part of this is the new Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). Part of this is known as Urban Air Mobility (UAM). Aviation folk love acronyms. It’s almost as if we are back at the beginning of the jet-age[4]. We know how that went.

Not surprisingly, the UK wants to achieve successes in this new field of “green” aviation.

Flying is a heavily regulated industry. So, national, regional, and international rulemaking processes matter. They matter a lot. Harmonisation matters a lot. That’s having common rules and regulations to maximise the size of the marketplace while ensuring levels of safety and security are high.

The bureaucratic burden of Brexit costs. It’s not free. The UK duplicates rulemaking activities because it must independently update its laws, all the secondary legislation and guidance material that comes with aviation. When there’s a significant difference between UK, Europe, US, and the rest of the world it makes business more complex. Often that added complexity comes with no discernible benefits (economic, social, safety, security, or environmental).

The UK should become an EASA Member State once again. Why not? Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Lichtenstein are not in the EU but are EASA Member States. Across the globe countries follow EASA rules as they are known to deliver the best results.


[1] https://davidlearmount.com/2022/06/17/uk-aviation-caught-in-the-crossfire/

[2] https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/

[3] https://www.aerosociety.com/media/8257/government-and-british-civil-aerospace-1945-64.pdf

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/comets-tale-63573615/

Ash Legacy

12-years have elapsed since an Icelandic volcano’s eruption led to the shutting down of airspace in Europe. Travel chaos resulted, large sums of money were lost, and confidence was shaken. Many, like me, in the aviation world, quickly learnt more about volcanic ash than we ever dreamed possible.

Strangely enough the question: can commercial airline travel disruption be fixed for the summer? Is now doing the rounds. Again, the reason for this question is the consequence of an event that goes way beyond the boundaries of any one country, namely the COVID-19 pandemic. After the troublesome events of early 2010 there was a lot of talk about increasing the resilience of aviation. Now, the subject has come around again. The hot topic is how do we bring people together in this interconnected globe after a major shock to the travel industry?

The UK’s TV Channel 5 has a strong track record of screening documentaries about volcanos. Its audience must really like the drama and scariness of these earthly monsters. Channel 5’s latest offering is the story of the volcanic ash cloud that dominated European skies in 2010[1].

Explosive volcanic eruptions eject pyroclastic fragmented materials, and this case was one of those cases. The lightest material, the volcanic ash, can be carried great distances as we all found out. Volcanic ash has the potential to impact just about every aspect of flying. Close in it’s the aerodromes that get hit. Up in the air there can be effects on aircraft structure, systems, and aircraft engines. Melting ash in the hot section of a jet engine is something to be avoided. It’s not just aircraft engines since ash can abrades and damages parts of aircraft structure, such as cockpit windows, leading edges, paint, antennas, probes and, angle of attack vanes.

Channel 5’s documentary assumed ash was bad. It didn’t explain. It focused more on the experience of travellers and those managing the airspace over the UK. However, it did go into the 1982 incident when a Boeing 747’s engines all stopped after it flew through a dense volcanic ash cloud.

The documentary was right in that Europe was unprepared for volcanic ash clouds of the scale generated by Iceland’s volcanos. One of the problems during the April/May 2010 eruption was that the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC)[2] computer model was a single source of flight planning data. There was found to be an urgent need for ground and airborne measurement of the actual densities of volcanic ash. Also, the greater use and interpretation of satellite images came into play.

Overall, the 85-minute documentary was enjoyable viewing showing some of what happened. It gave a snapshot from the point of views of both travellers and a few of those trying to resolve the crisis.

I remember that this event was a genuinely high-pressure multidisciplinary problem to solve. It isn’t every day that volcanologists, meteorologists, regulators, researchers, pilots, controllers, and engineers all get around a table. Especially when politicians, industry leaders and the media are all vying for the public spotlight. The outcome, if heeded, should be a much better response to a future airspace crisis.


[1] https://www.channel5.com/show/ash-cloud-the-week-the-world-stopped

[2] https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/services/transport/aviation/regulated/vaac/index

Island chaos

Aviation is an international industry. Britain has been “No longer an Island”[1] for over 120 years. As the Wright Brothers demonstrated practical powered flight, so the importance of sea travel began a decline. Nothing in history has shaped the British more than our island status. Living on an island has moulded attitudes, character, and politics.

The illusion of absolute national autonomy and sovereignty is shattered by the interconnection and interdependencies established by flight. Aviation’s growth encouraged a lowering of impediments between nations and geographic regions. In some respects, this has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s more cooperative working across the globe than there has ever been. On the other hand, conflict crosses natural barriers with much greater ease.

Affordable rapid air travel and growing freedom of movement have been a great boom in my lifetime – the jet age. At the same time, it’s not new that nationalist politicians continue to fear the erosion of difference between the British and the nations of continental Europe, brought about by commercial aviation. Ironically, it’s now the newer digital industries that pose the greatest threat to the illusion of complete independence.

In this context the failure to tackle the critical understaffing at British airports is deep rooted. Lots of finger pointing and experts blaming each other with a catalogue of reasons misses the damage that’s being done by nationalist “conservative” politicians.

Staffing shortages, poor planning and the volume of people looking to travel have led to huge queues and many flight cancellations across UK airports.

Yes, today’s travellers have learnt to take a great deal for granted. They are no longer impressed with the ability to check their emails and watch a movie at 30,000 feet above the sea. So, when the basics go wrong, and flights are seemingly arbitrarily cancelled, queues are long and delays are frequent, the backlash is real.

A UK Minister’s[2] reluctance to restore some freedom of movement to European aviation workers to alleviate the current chaos is an example of blindness to reality. Looking at the historic context, I guess, we should not be surprised that this dogmatic UK Government is so blinkered. Any acknowledgement that the imposition of Brexit is a big factor in airport chaos is far more than their arrogant pride can take. Sadly, expect more problems.


[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4254465-no-longer-an-island

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/government-transport-secretary-bbc-gatwick-covid-b2092887.html

FR4978

So, what’s the problem? A civil aircraft with passengers on-board, on a scheduled flight, flying over a sovereign State was diverted because of an alleged terrorist threat. Aircraft lands safely and in the end most of the passengers continue to their intended destinations.

Well, the case of the forced diversion of Ryanair flight #FR4978, a commercial passenger aircraft over Belarus on Sunday, 23 May 2021, is a matter for grave concern. The aircraft was carrying European citizens and residents between two European Union (EU) capitals.

The track of the Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens (ATH) to Vilnius (VNO) was posted on Twitter[1]. The Boeing 737-800 was diverted to Minsk in Belarus whilst it was about to start its approach to Vilnius airport in Lithuania.  The Ryanair flight maintained 39,000 ft toward Lithuania before beginning a diversion about 73km from VNO and only 30 km from border.  The Polish registered Boeing passenger aircraft (SP-RSM) was forced to land in Belarus.  

More than 5 hours after the landing of flight FR4978, the aircraft remained on the ground in Minsk.  Whilst the aircraft was on the ground the Belarusian authorities detained opposition activists, Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.

Was the aircraft hijacked to go to Minsk? Well, there’s no report of force being used on-board the aircraft, so strictly speaking this may not be a hijacking.  The mystery deepens when considering that if the alleged terrorist threat was credible, it would have been far safer to continuing into Lithuanian airspace and land at the intended destination. 

Also, there’s the Belarusian military fast-jet aircraft (MIG 29) that accompanied flight FR4978. This could be considered aggressive intimidation of the Ryanair flight crew.  It certainly limited their flight’s options in respect of the situation.  The military interception of a civil aircraft for political reasons is a serious act and one that can put the safety of passengers in peril. So, whether it’s called a “forced diversion” or a “State Hijacking” it could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention. That’s the basis on which international civil aviation is normally conducted. 

It’s now clear that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)[2] will carry out an independent investigation into this Ryanair flight[3].   Strong condemnation has come from the European Union (EU)[4]. The aircraft operator, the State of Registry, and many of the passengers were from EU Member States. 

If the investigation concludes that officials in Belarus faked a bomb threat to divert this Ryanair flight for political purposes, then this is a gravely troubling act that has horrendous implications for international civil aviation.  No other authorities had knowledge of a bomb threat to this Ryanair Athens-Vilnius flight. The Greek Civil Aviation Authority, as the aircraft took-off from Athens, has stated that it received no bomb warning.

This event is an attack on European democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and safety. The Belarus authorities need to immediately release Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.

Update 1: EASA issues Safety Directive calling on Member States to mandate avoidance of Belarus airspace.

Update 2: Simillar thoughts: The interception of #Ryanair Flight #FR4978 – legal or not, carriers have been put on notice.


[1] https://www.flightradar24.com/

[2] https://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/ICAO-Council-agrees-to-pursue-fact-finding-investigation-into-Belarus-incident.aspx

[3] https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/05/1092812?123

[4] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/05/24/belarus-declaration-by-the-high-representative-on-behalf-of-the-eu-on-the-forced-diversion-of-ryanair-flight-fr4978-to-minsk-on-23-may-2021/

Here’s where we are, I think.

May is a month of rebirth. Trees look greener than they do all year round. A fresh breeze and light rain fans this greenness as the natural world wakes up. It’s a good time for looking at life anew.  Sunny spells and showers come and go as we take stock of the spring. 

Worldwide COVID-19 pandemic deaths are up to just over 3.3 million[1].  Despite the successes of its suppression in the UK, the virus continues to rage around the world.  Sadly, desperation continues to spread across India.  On the positive side, vaccination plans are successfully being implemented. I’m more than ready for my second jab in just over a week’s time. 

What hasn’t changed is that aviation chiefs continue to provide roadmaps to bring back some semblance of normal but often sit back mystified at Government reactions and peculiar decisions. 

For international travel, to and from the UK, a curious traffic light system[2] is being put in place in the UK.  Unfortunately, there’s a lack of transparency as to why countries are categorised as they are in this unique national system.  Obviously, it’s better than a national lockdown with unending uncertainty but there’s little to be happy about. 

On entry control, the practice of quarantine hotels is unpopular and of highly questionable effectiveness. They are a crude measure that is discriminating, expensive and unsustainable.

The European Union (EU) has been slow in reaction and is still testing COVID-19 vaccination, test, and recovery certificates.  There are reports that this system is on-track to be rolled out next month.

It’s a miserable time to travel across borders. Plans are made and cancelled and re-made. Travellers are often left out of pocket and in limbo.  Yes, these are extraordinary circumstances but as advanced nations our general performance in managing the situation is remarkably poor. 

Although UK Government decisions are said to be guided by evidence and the science, there’s a fair amount of ideology driving decisions contrary common sense. 

Surprisingly, if the recent round of elections is anything to go by, the UK Government is sitting pretty. Now, its political opponents who are the ones who are struggling.  Commentators have speculated that this is a kind of national Stockholm syndrome[3]. I wonder. 

Post Coronavirus recovery of UK air traffic may not be seen until the end of 2022. 

The EU has developed a broad system of relationships with neighbouring states. Post Brexit there remains lots of loose ends in the relationship between EU and UK.  In fact, it’s probably time to stop using the word Brexit altogether. It’s not a meaningful word looking forward.    

Calls for a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) between the EU and UK are muted but their importance remains.  Aviation and aerospace industry voices are being ignored. 


[1] Worldwide (from Johns Hopkins): Deaths: 3,322,294.  

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/traffic-light-system-safe-return-to-international-travel

[3] What is Stockholm syndrome? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22447726