Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 7

IMG_1754 (2)Globally, the air transport industry supports 65.5 million jobs. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has looked at the potential economic Impacts of COVID19 on civil aviation[1]. Even factoring in many uncertainties, these projections are dreadful.

Predictions are that this pandemic will take 3 to 4 years to pass[2]. Some industry commentators go as far as to say that the days of low-cost flying are behind us. They may never return. The UK is one of the worst hit countries in Europe.

In the meantime, employees are being furloughed[3] in the hope that restrictions will be slowly lifted later in the year. Even though work may have dried up companies and personnel still need to maintain the validity of their certificates and licenses. ICAO has asked its Member States to be flexible in their approaches while adhering to their international obligations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an exceptional challenge for everyone. The UK Government has, in the past said that: aviation is “…at the heart of the United Kingdom’s economic success.”. These words need to count for something as difficult choices are made. There are things that can be done to improve the situation. Safeguarding aviation is important so that it’s working to help rebuild the economy after the coronavirus crisis.

If you have read my previous Blogs, you will see that I’m a strong advocate for securing an extension to the UK-EU relationship negotiating period.  It’s clear that officials in Brussels, would like the UK Government to start the discussion on an extension. Getting an extension could deliver real advantages[4] for both parties especially in the middle of the greatest public health and economic crisis since WWII.

By remote means, the second round of UK-EU future relationship negotiations took place this week, from 20-24 April[5]. To date the UK Government’s position remains highly political, somewhat ignoring the economic consequences of not agreeing an extension. Coronavirus is having a monumental impact on almost every aspect of life in Europe. It makes sense to step back and take the time that is needed to get Brexit right. Dogma and ideology will not serve anyone well at this time. Sadly, Brexiters in the UK Government are still fighting their corner as if it was 2016.

[1] https://www.icao.int/sustainability/Pages/Economic-Impacts-of-COVID-19.aspx

[2] https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/air-transport/2020-04-22/deltas-bastian-sees-recovery-taking-long-three-years

[3] The word ‘furlough’ generally means temporary leave of absence from work.

[4] https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/there-is-nothing-to-lose-from-a-brexit-extension

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/second-round-uk-eu-future-relationship-negotiations-20-24-april

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 6

low angle photo of airplane
Photo by Sam Willis on Pexels.com

Headless and free running, the UK’s Conservative Government is locked into policies that are no longer fit for purpose. The UK Prime Minister’s speech in Greenwich, London on 3 February 2020[1] is profoundly out of step with contemporary reality. The Government’s playbook is out of date. Overtaken by events. Even if he may not have said it, former PM Harold Macmillan is remembered for saying: “Events, dear boy, events[2]

I sincerely hope certain stories are mere social media gossip and speculation. One is that the national economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic will be so dramatic that no one will notice the contribution made by a poor Brexit execution. It’s like saying that, if the house is suffering subsidence no one will notice the paint peeling off the walls. Damage is damage. That damage can always be put down to a world-wide phenomenon. Then there’s blaming China too.

Does this explain why it’s reported that the UK will not request an extension to the Brexit transition period[3]? Hard to tell. If it is then it’s short-termism of the worst kind.  However, the possibility remains that the parties could support a transition extension at a high-level conference in June 2020.

Given the coronavirus crisis, the next UK-EU negotiating rounds will take place by videoconference[4]. The technical work of the two sides includes transport but the agendas of the next sessions are yet to be published. There is an argument against Brexit transition extension, but this isn’t a particularly convincing one, as all other bilateral trade deals are being delayed. For example, talks between the UK and US have been postponed with no sight of when they might start-up.

European aviation and aerospace have been one of the first industries to be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. It will take one of the hardest hits. Support to the aviation and aerospace workforce and the industry can be a lifeline[5]. One that will be pivotal to Europe’s recovery after the pandemic.

London Heathrow (LHR) saw 80 million passengers in 2018[6]. Now, the UK’s biggest airport has been thrown back into the 1970s. They have moved to single runway operation[7]. LHR Terminals 3 and 4 are about to temporarily close. Cargo flights continue but the predictions are for lasting and significant changes to stick.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-in-greenwich-3-february-2020

[2] https://www.markpack.org.uk/13422/events-dear-boy-events-harold-macmillan/

[3] https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-uk-will-not-request-an-extension-to-the-brexit-transition-period

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_20_672

[5] https://www.etf-europe.org/work-in-the-time-of-covid-19-transport-workers-stories/

[6] CAA airport statistics for numbers of air passengers at UK airports in 2018/2017.

[7] https://www.heathrow.com/customer-support/faq/coronavirus-covid-19

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 5

nature animal fog freedom
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the start of this pandemic, prominent UK Brexiters were saying: no need to panic.  Let people continue to mingle.  Let the virus become widespread so lots of people build-up an immunity[1].  As is so typically with Brexiters, they could not have given worse advice at a worse time.  What’s sad is that, at the beginning of the year the UK Government was going down this uncaring road.

In the UK, we have broken the ominous threshold of 10,000 deaths put down to Coronavirus.  It’s tragic that the UK Government didn’t take the warnings signs coming from China sufficiently serious.  Now, the horse has bolted, and everyone is desperately playing catch-up.  The UK’s chief scientific advisor has admitted that coronavirus testing in the UK should have been ramped up faster[2].

Even the hardest of hard-core Brexit supporters are saying, responding to COVID-19 is more important than pushing on with negotiations between UK and EU.  Let’s hope that common sense prevails. The two parties have until the 1 July 2020 to decide whether to extend the existing transition period, and on what detailed terms.  There’s even strange talk in the media that the UK wants pay-as-you-go Brexit.  It’s simply not sane to expect Governments to secure a new free trade deals while dealing with a deadly situation.

It hardly seems right to be writing about Aviation at this moment.  At the beginning of this year the biggest crisis the industry faced was that concerning the Boeing 737 MAX.  It’s been a year since Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, taking 157 lives[3].  Naturally, that remains an important safety concern, only that it’s overshadowed by the coverage of the impact of lockdowns over the globe.

France has just extended its lockdown till 11 May 2020. It will be surprising if the UK doesn’t mirror what other European States are doing.  Each should be learning from the other in this respect.

We ought to be thankful that there’s so many transport workers, air traffic controllers, pilots, engineers and professionals who maintain aviation. Cargo and essential medical supplies are continuing to be moved safely by air.  Aviation safety must remain the top priority whatever the commercial or mission pressures.

[1] https://www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2020/02/daniel-hannan-alarmism-doom-mongering-panic-and-the-coronavirus-we-are-nowhere-near-a-1919-style-catastrophe.html

[2] https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-13/coronavirus-testing-in-uk-not-ramped-up-as-quickly-as-it-should-have-been-government-s-chief-scientific-advisor-admits/

[3] https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1237423006869225475?s=20

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 4

IMG_1622It looks like we have not reached the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK.  It looks like there’s no practical exit strategy for the current lock-down.  It looks like the longer this goes on the more dramatically different the future will be from what we expected only a few months ago.

We’ve daily UK Government Press Conferences for an update on actions to tackle the pandemic.  Unfortunately, too often media questioning offers little insight into really what’s happening.  The UK House of Commons is in recess. It’s scheduled to return on Tuesday, 21 April.  Maybe then the direction and plans will become a little clearer.

I see the need to reflect on the current situation.  Not to think of all the growing problems and difficulties but what, if any, could be the positive outcomes in terms of polices and actions.  A bridge to the future.  So, here goes with an unstructured list of possibilities but applying my best rose tinted glasses:

  1. The UK and EU agree a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) that are more extensive and imaginative that any that have gone before it. Building on the best of what already exists both agreements push the bounds of cooperation, collaboration and coordination[1].
  2. Restarting the aviation industry pushes it to take climate change more seriously. Retirement of aircraft make space for more efficient ones to come into service.  European States stop dragging their heels and employ new technologies for the management of air traffic.  There’s a rapid increase in environmental mitigation measures at airports.  Also, that all of these are implemented in a way that makes aviation more robust come the next crisis.
  3. Research and innovation are given a major boost. The urgent need for the rapid development of new methods and systems is enthusiastically accepted and funded.  Electric aviation is recognised as a pathway to sustainability and opportunities for new air transport air vehicles to provide new services.
  4. Greater investment feeds into communication technologies improving the interconnection of every part of Europe. The insatiable demand for growth in travel is stabilised by making the most of remote working.  Efforts on cyber security are redoubled.  Independent fact checking for social media becomes a priority activity.
  5. Extreme political polarisation is consigned to the dustbin of history. Woking together is seen as the norm.  Enlightened regulation is used to best enhance freedom, prosperity and security.  Progressive international bodies are reinforced to be able to better tackle the next global challenge, as surely there will be one.

When the day comes, and the crisis has passed and social distancing is no longer needed, then there will be a great need to reunite people.   Aviation’s role is clear.  Connecting people across the globe.

[1] Royal Aeronautical Society has produced a Brexit Briefing Note #brexit #easa http://ow.ly/Kcx750z7o5n

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 3

IMG_1651For the most obvious reasons, Coronavirus has pushed EU-UK Brexit negotiations down the political agenda.   Ironically, there’s the thought that Brexit No-Deal preparations, including stockpiling may have helped businesses prepare for the COVID19 lock-down.  Thus, predicting the future is fraught with a million and one pitfalls but never has it been more important to plan.

Aviation is largely shutdown.  Cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and office staff are concerned.  Pilots have cut a deal with their employers.  Aircraft are parked.  Airports are closing runways.  A stasis exists.  When this crisis has passed, aviation will be key to the recovery of the European economy and in reuniting Europe’s people after painful isolation. Aviation has a vital role to play.

Meanwhile, the UK has obtained EU support to help cover the costs of repatriation flights during the crisis, taking advantage of a programme that subsidises efforts to bring back stranded nationals.

Unfortunately, decisions made in the first quarter of 2020 have proven to be highly questionable.  In aviation there’s the subject of Human Factors.  Much written about, and points of view argued over as these factors can be the root of catastrophises in aviation.  There are what is described as the hazardous attitudes of pilots, controllers and engineers that can produce terrible outcomes.  A couple of them have been evident in national politicians.  They are invulnerability and the macho mindset.   It’s sad to say that these attitudes: “Only I can do it – others can’t” and “It can’t happen to me” have resulted in lots of fatalities over the years.  When flying, it’s always worth remembering that: If you are not aware of your limits, your first mistake is likely to be your last.

There’s a difference between skill and judgement.  Scientists and technicians have the skill to advise and interpret information but it’s leaders who must exercise judgement.  This unprecedented global virus challenge has resulted in some poor judgements.

Sound judgments included those to reschedule major international events like the Farnborough Air Show[1] and the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26[2].  How strange it is not to extend the EU-UK Brexit transition period.  The UK’s chief negotiator says that more talks will take place with the EU in April and May.  It would be better if all Goverement efforts were focused on defeating this virus threat.  Now, the Brexit agenda looks parochial and self-indulgent.

Slowly but surely this message is getting across.  One reason is that the forecasts for the post-Coronavirus situation in the UK shows a weak ecomomy.  Adding pain to pain in January 2021 would not only be foolish but it would be a political nail in the coffin for the Goverening Party.

Viruses can’t cooperate.  Humans can cooperate.  A European coordinated effort is of paramount importance.  People have the upper hand if only they can get over what’s holding them back.  Blame is a dead end.

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

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/cop26

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 2

IMG_1482Collaboration is essential especially when action needs to be taken fast.  Seeing members of the aerospace industries coming together to scale up the production of medical ventilators is heartening.  It’s important to use all our expertise to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those on the Coronavirus front line.

There are credible experts predicting that the forced shutdown will permanently reshape the aviation industry.  Already the early retirement of large aircraft is taking place at several international airlines[1][2].  For example, most Boeing 747-400s are more than 20 years old and airlines are replacing them with more fuel-efficient modern types.

The coronavirus pandemic means airlines are drastically reducing their passenger flights.  It’s likely this will cause a spate of order cancellations as costs are being cut.  Hitting not only aircraft manufactures but maintenance, repair and overhaul providers too.

EasyJet is reported to be parking its 344 aircraft with an aim to removes significant cost.  In the months it takes to contain the COVID19 virus the aviation industry will struggle to avoid permanent damage.  It’s appealing to Governments for the waiving of air traffic control and regulatory charges for the whole of the year[3].

On Brexit, polls now show that most people in the UK want the Government to seek an extension to the transition period to focus on coronavirus recovery.  Many experts believe there’s no prospect of Britain striking a Brexit trade deal with the EU without an extension to the transition period.  So far, UK Ministers have simply refused to consider this common-sense approach.  It has been said that the outcome of the first Brexit Joint Committee[4], held this week, was like watching two people looking down different ends of a telescope.

In other news, British Airways has suspended its operations at London Gatwick Airport[5].  In addition, the airport has announced that on 1 April it will close its North Terminal.  That sobering for me, having last travelled through the North Terminal on 20 March.

[1] https://www.traveller.com.au/qantas-boeing-747-jumbo-jet-retirement-coronavirus-groundings-may-hasten-the-end-for-iconic-plane-h1n03y

[2] https://www.ifn.news/posts/klm-to-retire-last-boeing-747-in-april/

[3] https://news.sky.com/story/airlines-call-on-government-to-underwrite-industry-charges-11963586

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/info/european-union-and-united-kingdom-forging-new-partnership/eu-uk-withdrawal-agreement/meetings-eu-uk-joint-committee-under-withdrawal-agreement_en

[5] https://www.flightglobal.com/airlines/british-airways-suspends-flights-from-gatwick/137641.article

Aviation, Brexit and COVID19 (ABC) 1

IMG_1590If you take a snapshot of a few hours of air traffic over a couple of days recently there’s a massive drop in air traffic across Europe[1].  This is expected to go down more as repatriation flights complete their tasks.  Although some airports are closing there’s still going to be the need to ship vital cargo around so air traffic will not drop to zero as it did ten years ago during the volcanic ash events.  However, this time the shut down is going to be longer and covers a lot of the globe.  This coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the aviation industry.

Internationally, ICAO has issued COVID-19 calls to Governments, urging better coordination with aircraft operators on air services and the flight restrictions in force.  A situation where national Governments all take different actions is only going to increase the pain caused.  The coronavirus knows no borders and no politics.  It will create economic casualties across all parts of Europe.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that aviation safety depends on highly qualified professionals continuing to work in the most difficult circumstances.

We do see the curse of English exceptionalism as Brexit rumbles on.  This is particularly true if the UK crashes out of current arrangements in June.   UK Minister Gove wants to continue with UK-EU negotiations when we should be putting all our efforts into defeating the pandemic.

In negotiations, reports are the UK has tabled draft texts outlining separate proposed agreements on subjects that include aviation and transport.  The texts are not public, so this is all behind closed doors for now.

The UK has left the European Medicine Agency which at one time was based in London.  To me this a wholly unwise thing to have done under the current circumstances.  European solidarity can strengthen our ability to win against COVID-19.   Even if few politicians are putting that case in the UK Parliament.  In fact, the House of Commons (HoCs) has adjourned for the Easter recess and will only next sit on 21 April 2020.  Unfortunately, people are mostly thinking nationally and yet this is a global issue.

Wisely, given the crisis the UK CAA has notified a delay in an increase in its scheme of charges[1]. This will be reviewed in June 2020.  These will be changed when the long-term UK-EU aviation relationship has been determined.


Will the UK seek an extension to the UK-EU negotiating period before 1 July 2020?  We just don’t know but I imagine that the public relations line and what really happens are going to be different.

[1] https://twitter.com/eurocontrolDG/status/1242849488387088385?s=20

Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 15

IMG_0988Europe, the world, we are all engulfed in an unprecedented situation.  The spread of coronavirus #COVID19 is a clear and present danger to all.  These are times like no other.  It’s imperative that urgent action is taken.   The EASA has issued a safety directive mandating disinfection of aircraft flying from high risk areas to combat spread of coronavirus[1].

Having just returned from a week in Tenerife, I’m grateful for the efforts of TUi[2] for repatriating a lot of holidaymakers at a difficult time.  Our flight back to London Gatwick was as per schedule but for many of our fellow passengers their stay had been terminated and they were put on flights at short notice.  Fortunately, the Brexit transition period meant that no undue difficulties arose getting our British registered Boeing 757 to and from Spain.

A week is a long time in politics.  The first post-Brexit UK budget now seems like a distant memory[3].  Yet, it was only on 12 March that this took place in Parliament.  It was a budget that resolutely refused to talk about Brexit, seeming to pretend that the subject was done and dusted.  Now, the British Chancellor has been on his feet again and huge measures of change are rippling through Government and all parts of UK society.  The decisions of days ago are dwarfed by the new moves to defeat coronavirus.   The impact on aviation is like nothing that has gone before.

Nevertheless, the issues for aviation raised in my last blog remain pertinent.  Brexit is not done.  Yes, the efforts of the civil service must be directed at the current emergency.  In fact, that’s a good reason to suspend all formal negotiations between UK and EU and put more time aside after the global health emergency has subsided.

The current emergency should bring the two parties closer together for their mutual benefit.  Then it’s time to review decisions that may have been made so far but in the light of the new situation. Those that I talk to says that the UK national interest remains best served by continuing membership of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).   It was interesting to note the debate that took place in the UK House of Lords[4] during the week[5].

Transport was discussed in the UK House of Commons on 12 March. MP Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) asked the Minister the question[1]: What is his policy on the UK’s membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency after the end of the transition period.  The answer was dogmatic and unimaginative.

Now, I note that a great number of aviation professionals are transferring their license to European authorities like the Irish, Dutch or Belgian to keep their current privileges. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is going to be losing a lot of income from those licensed Pilots and Aircraft Engineers.

What happened on 31 January 2020 was not the end of the Brexit process.  On 30 March 2020, the new UK-EU Joint Committee is due to meet.  Aviation may not be on the agenda but it’s certainly worth keeping and eye on what’s going on in that committee.

[1] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2020-03-12a.420.5&p=24767

[1] https://www.easa.europa.eu/coronavirus-covid-19

[2] https://www.tui.co.uk/destinations/travel-information

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/budget-2020-documents/budget-2020

[4] https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/f1eea0b9-61c8-4e15-898c-536fef17b253

[5] https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/f1eea0b9-61c8-4e15-898c-536fef17b253?in=14:39:00&out=14:45:26

Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 14

air air travel airbus aircraft
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s unusual to see such unity amongst aviation organisations across different sectors of the industry.  That unity is about the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).   Established in 2002, the EASA has more than 800 aviation experts and administrators from its Member States.  A while back a UK Parliament Select Committee report[1] found: “There is widespread agreement that continued membership of EASA would benefit the UK and the EU.” Aerospace businesses, unions and academia are unanimous in support of remaining in EASA.

The BALPA (The British Airline Pilots Association)[2] said: “we need to maintain current EU and UK access to our aviation markets and to maintain EASA safety regulation”.

UK aviation industry body, ADS’s Chief Executive said[3]: “We have been clear that continued participation in EASA is the best option..”.

Even on Saturday, the UK CAA’s own website continued to say: “The CAA has been clear since the EU referendum that we consider the most positive outcome for UK consumers and the aviation industry would be one where the UK has continued participation in the EASA system with existing systems of mutual recognition between the UK and EASA Member States remaining in place.”

So, there’s one area where people and organisations are overwhelmingly unified – we need to maintain current EU and UK access to our aviation markets and to maintain EASA safety regulations.

It was always on the cards that the new UK Conservative Government would revisits this subject.  This was even though the firm planning assumption that everyone had made for the last 4-years was based on the UK’s continued membership of EASA.

Now, the UK Transport Minister with such responsibilities says that the UK will withdraw from the EASA.  Implementing that policy change the UK Department for Transport has said: “Being a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency is not compatible with the UK having genuine economic and political independence.”  This does not preclude the UK continuing to work with the EU to establish a new regulatory relationship, but it’s a tall order with only 10-months remaining on the clock.

I think this a bad decision.  Not sound or rational or in the interests of the UK.  Here, I’ll look at the apparent justifications.

  1. Compatibility with genuine economic and political independence

This suggests that membership of the EASA would impede the UK from taking any action it wishes.  There are 4 non-EU members of EASA.  One of them is our near neighbour Norway.  CAA Norway has the responsibility to oversee and regulate all aspects of civil aviation in Norway.  That applies to the Norwegian flights that are based out of London Gatwick.  In matters of aviation regulation, whether it’s at ICAO, EASA, EUROCONTROL or ECAC Norway speaks with economic and political independence.  It applies Norwegian law.  It does not seem to be impeded in advancing its aviation interests.

  1. Being a member of EASA is not possible outside Single Market

This has been well debunked.  The manner with which non-EU States participate in the EASA is not the Single Market provisions.  There is a “Basic Regulation” that establishes EASA[4].  The Article 129 of the Basic Regulation addresses participation of European third countries.  Yes, it does say that such non-EU States need to adopt and apply Union law in the fields covered by the Basic Regulation.  However, this text does say how this is to be done.  In fact, the UK has done this, at least until the 31st December 2020.   All that is needed can be done in UK law.  If EASA rules or standards are considered to be too low, there’s no impediment to enhancing them as required.

  1. We’ll be wanting to develop our own aircraft certifications

The implication is that the UK will want to do something radically different from the international community.  That maybe the case for research into new air vehicles but if the UK wishes to sell such products in the international marketplace it will need to met international rules and standards.  A domestic industry providing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles will need to compete across the globe.  EASA is preparing itself to better support innovation from industry (e.g. Artificial Intelligence, block chain technologies, extensive automation and eVTOL aircraft).   Lack of harmonisation, duplication and fragmentation in this field serves no good purpose.

4. UK expertise can be used as leverage in negotiations

Across the globe, the aviation industry and most States say that aviation safety is not a matter of competition.  There’s a great reliance on cooperation and sharing information to ensure that no State is left behind.  A just safety culture is one where working togther is normal.  It’s difficult to improve safety when people imply blame and echo a negative attitudes.  To imagine this subject to be a matter for open commercial competition is flying against all international best practices.

5. A wish to not be subject to the rules made by others

No man is an island[1] If this reasoning is applied literally then it’s impossible to participate in any international organisation.  In most cases it’s preferable to participate and have a significant influence on any rules.  The ​Convention on International Civil Aviation (known as Chicago Convention), came to be in 1944.  Since we (UK) do not control ICAO, should we now withdraw?  Clearly that would be a nonsense.  In our own region of the world, namely Europe, it would be wise to act skilfully to maximise the influence that is available not to walk away.

I join other aviation professionals in thinking it’s extraordinary how little the UK Government is prepared to consult with industry, consider cost and benefits and explain any new arrangements that will need to be put in place in a short time.  At one time there was a stubborn insistence that major changes should not be introduced without a detailed impact assessment.  Now, anything goes if the Minister likes it.

Reference: UK CAA Statement on future relationship with the European Union

[1] MEDITATION XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, John Donne.

[1] https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2018-0233

[2] https://www.balpa.org/Media-Centre/Press-Releases/Brexit-There-is-no-WTO-default-for-aviation-so-UK

[3] https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/news/newsroom/statement-on-transport-secretary-comments-on-easa-membership/

[4] Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2018 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency,

Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 13

WP_20170826_008For decades we (UK) have been interwoven with the EU in an intricate pattern that is complicated and often not well understood even by those who are supposed know.  The twists and turns of the last 4-years have brought about a situation where those who say: absolute independence outweighs the risk of being “shackled” to the EU, now govern the UK.  The idea of common interests and common solutions to common problems has gone out of the window.

Aircraft are built by experts, tested by experts and flown by qualified experts with exceptional skill and with multiple safety backups.  Brexit has been driven by opportunist politicians who persistently distort evidence to support their beliefs with scant regard of the costs or harm done.  Thus, the next steps in the Brexit EU-UK negotiations will be as difficult, as difficult as can be imagined.  That’s what has indeed happened if reports of this week’s discussions are surveyed.

The UK will withdraw from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after 31st December[1]. The divorce is a hard one.  I can think of a lot of Brits who dedicated enormous amount of effort to European harmonisation who will be turning in their graves.

Yes, it’s true that the road that led to the EASA had its roots in the UK.  When I started work at the UK CAA, the offices of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) were based at Aviation House, London Gatwick.  The benefit to aviation of having a common code was recognised in the 1980s.  Signing of the “Arrangements concerning the Development, the Acceptance and the Implementation of Joint Aviation Requirements” (the “Cyprus Arrangements”) by 24 European States, took place in 1990.

In time, the weakness of the JAA system became apparent in that the common application and interpretation of aviation codes was not so common.  The framework of European law was necessary to ensure that there was indeed a level playing field and a high level of aviation safety.  In European law, a division of tasks between the EASA and the national aviation authorities was determined.  EASA was given the power to carry out legally binding certification tasks, thus overcoming the limitations of the JAA system.  The creation of EASA, led to the harmonisation of more existing rules and regulations and greater cooperation in the formation of new rules.

Reversing out of 30 years of progress is a challenging task.  Yes, it can be coloured as a bold new era in flourishing rhetorical terms but practically it looks like a knee-jerk reaction.  Not only that but the timing is awful.  Market turbulence due to the contagious virus is severely impacting aviation.  Not only that but the whole process of certificates issued by one authority being automatically accepted by another authority is being questioned because of the Boeing 737 MAX case.

Playing to the crowd with symbols of post-Brexit independence isn’t a wise move.  It’s kamikaze.

[1] https://aviationweek.com/air-transport/safety-ops-regulation/uk-will-leave-easa-says-british-transportation-secretary