Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 6

IMG_1076As in “The Prisoner” the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have told the UK Prime Minister: I am not a number.   The Westminster Village is beginning to look more like The Village in the cult 1960s British TV series[1].  I don’t like being right on such matters.  But my last Blog did imply posturing in respect to EU-UK negotiations is the purview of Number 10 Downing Street.  No others will be tolerated doing so in this UK Government.  We now have populist politicians on both sides of the Atlantic using all the tools of the trade to reinforce their power.  The extent to which people support this post-Brexit pathway to the future is extremely questionable.  One of my objections is that placing faith in powerful men hasn’t produced good outcomes in history.

Another objection, and more pertinent to the topic of aviation is that a failure to engaging with the complexities that are challenging our societies will just result in lost years of banalities, evasion and superficiality.  It’s my firm belief that “Europe”, wherever you put the boundaries, will only continue to be successful in meeting those challenges by encouraging creativity, imagination and innovation but in a stable environment where certain failures can be tolerated.  Truly learning from failure has been the stimulus for transformational benefits time and time again.

Now, the UK is not doing well, but neither is the Eurozone’s as GDP increased by only 0.1% in the fourth quarter of last year.   Plundering history to wrap us in a wall of nostalgia will do nothing to improve both our economic and environmental quality of life.  Focusing on Climate Change is going to require civil aviation to be radical.  Incremental progress, at great expense, is often a means to avoid change.  I’m sorry to say that has been the record of the Single European Sky (SES)[2] project in Europe.  Brexit or no Brexit, it makes little difference in respect of the future of how our airspace is best used.  Geographical boundaries are false boundaries when it comes to tackling Climate Change in the air.

Maybe this is a time for the UK to be like the grit in the oysters.  Taking everyone’s problem but, in standing outside the constraints of conventional intergovernmental processes being able to bring a fresh look at sustainable aviation.  That would be a better way than to grip nostalgia for a golden past.  The fundamentals of air traffic management were invented not more than 15 miles from where I’m siting[3].  So, let’s use history, without getting all starry eyed, and jointly build a sustainable future together.   EU-UK negotiations need to be open to this prospect.

Be Seeing You.


[2] The Single European Sky (SES) is a European initiative to improve the way Europe’s airspace is managed.


Brexit & Aviation 56

On the 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted in an advisory referendum to leave the European Union (EU).  74 days to go before the date scheduled for Brexit and the Country is still vacillating.

As time ticks away its not a bad idea to have an eye on priorities.  If there’s some issues that rank above others in importance.  This is recognised throughout aviation.   It’s the way we construct an Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM).  Top of the list in an AFM are the Emergency Procedures.  It seems to me that we need a set of Brexit Emergency Procedures.  The future relationship between the UK and EU remains unclear and may do so for a long time.  That said, I’m not alone in considering what might happen in the different scenarios that can come into play[1][2].

Having made this proposition what would be in such a set of procedures?  Here’s a non-exclusive list of major topics that can not be left to chance.

  • Air Services Agreements
  • Safety Regulation
  • Security Management
  • Air Traffic Management
  • Environment

Today, civil aviation is regulated at European level.  All 5 of these subjects have been addressed in recent advisory publications at both national and European level.  However, it is still up to individual aviation stakeholders how and when they react.  There are no new directives that mandate a course of action for air transport services, even the essential ones.

If chaos does ensue on the effective withdrawal as of midnight (00h00) on 30 March 2019, then it will not be easy to understand where blame should rest.  The resolution of problems will need a forum to coordinate fixes too.  That is the unfortunate nature of the current situation.

Aviation is a dynamic part of the UK, contributing £52 billion to UK gross domestic product (GDP) and supporting close to one million jobs[3].   To be where we are now, with only 74 days to go is highly disadvantageous, to say the least.







Brexit and Aviation 51

On Friday last, we sat on the ground in Duesseldorf.  Having boarded BA945 ahead of time, we sat waiting for the instruction to go.  We sat on the ground for an hour given the high winds that battered London Heathrow.  That was our intended destination.  As a passenger, this was frustrating, but I know it’s a safe way of managing the large volumes of European air traffic.

Without a doubt, Brexit or no Brexit we have a far from perfect air transport systems in Europe.  Capacity is limited by the dated infrastructure we have in place.   Safety is assured by managing the system as a cooperative effort.  London Heathrow is a challenge given that such large numbers of international aircraft movements take place at a two-runway hub airport.

Since 2011, the European Union has had a Network Manager[1].  This is what was previously called the Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) based at EUROCONTROL[2] in Brussels.  The Network Manager Operations Centre is a vital part of Europe’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.  If you want to peek at what’s happening there’s a public portal showing the current state of the system[3].

In some respects, Summer 2018 pushed the European aviation system to its limits and Summer 2019 promises to present even more challenges.  I cannot conceive of any situation where European ATM will not be of interest to the UK.  Indeed, there’s no indication of the withdrawal of the UK from EUROCONTROL.  Nice as this might sound, Brexit is going to have the impact of pulling the UK out of the major decision-making that that takes place within Europe.

Today, EU regulations determine operations, safety regulation and performance monitoring.  If Brexit goes ahead, the UK will no longer have a leading influence over these EU regulations.  People are starting to plan for how to manage the Summer of 2019.  You might want to think seriously about your holiday choices next year.  We all know what its like to be stranded at airports living out long delays.

News has come in on a matter of great interest about the almost mythical Article 50.  The European Court (ECJ) has sided with petitioners both *against* the European Council/Commission and *against* the UK government.  The UK is free to unilaterally revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU – Case C-621/18 Wightman #Brexit[4].

This does open an option to the UK.  With such deadlock amongst the politicians and a big campaign to bring about a #PeoplesVote that would seem the wise course of action to take.

[1] COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 677/2011 of 7 July 2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of air traffic management (ATM) network functions and amending Regulation (EU) No 691/2010.

[2] The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL)