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

Flight, Risk & Reflections 14.

The end of the transitional period of the process of UK withdrawal from the European Union (EU) is just days away. I believe most people are looking for some light at the end of the tunnel. A tunnel that we have been in since mid-2016. Now, that light looks dim. Dim as a dull cold winter’s day.     

The EU has triggered Brexit No-Deal contingency plans[1].  These plans are to ensure basic services between the UK and the EU for 6 months in 2021. Then it’s anybody’s guess what will happen.

Flying is down to levels last seen in the 1970s. This maybe joy for those who protest at aviation’s environmental footprint. But, given that aviation will be vital to power the world out of the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 virus, this is not good news. 

Said it before but I’ll say it again, the triple blow of a Brexit No-Deal and COVID-19 and urgent need for action on Climate Change are going to mean hair shirts years ahead. There’s a great deal of bluff from politicians but the bills keep mounting up. We cannot ignore the oncoming trains. 

Worldwide COVID-19 deaths have now topped 1.6 million[2]

In this crisis, there’s no doubt that the UK has a superbly capable science community. Within that specialist community there are world renowned experts[3]. They work in a global context.  So, the persistent echo of nationalism in politicians COVID-19 response is saddening.  Recently politicians have spoken as if the task of public safety regulation was a competition.  This is sheer folly. It undermines trust.  Ensuring either vaccines or transport systems are safe is NOT a matter for national competition.  We all have vulnerabilities and safety is only assured when we are all safe. 

The triple whammy means the UK aerospace industry is under pressure and needs strategic support from the UK Government to sustain its high value jobs. So far, a deaf ear is all they offer businesses that create prosperity across the country. 

Also, on the horizon is that the UK will be under pressure to scrap European tariffs applied to Boeing imports imposed as a result of the international dispute between Boeing and AIRBUS. The subsidy dispute was between the EU and US and so lawyers are saying the UK should step aside. Sadly, this is the sort of situation that will make Europeans seriously question future aerospace investments in the UK. 


[1] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/12/16/council-endorses-transport-contingency-measures-in-case-of-no-deal-brexit/#

[2] https://www.statnews.com/feature/coronavirus/covid-19-tracker/?utm_campaign=cv_landing

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000qdzd/panorama-the-race-for-a-vaccine

Flight, Risk & Reflections 10.

Today, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ran a European Union (EU) exit webinar for aircraft Maintenance Organisations (Part-145)[1].  Negotiations between the UK and the EU on aviation safety requirements continue.  This series of UK CAA hosted webinars is to update civil aviation on what the UK may look like from 1st January 2021. 

It’s worth noting that the Chair of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Sir Stephen Hillier[2] will be on a Royal Aeronautical Society webinar on the 19th November 2020.  Questions and comments on Brexit are sure to come up. It’s clear the UK will leave Europe’s aviation safety regulator at end of 2020.

I’m writing at a moment when the News is again sounding pessimistic about the UK-EU negotiations. The time remaining on the clock for a possible deal is running out. Once a final legal text is agreed there are still numerous parties who must read it and take it all in. 

In England, until 2 December businesses are in lockdown routine. Everyone is doing what they can to stop the spread of coronavirus. The time left to change how businesses operate and adapt to a new UK-EU relationship is ebbing away rapidly. 

Even in November, because of COVID-19 we are being told to open windows regularly to let fresh air in. One hope is that they are doing this in the rooms where the UK-EU negotiations are taking place. 

In a recent speech former UK Prime Minister (PM) John Major pointed out that Brexit set to be “more brutal than anyone expected”[3].  It doesn’t take much to see why. Given that the referendum vote was back in June 2016 it’s astonishing that UK-EU negotiations are not wrapped up by now.

My impression is that a referendum and the subsequent General Elections have put our entire political system into perpetual campaigning mode. The problem is that Governing mode and campaigning mode are not good bedfellows.  At this moment that clash is being played out inside Number 10 Downing Street. 

I’d like to sound optimistic but there’s more dismantling going on than building.  It’s easier to smash up the house than it is to build a new one.  


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

[2] https://www.aerosociety.com/events-calendar/raes-webinar-brabazon-named-lecture-2020/

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54879209

Flight, Risk & Reflections 9.

A month back it was said that the UK Government’s post-Brexit proposals on aviation would give Britain an unfair economic advantage[1].  There are no signs that the impasse of that time has been cleared. Far from “Getting Brexit Done” these complex negotiations drag on and on.

I’d penned a few words which have found their way to the delete folder. Now, as COVID-19 gathers pace again, the catchphrase: “We’re doomed!” comes to mind[2]. The BBC sitcom Dad’s Army and Private Frazer’s gloomy: “We’re doomed!” has become a classic moment in British comedy. As we do lock-down again, it captures the moment nicely. 

The sporadic imposition of national lockdowns and country-by-country travel restrictions have been a disaster for aviation. This crazy situation exists for both EU and non-EU States. Although the News of a potential vaccine has created buoyancy, the latest updates on the impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry makes grim reading[3]

COVID-19 is devastating the aviation and tourist industry. Add a clumsy exit to the transition period between UK and EU and it won’t just be lockdowns that keep Brits at home. That said, the more optimistic talkers in the industry big up the idea that an explosion of the desire to party will drive a return to normal air traffic levels next year. This is the upper end of the most optimistic projections.

Across the Atlantic, the fact of the matter is that the most powerful nation on Earth is going through a major transition. The Americans haven’t got over their midlife crisis – yet. Given the massive number of votes cast in the recent elections the margin of victory was surprisingly small. That’s a reminder of the Brexit referendum, here in the UK, if anything is. So, we know from experience there’s no such thing as an instant healing process. Moving to a more multilateral and outward looking vision of the world will take time. 

Meanwhile, what’s astonishing in Europe is UK Brexit supporter’s keenness to take a bad situation and make it even worse.  The UK Government’s Internal Market Bill is a perfect example of a bad apple turning a whole basket of apples bad. To its credit the UK Parliament’s House of Lords recognised the problem and addressed it. Trouble is the House of Commons is likely to ignore common sense and march ever more towards a cliff edge. 


[1] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/forget-brexit-deal-without-credible-guarantees-on-competition-michel-barnier-tells-uk-6zqp0bblv

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007tlxv

[3] https://www.oag.com/coronavirus-airline-schedules-data

Flight, Risk & Reflections 3.

“It is the year of turmoil”

Summing up the year so far, upbeat positive words are hard to find. The crisis that has stretched across the globe has left everyone wondering what comes next? What will recovery look like? I’m trying to avoid a melodramatic tone because if we compare this global crisis with others faced by humanity, in the last hundred years, this is not so massive. 

We, industry, Governments and travellers have in the last 60-years of the jet age have become accustomed to a progressively developing model of civil aviation that has increased the opportunity to travel. We recognised that the post-war model for aviation had to change. That was a major part of the ICAO General Assembly in Montreal last year. Global aviation must be made environmentally sustainable. More effort needed to be directed at long-term solutions to satisfy the wish to travel but reduce the environmental impact for flying.

Most large organisations had the event of a pandemic as part of the corporate risk assessment. Unfortunately, for many this was a tick in the box, a presentation and pat on the back job done. 2020’s events have thrown us into a completely different state from the one that was imagined.

Now, not without warning, but at great pace, the imperative has become to ensure the health and safety of passengers and workers in all aspects of civil aviation[1].  The COVID-19 crisis is forcing manufactures, operators and maintainers to rethink their business at every level. Jobs are being lost.

It’s often said that if you must change something big, change one thing at a time. People overwhelm themselves and start making mistakes if you change too many things all at once. Sadly, there’s the dying embers of a macho culture[2] in some parts of business and the political world. The results they produce are often extremely poor.  Over promising and under delivering are fatal to long-term success. 

In a World that made sense, both the UK and the EU would suspend the talks concerning their new relationship, get on with addressing COVID-19 and come back to the table when there was a better view of what the future might bring. Our reality is that a post-Brexit trade deal between UK and the EU seems unlikely at one stage, and then the next day it’s back on and the following day off again. News flits back and fore.

It remains to be seen if UK Prime Minister Johnson has a plan for a No-Deal Brexit. What’s happening is creating uncertainty and volatility day after day and making it hard for everyone. The devastating public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 plus all this turmoil is disastrous.

The UK’s political establishment do seem to be disconnected from reality. 


[1] https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/2020-09/covid19-eurocontrol-comprehensive-air-traffic-assessment-14092020.pdf

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machismo

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Flight, Risk & Reflections 2.

The 7th round of UK-EU negotiations has ended. So, here we are. Yet, another week goes by and the heal draggers win again. Instead of rapidly moving forwards towards a conclusion, to be the benefit of all, the situation remains with little progress being talk of[1]. Let’s remember it’s August. Only 4-months to wrap-up a legal text of a UK-EU agreement and to ensure that it’s accepted by the parties. The UK and 27 individual EU Countries must read, understand and ratify it.

The reflections coming from both sides at the table makes sorry reading[2][3]. What a depressing but predictable state of affairs. Reading a few of the comments people make on the current situation, I realise that the debate remains one of immense childishness, in some cases. This is not a game of cards. It’s not a football match. It’s not about victors and the vanquished. Every deal that was ever made, or ever will be made requires both parties to compromise.

Echoes of last year’s electioneering over an “oven ready deal” now look rather foolish. Where’s the UK Prime Minister? If there’s to be a No-Deal BREXIT outcome, then he will need to prepare the Country for it as soon as possible. If Brexit was originally about ending Freedom of Movement, it’s now about a whole lot more. The facts are that a No-Deal BREXIT outcome will make us all poorer. 

Major changes are inevitable, with or without agreement on a new UK-EU relationship. Citizens, organisations and companies need to get ready for 2021.

But it’s still not too late for a sound deal. The deal that can be struck with the EU will be the most important the UK can make in this decade. If it doesn’t strike, at least a basic deal other partners will look on and wonder why? or, in the worst case, see an opportunity to take advantage.  That’s not where anyone sane would want to be. 

In a No-Deal scenario the UK will lose the benefits it has in the European Single Market in Aviation. As if the COVID-19 virus impact wasn’t enough. The aviation industry has taken a direct hit with an estimated one-third of the global fleet grounded at a time that’s normally high season for holidays.

The Coronavirus lock-down measures have pushed the UK into recession, Contraction in the economy has been significant but even the numbers leave much of the story unwritten. On top of this the UK quarantine on Countries, including France is like banging nails into the coffin of the British travel industry. A No-Deal BREXIT outcome will finish the job off.  


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-53854730

[2] https://no10media.blog.gov.uk/2020/08/21/david-frosts-statement-following-the-conclusion-of-round-7-negotiations-with-the-eu/

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_1511

Flying, Democracy and Safety 5.

jet cloud landing aircraft
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

4-years ago on Magna Carta Day in the small Surrey town of Egham, I was campaigning to stay in the European Union (EU).  On 11 June 2016, when referring to the UK referendum, I said: “I’d like to estimate that the overall experience indicated a better than 50/50 outcome is on the cards.” Meaning that remaining in the EU was a likely outcome of the UK referendum but only by a small margin of votes. As we know it went the other way by a small margin of votes.

In the whole of history, 4-years isn’t much, a blink of an eye, but in that time the UK’s political, social and economic landscape has changed by quite a lot.  I’d argue that it has changed for the worse and that huge opportunities have been thrown away because of dogma, groupthink and a blindness to the reality.  If we’ve learnt anything in those years, it’s that when a UK politician says something is certain it’s likely to be far from certain.

Despite all the rocky road and ups and downs of 4-years, no one was adequately prepared for a transformation that nature threw at us. The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the biggest challenges the world has faced in modern times.

UK economic growth fell by over 20% in April, the largest fall since monthly records began. Aviation has been hit hard. It’s said that at least 70,000 jobs are on the line in the UK aviation industry[1]. There are pleas for the UK Government to act to protect jobs and support the long-term viability of the sector. Many other Countries have stepped in to support their industries.

Although a slight recovery of air traffic is underway[2], we are heading into the most painful time. As the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme[3], or furlough scheme closes to new entrants, so industry layoffs are likely to increase. Businesses are reorganising to stay alive during an extended period of low demand for air travel. It’s going to be grim for at least the next year.

I’m optimistic for the long-term future of air travel. I always find it surprising that only about 5% of the world’s population have ever stepped foot on an aircraft, even now. I think, wanderlust is set in our core. Just as the low-cost operators made it possible for today’s young people to explore more than previous generations, so I don’t think they will wish to give that up. Aviation shrunk the globe and it will continue to do so.

But what of UK politics? The transition agreed as part of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, ends on 31 December this year. The agenda for the second meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) has been published[4]. This key meeting takes place on Friday 12 June.

The UK is saying that it will not ask for an extension to the current transition period. This flies in the face of what business and industry wants. This seems to be illogical given the combination of the circumstances of COVID-19 and an abrupt termination of the WA.

I believe most of the arguments against extending the transition period are either tribal Party political or bogus or both. The reality is that more time is needed. The reality is that ratification of any new deal will need time. The reality is that brinkmanship doesn’t deliver good results. The OECD[5] is saying of the UK: “The failure to conclude a trade deal with the European Union by the end of 2020 or put in place alternative arrangements would have a strongly negative effect on trade and jobs.”

That is not a state of affairs to be welcomed.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/10/airline-job-losses-could-be-on-scale-of-1980s-mining-industry-report-warns

[2] https://twitter.com/eurocontrolDG/status/1271135184562380800?s=20

[3] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/brexit_files/info_site/provisional-agenda-for-the-second-meeting-of-the-joint-committee-12-06-2020.pdf

[5] https://www.oecd.org/unitedkingdom/

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