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/

Flight, Risk & Reflections 13.

Last night, chatting about presentations and simple ways of making them better, I was reminded of: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.  It’s ancient advice about how to persuade an audience of a point of view. The importance is to see a place for all three in a presentation. 

Looking at the day’s news, I see we are still on the brink of a deal. Negotiations drag on and on. Both EU and UK give the impression that they are stretching their negotiating mandates to try to come up with a good solution but time is ticking.

Outside of the negotiating room there remains the task of convincing different audiences that a deal is a good one. So, what of the classical three. In the UK, the media and politicians revel in Pathos. It’s almost as if the other two are consigned to be back seat drivers. For Ethos and Logos, objectivity is a must. Being honest means being factual. Arguing rationally means applying the facts.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of places to go for that objectivity in the British media. So, it does make a difference to read the foreign media.  For some common sense, I recommend the thoughts of Julian King[1], the UK’s last European commissioner.  I agree that everybody stands to lose out with No-Deal.

This week we carry on with a multitude of unknowns. Only one thing is for sure. Life after 31st December will be different[2]

I do wish press articles would not say: “Otherwise, the U.K would have to strike individual agreements with EU countries to bypass these concerns, ……” Striking individual agreements with non-EU countries is what is happening. Striking individual agreements with EU countries will not happen. The reason for this is that for the major areas of interest the EU has competence[3].

It’s worth noting that the harmonisation of civil aviation requirements and procedures started a long time before the formation of European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).


[1] https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/brexit-the-uk-and-eu-both-need-to-put-aside-emotion-and-cut-a-deal-1.4425580

[2] https://www.politico.eu/article/5-things-to-know-about-post-brexit-aviation-airlines-eu-transition-cargo-travel-passengers/

[3] https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/transport_en

Flight, Risk & Reflections 8.

2-years ago I wrote: “Early in the year, prudently the EU published a series of notices concerning the “No Deal” outcome.  These were stark and based upon the UK becoming a “Third Country” with a blank sheet of paper in front of it.  That’s a Country with no special arrangements with the EU.” It seems that they (EU) were very prudent

That said, let’s be optimistic. News reports are that the UK and EU have transitioned into an intensive phase of negotiations with the aim of getting a much-cherished Free Trade Agreement (FTA)[1].  Here we are coming up to the last week of October 2020. 

Although the outcome remains unclear the wisdom of being prepared for the end of the Transition Period is unquestionable[2]. Aviation has been trying to get to grips with the ups and downs of Brexit for 4-years, but this is the real crunch time. 

As I’ve commented before, the departure of the UK from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was unexpected only a year ago but it’s going to happen on 1 January 2021. This will mean more “red tape” and regulatory costs for UK industry, but the UK Government is unmoved in its position. 

For aircraft design, UK based Design approval holders need to apply to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a UK Design Organisation Approval (DOA)[3]. The UK CAA will continue to apply the European rules as set out in Regulation EU No 748/2012 that determines the rules for the certification of design organisations. Part-21 subpart J of this Regulation concerns the Design of aircraft or the associated components.

For aircraft production, UK based production approval holders are advised to apply for an EASA Third Country Production Organisation Approval (POA)[4]. The same is true for those maintenance organisations who want to work on European Member State registered aircraft.  This is an administrative procedure within EASA and so certificates will only be issued to UK organisations, all being well, after the transition period has expired. 

A lot will depend on what’s in any EU-UK aviation agreements as to any mutual acceptance or recognition of approvals.  Now, no one is able to predict the outcome of negotiations. We all must rely on statements from the UK Government and EU Commission on the latest progress of negotiations. 

To me this is a mighty strange state of affairs. If I reflect on the detailed and thoughtful groundwork done for the creation of EASA back in 2002-3, it’s as if a everything has been thrown to the four winds.  


[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-25/brexit-talks-extended-to-oct-28-as-u-k-indicates-optimism

[2] https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/blog/prepare-for-the-end-of-the-transition-period-with-our-brexit-webinars/

[3] https://www.caa.co.uk/Commercial-industry/Aircraft/Airworthiness/Organisation-and-maintenance-programme-approvals/EASA-Part-21/Apply-for-a-Part-21-Subpart-J-approval/

[4] https://www.easa.europa.eu/brexit-early-applications#others

Flight, Risk & Reflections 4.

It’s under 100 days to go to the final, final, final Brexit exit. This Autumn flying faces the quadruple threats of rising Coronavirus numbers, diminishing Government support, implementation of erratic polices and the possibility of a disorderly end to the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement transition period. The shining light is that everyone knew that this was coming, and adding up all the turmoil of the last 4-years it has at least given industry and institutions time to come to terms with the situation and prepare accordingly.  Yes, there are a bucket load of unknowns. 

On the plus side as soon as we get past 1 January 2021 there will be less constraints for either party. The European Union (EU) will be able to go ahead with actions once blocked by the UK. Vice-versa the UK will be able to develop its own unique set of policies, rules and regulations. 

If both parties don’t lose their basic common sense there ought to be a good degree of continuing communication, collaboration and cooperation.

I agree with the AIRBUS CEO: “Aviation, an irreplaceable force for good in the world, is today at risk as borders remain closed and influential voices in Europe call for permanent curbs on flying.”

Recently the British Business General Aviation Association (BBGA) hosted a webinar [1]dedicated to all matters Brexit. Good of them to make it available on-line to non-members.

In addition, there’s a “Readiness for Brexit[2]” update from Tim Johnson, Strategy and Policy Director UK CAA now on-line. This is about the CAA’s readiness for what’s going to happen at the end of the transition period.  There’s a promise of continuity, at least for a while[3].

It saddens me greatly that the UK will no longer be part of the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) system but that’s now a matter of fact. Who knows what the future may bring? It’s perfectly possible that the UK will be back in the system in the next decade.

There’s a lot of reasons why it’s going to be difficult for the UK to act entirely alone. For efficient and sustainable air traffic management the European Single European Sky (SES) project will continue to advance. It would be better for all if the UK was part of that advancement.

We need to concentrate on dealing with the present situation and maximising positive working with Europe. There are many areas of common interest. We remain a great European Country.


[1] https://www.avm-mag.com/bbga-to-conduct-brexit-info-webinar/

[2] https://www.caa.co.uk/Blog-Posts/Readiness-for-Brexit/

[3] https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/UK%20Safety%20Regulation%20outside%20EASA%20(CAP1911)%20SEP%202020.pdf

Flying, Democracy and Safety 6.

space shuttle launch during nighttime
Photo by Edvin Richardson on Pexels.com

One of the News stories of the week was that of UK Prime Minster (PM) Johnson spending £900,000 to paint a RAF transport aircraft with Union flag colours. Red, white and blue. I imagine that money will be spent in the UK. It’s good to see that Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group in Cambridge has reduced the Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) emissions of its huge paint shop[1].

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and decline of air traffic on European aviation has got worse in recent weeks[2].  Rebuilding it will require new measures to be put in place. Now, the aviation industry is nervous that these will be imposed in an uncoordinated way. National quarantines are an example of such measures as they are an impediment to recovery especially when they are introduced on political grounds. There’s quite a lot of that going on at the moment.

UK PM Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, were in communication last Monday[3]. There was much talk of giving the on-going UK-EU negotiations new momentum. We are told, people are searching for agreeable compromises. The real possibility of a collapse in the talks remains, with some speculation that this would be exploited to distract from criticism over the UK Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a taster of what the ratification of any new agreement might involve, a report has been published by the European Parliament (EP)[4] with recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the UK.  This report does have a few mentions of civil aviation, notably:

  1. Considers that the envisaged partnership should include an ambitious and comprehensive chapter on air transport which ensures the EU’s strategic interests, and contains appropriate provisions, on market access, investment and operational and commercial flexibility (e.g. code sharing) in respect of balanced rights and obligations, and should include close cooperation in aviation safety and air traffic management;
  2. Stresses that any possible granting of some elements of the so-called ‘fifth freedom’ (freedom of the air) should be limited in scope and needs to include balanced and corresponding obligations in the interests of the EU.

Even though this has been rejected by UK Government Ministers, the EP continues to support the participation of the UK as a “third country” observer with no decision-making role in the EU’s Agencies, such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Also, the EP still wishes to see UK’s continued participation in the Single European Sky (SES) and technology initiatives like: Clean Sky I and II, Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR), Galileo, Copernicus and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).

Today, the indications are that the UK Government has rejected such technical participation. However, it does seem that one or two plans are being changed as we go. It’s reported that the UK is scaling back plans for rival to Galileo satellite system[5]. Ambition is being shaped by practicalities.

Whatever is the case, it’s certain European civil aviation will use both Galileo and EGNOS in advanced forms of navigation and surveillance. The future is being made, tested, and put into service as we speak.

[1] https://marshalladg.com/insights-news/marshalls-clean-air-unit-paints-an-even-cleaner-picture

[2] https://aviationweek.com/air-transport/airlines-lessors/pandemic-impact-european-aviation-worsening-iata-says

[3] https://www.cer.eu/insights/eu-uk-negotiations-no-need-panic-yet

[4] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-9-2020-0117_EN.html

[5] https://www.ft.com/content/50c3b6dc-2d2f-4bb4-aa9b-b24493315140

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

Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 11

IMG_0696Spring is beckoning.  The phoney war will have to come to an end soon.  EU-UK negotiations are set to start in the week of 2 March 2020.  There’s every good chance a close and ambitious partnership between the EU and UK can be built.

On civil aviation the UK is seeking an agreement that should: “consider arrangements typically included in EU bilateral aviation agreements”.  This is written as if the Europe has no history of deep and detailed cooperation that has been built over decades.  It’s difficult to image a blank sheet of paper in front of the negotiating teams.

On airspace use, the EU is saying that the UK should have less access to EU airspace but may have more than other third countries, if it applies by specific rules[1].  This does have the potential to take on board the interest of travellers on both sides of the divide.

On safety, the UK is a calling for a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA)[2].  No prospective ambition to remain part of the EU’s Agency, EASA is mentioned.

For the above there’s a paragraph heading titled “Appropriate governance arrangements” but no indication as to what they might be.  With the existing EU-US BASA[3] there’s a Bilateral Oversight Board (BOB) that is responsible for ensuring the effective functioning of the BASA.

I remember supporting that activity.  It does tend to be conducted at a high level with the respective partners.  Then detailed work is delegated to more technical activities under the watchful eye of the BOB.  Now, that kind of working arrangement does not preclude UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) technical staff participating in EASA working groups or vice versa.

An EU-UK BASA maybe a new bespoke agreement but it is a distinct break with the past of cooperation.  Europe enacted a process of working together before the time of EU competence in this area.  It was on 11 September 1990, with the signing of the “Arrangements concerning the Development, the Acceptance and the Implementation of Joint Aviation Requirements” (Cyprus Arrangements), by 24 States that the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) came formally into being.

A BASA does weaken existing international ties because at its core is the preservation of regulatory control above and beyond joint working.   No longer is the arrangement captured in the phrase “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno”[4].

I’m sure, the EU will respect British sovereignty, and Britain will respect EU Member States sovereignty.  Nice to say but such statements say nothing about common interests of which there are many in aviation.  We don’t yet know to what extent either the EU or the UK will be willing to compromise as a result of detailed negotiations, maybe long into the night.  By the middle of this year a clearer picture will emerge.

[1] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/future-relationship-uk-eu-mandates

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/868874/The_Future_Relationship_with_the_EU.pdf

[3] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=OJ:JOL_2011_291_R_0001_01&from=EN

[4] Latin phrase that means “One for all, all for one” in English.

Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 9

IMG_3794Although we are in a – more to follow – time, the shape of the future aviation relationship between the EU and UK goes along these lines:

“The Government believes there is mutual benefit in an air transport agreement covering market access for air services, aviation safety and security, and collaboration on air traffic management.”[1]

In other statements the repetitious reference to national sovereignty is peculiar.  In case the authors haven’t noticed the UK is no longer an EU Member State.  Above and beyond this, over the generations, the UK has signed a parade of international treaties and each one of them pools some degree of sovereignty.  Clearly, negotiations on a new treaty will necessitate the same.  Even more so because of the proximity of the two parties.  One witty journalist has commented: my advice on Brexit: just ignore everything for the next couple of weeks.

The UK will be negotiating with a whole host of States.  I wonder how productive all the mischief by unnamed “sources” around Number 10 Downing Street is being viewed by across the rest of the world?  The dangerous impression can go abroad that great care should be taken before trusting this recently elected Conservative Government.

Time for some good news.  Yes, there is some good news.  It underlines a commitment, at a working level to national investments on the aerospace industries beyond Brexit.  This week there was an event to launch the “Aerospace Sector Deal – One Year On” report[2] by the UK’s Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP).  The AGP is a partnership between the UK Government, industry and others.

The event was hosted at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)[3] in Wales.  In the past its projects have been funded by UK institutions, European Commission and other external bodies, and involve collaboration with research and industrial partners.  Such collaborations are of mutual benefit.  Let’s hope that no new unnecessary barriers are erected between researchers on either side of the channel.

One sad news to note is that because we are no longer citizens of an EU Member States, British professionals are no longer eligible to apply for jobs in EU Agencies.  For example, to get a job at EASA in Cologne you need to be a national of a Member State of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.  As written, this excludes the recruiting of UK staff, unless of course that they have more than one passport.  So, much for the power of that new blue/black UK passport displayed on the front pages of British newspapers this weekend.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-future-relationship-between-the-uk-and-the-eu

[2] https://aerospacegrowthpartnership.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/aerospace-sector-deal-one-year-on-vf-1.pdf

[3] https://www.amrc.co.uk/pages/about

Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 4

The act of withdrawing from the European Union (EU) has been underway for a week.  Already there’s considerable confusion over the UK’s longer-term relationship with European Member States.   Differences of political opinion are evident over what’s to be discontinued and what not. Hopefully, the next steps are being guided by the Political Declaration (PD) agreed between the EU and the UK in October 2019.

It’s worth noting the reality of the current situation.  The Withdrawal Agreement (WA)[1] is a Treaty[2] which governs the terms of the withdrawal of the UK.  It will continue to apply, even if there’s a Brexit “crash out” at the end of the year.

Going forward in this period of transition isn’t necessarily reversing the past.  That said, the past must be respected.  But you might say: why?  Let’s stride off into the sunny uplands with a blank sheet of paper in our hands.  Unfortunately, that’s like walking into a snowstorm armed with only a tube of toothpaste.  My metaphor is about changing aviation rules, regulations and standards.

One aspect of transport systems is their relative long lives.  Given that investments in aviation are high, most products are designed and produced to be in service for more than a couple of decades.

Another aspect is the need for parts of the aviation system to interoperate safely with other parts.  Landing an aeroplane in Manchester shouldn’t be radically different from landing one in Munich, or Manila for that matter.  Fixing one is the same task in any of those cities.

What I’m saying is both European and British rules, regulations and standards must comply with their international counterparts.  That doesn’t mean these no scope for differences, but it does put some constraints on what can be practically done, especially in a limited time.

The EU and the UK have set out their opening positions for their future relationship on aviation.  For the above reasons and more, I have no doubt that there will be a degree of convergence over the next few months.  The cancellation of laws applied during this period of withdrawal can only happen if something viable is put in their place.

Meanwhile aviation organisations are updating their Brexit public information[3].   That said, words like “termination” are avoided because no one knows what the situation will be in 2021.

[1] The Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community.

[2] A treaty is a formal written agreement entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations.

[3] https://www.easa.europa.eu/brexit