Aviation & Brexit 88

Tuesday, 23 July draws closer and the naming of a new UK Conservative Party leader and subsequently a new UK Prime Minister (PM).   It seems increasingly likely that the Conservative Party is going through the motions with only one outcome on the table: Mr Johnson gets selected and then pushes, in whatever ways possible, to get the UK to leave the European Union (EU) by Halloween this year.  Little, if anything is new as repetitious and shallow arguments get thrown around like confetti for the bride of Frankenstein.

In the early months of this year there was a flurry of detailed articles written about how aviation would be affected if the UK left the EU with or without a deal.  The common expectation was that the transition would start at the end of March.  Since then a few have taken the time to update their positions but most of what was written remains motionlessness.  Without a sense of political direction advancing policy positions is a precarious activity.  However, a high-level desire to see liberal aviation market access arrangements continue does seem to exit within both UK and EU.  To that extent, a No-Deal Brexit outcome represents a big step backwards for all Europeans.

Although it’s not relevant to international air travel, it’s notable that British media interviews continue to focus on The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).  The GATT was the precursor to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).   Article 24 is being cited as a universal solution to objections to a No-Deal Brexit.  However, this proposition has been debunked multiple times and doesn’t stand scrutiny[1].

[1] https://fullfact.org/europe/gatt-nine-lives-article-24-again/

In recent weeks, talk of international companies planning relocate their operations to other parts of Europe[1] has not phased the populist proponents of Brexit.  Thus, it’s vital for businesses to plan for a No-Deal Brexit where only temporary provisions will exist between the UK and EU.  However, reports show that the UK is still not prepared for a No-Deal Brexit in October.

For aircraft design and maintenance and pilots and cabin crew, there may be no sustained mutual recognition between the EU and the UK for aviation licences, approvals and certificates.  In addition, the UK will no longer benefit from EU Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs).

Mounting concerns are being voiced about the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit and the subsequent impact on aviation and the traveling public.  To date, Conservative and Labour Party leaders would rather sweep such concerns under the carpet.

The online help from the UK Government, the European Commission (EC) and on the CAA and EASA Brexit microsites remain the best available information.

[1] https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/japanese-warning-over-fallout-hard-brexit-not-idle-threat


Aviation & Brexit 86

A new Conservative Party leader should be named on Tuesday, 23 July and then appointed UK Prime Minister (PM) one day later.  That’s only if the Government’s majority in the UK Parliament hasn’t crumbled.  Then the House of Commons (HoC) summer recess begins one day after[1].  The HoC returns on Tuesday, 3 September just before the political Party conference season gets started.  So, the idea that there’s time to apply Article 50 and negotiate a new deal with the European Union (EU) before the 31 October exit day is pure fantasy.  If there was unity, harmony and a convergence of positions then a small chance exists.  None of those three words can reasonably be used to describe the situation.

A lot of political talk still centres around the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and peculiar notions that it might be easier to get a deal with over 160 Countries than it is to deal with 27 Countries.  The WTO framework doesn’t cover key aspects of the UK economy, like: Aviation, Medicine, Export Licencing and Digital Data.  Often expressed as a sign of more “Unicorns”, frustration continues to grow amongst those who have gained a smattering of knowledge after 3-years of this merry-go-around.  As a result of all the nonsense spoken, there’s little doubt that Brexit is damaging the UK’s reputation as a good place to do business.

If Boris Johnson enters Number 10, Downing Street as PM then he could discard his firm promise to leave the EU, come what may on 31 October only then to see his Government fall.  Thus, the strong likelihood of a “No Deal” outcome with no implementation/transition period is looming.  Without a formal withdrawal agreement there’s only the temporary contingency measures that both the EU and UK[2] have published so far.   I’ve written about this in my Blog 61, 71 and 74.

One area of significance is how this event will impact aerospace Design Organisations (DO) who are primarily based in the UK.  Approvals issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to a UK DO, before the exit date will remain valid for 9 months from the day after the 31 October. To provide continuity, UK DO’s are being encouraged to apply to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)[3] for a national approval in advance of the exit day.  One small silver lining is that the UK CAA will not charge an up-front fee for issuing these approvals, provided the scope is the same as the EASA approval and no technical investigation is required.  After that a fee is changed for surveillance of the DO approval under a published scheme of charges.

This is one subject area amongst a large number, across many industries.  Yes, Brexit is a magnificent way to create extra bureaucracy and we will all end up paying for it in the long run.

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/about/faqs/house-of-commons-faqs/business-faq-page/recess-dates/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prepare-to-work-and-operate-in-the-european-aviation-sector-after-brexit

[3] https://info.caa.co.uk/eu-exit/aerospace-design-organisations/

Aviation & Brexit 84

Of all the political cartoons now on display, one of the best shows a British red bus at the bottom of a ravine[1].   Having sailed off the top, and into a deep gorge it’s resting, all crumpled at the bottom.  Out of a front window is a speech bubble with the words: “I think we need to change the driver”.  That nicely sums up the UK’s predicament.  No attempt to recover the bus’s situation as the obsession is to find a new driver.  Thus, I struggle to know what to write.  Or at least, what to write that is not part of the echo chamber centred on who is be the next UK Prime Minister.  However, the message is clear; very few of the intractable problems they we face have changed in the last 3-months.   By the way, there are an enormous number of uncomplimentary Brexit cartoons that feature big red buses.

It was a year ago the UK Government published some slides called the: ‘Framework for the future UK-EU partnership[2]‘ for transport.   I must take it that these slides remain applicable.  That means the UK wishes to continue to explore possible terms for participation in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

I have just come back from attending the 2019 EASA – FAA International Aviation Safety Conference in Cologne, Germany.   More than 350 participants from all over the globe converged on Cologne for the 3-day event.   I think there was about 40 Countries represented.   The Countries of Europe, and the rest of the world, have a permanent common interest in civil aviation safety.   Recent events have focused minds on that ever-present challenge as yearly passenger numbers reach 4.6 billon[3].

In the time that EASA has been around, that’s 15-years, the number of scheduled passengers handled by the global airline industry has increased in all but one year.   That’s enough to concentrate anyone’s mind about safety but it also raises many questions about the environment and aviation security.

What I’m going to say now is entirely predicable and consistent with everything I’ve written so far.  Working together in this region of the globe makes huge sense.  No one Country is going to sort out safety, security and environmental challenges by themselves.  In fact, if we can’t make good progress here in Europe it would seem doubtful that we could make progress in any world region.

At the start of what’s a new session for the European Parliament, I hope that enough politicians are motivated to burst out of the negative impasse that trouble us all.  There’s a leadership role for Europe.  It only needs the will to take it.

“Good planets are hard to come by. Please think of our environment before you print this Blog.”

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

[2] https://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/About-us/EU-exit/

[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/564717/airline-industry-passenger-traffic-globally/


Brexit & Aviation 76

History gives us a context within which to set current events.  Rooting through some boxes, I came across a copy a UK CAA Safety Regulation Group in-house publication called “Aviation Standard” dated March 1991.  I kept it because it had a picture of me as a newly joined young airworthiness surveyor.  At the time the aviation industry was suffering the effects of recession and the Gulf War.  Pressure was on to keep fees and charges low but not to let up on essential safety activities.

What’s interesting is that 28 years ago the news was that the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) Headquarters was to move from London Gatwick to Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam Schiphol.  The 18 JAA Countries had decided to move from sharing office space with the UK CAA at London Gatwick to a new building in the Netherlands.

The staff newspaper had a large page describing the work of the CAA’s Systems and Equipment Department.  At that time, the department that I joined had 22 specialist design surveyors and supporting admin staff.  There were 5 technical specialist sections, addressing hydromechanical, cabin safety and environmental systems, power plant installation and fuel systems, and electrical and avionics.   This department covered all types of aircraft large and small, helicopters, airships and even hovercraft.

Contrary to the belief of some people, The UK has played a major part in shaping how aviation safety regulation developed in Europe.  What we have is as the result of concerted efforts over more than a generation.  It saddens me greatly to think that we are in the process of trying to dismantle that achievement.  An achievement that is recognised worldwide.

Back to the current challenge of Brexit and how it’s being exacerbated by political indecision and pure folly.  New Aviation Safety legislation has passed into European law ready to come into force if there’s a No-Deal Brexit.   The effects of this law are to create a breathing space so that companies can re-establish the approvals they need to operate.

Also, a new UK Aviation Safety Statutory Instrument (SI) was passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and published as UK law.

The UK industry group; ADS has published a useful summary that is available on their website[1].  No doubt this will be updated as we discover if the planned leaving date of either 12 April 2019 or 22 May 2019 is to happen, or Brexit gets cancelled or delayed again.  Whatever UK Parliamentarian do it doesn’t seem the No-Deal Brexit outcome has yet been killed off for sure.

[1] https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/blog/no-deal-brexit-and-the-state-of-preparatory-aviation-safety-legislation/


Brexit & Aviation 72

Last week, new implementing procedures agreed under a Bilateral Air Safety Agreement (BASA)[1] between the UK and US, were discussed with the aerospace and aviation industry at the Embassy of the United States in London[2].

In the event of a No-Deal Brexit the UK would not be able to continue to participate in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulatory system.  However, the UK is saying that design validation processes will be “similar” to those implemented under the existing EU-US bilateral agreement.   Also, there will be continued acceptance by the UK and US of each other’s aviation maintenance approvals.

The UK is working on other bilateral safety arrangements with the aviation authorities in Canada and Brazil.  These are the major aircraft manufacturing countries that have a long history of cooperation on aircraft certification and maintenance.  The international Maintenance and Certification Management Teams (MMT/CMT), both of which consist of representatives from the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC), EASA, the US FAA and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), are taking steps to mutually recognise each others approved organisations.

The UK Government has published updated guidance for the aerospace sector and is preparing for EU Exit[3].  Clearly more import-export agents are going to be needed in the coming years.  Everyone is preparing for the commercial impacts on all the sectors of the aviation industry.   The political and economic uncertainty continues to be unsettling.

Despite all the preparations that have been made, the EU’s European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has warned that a No-Deal Brexit could “jeopardise” aviation safety standards[4].  That said, current No-Deal Brexit proposals are just temporary solutions.  Only a comprehensive EU-UK agreement will ensure the seamless air connectivity air travelers have come to expect.


[1] https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/uk-and-usa-sign-safety-accord-to-apply-in-event-of-n-456652/

[2] https://www.caa.co.uk/News/UK-signs-post-EU-exit-air-safety-agreements-with-USA/

[3] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-aerospace-sector-and-preparing-for-eu-exit?

[4] https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/news/no-deal-brexit-could-‘jeopardise’-eu-aviation-safety-standards

Brexit & Aviation 68

Steve Bell is an acquired taste.  His cartoons are topical but sharp political satire.   I framed a cartoon of his years ago.  It cruelly depicted the endless march of Liberal Democracy.  The way I remember it was seeing lots of important characters striding purposefully on a staircase that looked like a Möbius strip.   Going round and around.  The cutting point being that lots of energy and industrious activity was going nowhere.

This week has been just like that cartoon depiction but for Conservatives and Labour Party’s.  Walk outs, important meetings, speeches and a flurry of activity but there has been little real progress towards a practical Brexit endgame.  Who would go into a room negotiating and beat yourself up in front of the party across the table?

Now, opening on March 14th is the chance that the UK House of Commons could send UK Prime Minister May back to the EU to request an extension to the Article 50 process.   Even so, it’s not clear what that extra time would be used for even if it was agreed by the EU Member States.

The European Parliament (EP) has 4 plenary sessions when it can ratify the UK Withdrawal Agreement before European elections in late May this year.  If this is not approved at one of those EP sessions, it’s unlikely to be voted on until after the Summer.  An Article 50 extension beyond the end of June 2019 suggest that the UK should take part in European Parliament elections[1].  A mix of interrelated events will always make this last-minute change complex but not impossible.

Extra time would seem to be wise given where we are at this moment.  The latest UK Government publication on the implications for business and trade of a No-Deal exit on 29 March 2019, makes stark reading.  It’s written as a summary document and so detail is missing but the message is one of lack of preparedness (no mention of aviation).  With the votes in the UK Parliament delayed there’s little notice for businesses, employees, investors and communities on what may be the biggest economic and trading change they face in a lifetime.

In aviation, people are moving their approvals and licences to other States.   For example, UK licenced engineers are looking to transfer their UK licences to an EASA Member State.  Not everyone will need to do this and there’s no doubt that a UK license will remain of value around the world.

In addition, some provisions are being made to soften the extremes of an abrupt UK withdrawal, but the effects of a No Deal Brexit will be penalising[2][3].  A so-called World Trade Organisation (WTO) No-Deal Brexit doesn’t exist for civil aviation.

[1] European Parliament elections will begin on 23 May and end on 26 May 2019.

[2] https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/our-work/opinions-information-reports/opinions/aviation-safety-after-brexit

[3] https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/blog/eu-aviation-safety-regulation-for-a-no-deal-brexit/?ref=upflow.co


Brexit & Aviation 60

Delay is the order of the day.  Now, there’s only 56 days remaining on the Brexit clock.  859 days since this all started with a June day.  One silver lining to the current dark Brexit cloud is that the UK Parliament is saying it won’t support a No-Deal Brexit.  However, there’s nothing to relieve the uncertainty hanging over the whole UK because even this expression of view is being ignored by the UK Government.  The UK Government says it will now redouble its efforts to get a deal.  Let’s hope redoubling is enough or surely it would be wiser to drop the whole project.

EU Council President Tusk, through his spokesman repeated that the Withdrawal Agreement on the table could not be renegotiated.   Next, the 9th February will see Prime Minister May’s 3rd attempt at a version of a Brexit deal supported by the UK Parliament.  Will it be 3 strikes and you are out?

In the latest information to UK citizens travelling to EU Member States every aspect of the advice is a degradation of exiting conditions.  Travelling post-Brexit, there’s only a downside for both passengers and airlines[1].

If No-Deal comes about there’s some highly optimistic commentators who believe that a “side agreement” between the EU and UK could cover some of the purely administrative content of the existing Withdrawal Agreement.  That said, even with this practical suggestion absolutely nothing is assured.

In the aviation regulatory world, it’s reported that the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in the process of rebuilding itself after scalling back following the creation of EASA in September 2003.  The UK CAA has said it wants to stay within the EASA system after the UK exits the EU.  However, this possibility is looking unlikly for all the political reasons that are piling up every day.  The UK’s exit from the EU will have a severe impact on the UK aviation industry.

In civil aviation, large organisations have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP).   International standards recommend planning.  It’s normal, once a plan is in place to conduct an exercise to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of its process and it stands up to rigorous testing.   I’ve been part of several such exercises in Europe.  My experience is that even with the most elegant plan, carefully prepared, the real-life impact of using it is often incredibly revealing.  Situations are constantly evolving, and all parties must move rapidly in order to anticipate risks and adapt accordingly.  Often communication and behaviours turn out differently than expected.

Yes, on both sides preparations are being made for the worst case No-Deal scenario, but they will all be untested.  If more than one crisis occurs at any one time more than double the effort is needed to resolve the situation.   The implementation of any such No Deal plan will not be a matter for one organisation but a continent of 500 million people.   If anyone thinks that will go smoothly, I just have to say that they have no experience of the real world.

[1] https://www.aerosociety.com/news/no-deal-no-flights/

Brexit & Aviation 58

I must confess that I never thought that the situation would become as bad.  To a limited extent, it hasn’t yet got that far – yet.  Some have taken the view that a No Deal Brexit is off the table and exits only as a scary story to push discussions forward.  The problem is that this view is optimistic when considering the performance of the negotiating parties over the last couple of years.

The cold facts are that preparations for a No Deal Brexit outcome are being stepped-up.  Radical Leave supporters are celebrating the prospect of a No Deal Brexit.  This is done without any consideration of the consequences of such an irresponsible approach.

After the failed vote of this week we now have an elaborate lobbying exercise going on, but I don’t see compromise coming out of any cross-Party talks in Westminster.   It’s highly probably that the UK will be a “third country” without any extant arrangements or deals from 30 March 2019, 00:00h (CET).  With 70 days to go this is a tragic situation.

There’s an opportunity on this coming Monday for the UK Prime Minister to turn this around.  But it would mean removing “red lines” that have so constrained discussions.

In the airworthiness world the impact of a No Deal Brexit is being spelt out[1].  There’s no precedent for this situation.

EASA certificate for products, parts and appliances issued to holders in the UK will no longer be considered as certified in accordance with EU rules.

Certificates issued, before the withdrawal date by the UK CAA, in accordance with EU rules will no longer be valid.  Over night, UK engineers would lose the right to sign off EU aircraft.

There’s more that impacts aircraft operations.   I imagine this will prompt a stream of people and organisations contacting EASA to find out what can be done.  None of this work is productive.  None of this work will enhance aviation safety.  None of it would be needed if a comprehensive agreement is forged or Brexit is abandoned.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/notice_to_stakeholders_brexit_aviation_safety_rev1_final.pdf


Brexit & Aviation 57

It’s reported that the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said: “There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.[1]

I’m sure that those words would be echoed by a great number of people in the aviation sector.

A defeat of 230 votes is massive.  MPs have rejected the Prime Minister’s proposals by the biggest UK Government defeat in modern history.  That ought to be a signal to change direction but we have yet to see if a new approach will be forthcoming.

Beyond the political hoo-ha there’s the need to act.  A great deal of implementing legislation needs to be passed through the UK Parliament, whatever the destination.  Naturally, this is needed if the Article 50 letter is not withdrawn and the whole Brexit process stopped.

The European Union (EU) continues to flourish despite having faced innumerable hard problems thrown at it over many decades.  This is not Greenland[2], this is a large and prosperous Country giving up its membership of the EU.  Thus, the avoidance of the loose-loose scenario, of a No Deal Brexit should be at the top of everyone’s priority list.  Meanwhile large sums of money, that could have been used growing European businesses are being pumped into contingencies.

If this Withdraw Agreement (WA) is not acceptable as it stands then it may return as WA2 but don’t expect that to be substantially different from what’s already on the table.  Alternatively, there could be public vote to consider the options.

The e-mail subscriptions to “SkyWise[3]” is useful to stay up-to-date with news, safety alerts, consultations, rule changes and airspace amendments from the UK CAA.  The site has a section for EU exit alerts.

There is useful material out there, but it indicates a poor state of readiness given all the caveats and unknowns that exist.  Just as business leaders are warning, the UK is like a super-tanker heading for the rocks.   72 days isn’t long to put that right.

[1] https://news.sky.com/story/growing-anger-frustration-and-impatience-from-businesses-over-brexit-11608581

[2] https://www.politico.eu/article/greenland-exit-warning-to-britain-brexit-eu-referendum-europe-vote-news-denmark/

[3] http://skywise.caa.co.uk/category/eu-exit/



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.

[1] https://www.internationalairportreview.com/article/75237/brexit-and-aviation/


[2] https://www.iata.org/policy/consumer-pax-rights/Pages/brexit-study.aspx


[3] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/european-common-aviation-area-brexit?gclid=Cj0KCQiAg_HhBRDNARIsAGHLV53iNpXElpsIy2vuN9a9jRIYGMWjwTEZ7Slm5UDYXZQqeRMgkMpaUcgaAhxqEALw_wcB