Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Association of Licensed Aircraft Engineers

  I would wish to reply to your Press Release 09/2005-06 dated 13 October 2005 which deals with an enquiry into the remit and work of the Civil Aviation Authority. I represent the Association of Licensed Aircraft Engineers (1981) of which I am the Vice Chairman. Our Association is an independent trade union, recognised by the Certification Officer.

  As Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAME) we only use a part of the CAA, as I suspect do most of those who use its services and pay its charges. The areas we use are:

  1.  The regulatory processes that deal with the maintenance of aircraft, control of the maintenance of aircraft and control of the maintenance organisations under EASA Part 145.

  2.  Training Establishments under EASA Part 147.

  3.  The issuing of EASA Part 66 licence requirements.

  4.  Regional and central CAA Surveyors

  5.  Charges levied against the civil aviation industry.

  Our reply will be centred around the above five sub headings contained within the requirements of Part M as promulgated by EASA. As can be readily seen, in our particular case, EASA is the regulator and the UK CAA are sub contracted by EASA to carry out certain regulatory duties on their behalf. It would appear to us that apart from Annex 2 aircraft the task of safety regulation falls upon EASA and EASA uses National Authorities (ours is the UK CAA) to ensure the dictates of EASA are carried out; almost a master and servant situation. In our opinion it is this change of direction from being a stand alone Authority, as envisaged at the time of the CAA's inception in 1972 to that of a Competent National Authority under the control of the EU commissioners and the EU parliament as is the present situation, that does need an inquiry as to what the remit of the UK CAA should be and is it capable of fulfilling that remit?

  (EC) No 2042/2003 which deals with continuing airworthiness of aircraft and aeronautical products, parts and appliances and on the approval of organisations and personnel involved in these tasks.

  (EC) 1592/2002 which established EASA and set up common rules in the field of civil aviation.

  (EC)No 488/2005 on the fees and charges levied by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

  It is imperative that a competent Authority is maintained within the UK to carry out the work required of such an organisation as ordered by Regulation Document (EC) No 2042/2003. It will also be a requirement of the UK parliament and incumbent government to ensure that a body recognised by the government is in place to administer the Air Navigation Order on the government's and parliament's behalf.

  You give a list of issues that your Committee will wish to look at during the enquiry. The following are our opinion on them.

  Your first point is concerned with: The remit, structure and powers of the CAA".

  The remit of the CAA, in our opinion, has changed considerably since the inception of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Safety Regulation is now in the hands of the Commissioners and ultimately the European Parliament and the EU judiciary. Our CAA is now in place to ensure that the rules and regulations coming from EASA are complied with. No more do they make those regulations or rules, they only abide by those issued by a European Agency and ensure that those regulations are obeyed by those organisations and personnel to whom they apply. Even though the remit may have changed we still need the CAA (or something similar) to carry out the safety regulations delegated to it by EASA. It will certainly need the powers that it presently holds to ensure that it may enforce the EASA requirements as spelled out in Part M of (EC) No 2042/2003.We also have to remember that annex 2 aircraft (ie those aircraft that are not controlled by the EASA) will need a regulatory authority to ensure that they meet all the requirements and regulations spelled out by the present British Civil Airworthiness Requirements (BCAR) and the Air Navigation Order (ANO). In our opinion, due to the foregoing reasons, the only thing that requires a change is the remit. The present structure and powers must remain.

  If we look at our sub heading 4 which deals with central and regional surveyors of aircraft regulation and safety, then, in our opinion, it is likely that we would ask that this part of the National Authority (CAA) should be expanded somewhat, the reason why will be discussed when we look at its growing EU cooperation and general discharge of its duties.

  Your second point is: The performance of the CAA in relation to its statutory objectives and functions".

  The CAA carries these out, as far as aircraft maintenance and safety are concerned (the area we are concerned with) in an exemplary manner, it cannot be faulted on how it carries out its duties to the ANO, BCAR, and EASA. It sets an example to the rest of Europe as a fully compliant National Authority with EASA Safety Regulations that are spelled out in Section M and EC No 2042/2003.

  Your third point is: The effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA's regulatory framework".

  The regulatory framework is perfectly transparent via the CAP's and Airworthiness Notes. It is effective and was certainly efficient prior to EASA. We would need to look at the CAA's charges. As you are aware, our National Authority is one of the few authorities who charge for safety regulation, some member states meet the whole of safety regulation, others, part of the charges. The UK meets none of the safety regulation charges and the government requires the aviation industry to bear the regulator's costs which have to be set at a level which enables it to achieve a rate of return on capital employed, currently at 6%. The UK government's problem now is that EASA charges for its regulatory services, the services presently paid to the CAA. The Industry will need to see some movement in charges away from the UK CAA. It certainly will not pay twice. What you need to ask yourselves is who will pay the charges that the CAA needs to maintain its viability when EASA is duplicating the charges that industry must pay for safety regulation?

  Your fourth point is The effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA in the general discharge of its duties".

  We have few problems with those items as regarding LAME's but 90% of the time the CAA is efficient and effective. One of our problems is that the CAA can be seen as very autocratic. It does not like to be seen as wrong, but of late, as far as we are concerned, it does appear to be much more flexible in its approach to our queries, perhaps we put our point of view better? There are a few problems with the transferring of the BCAR licence to Part 66, but this is improving and in some cases can be laid on the customer who knows the deadline is coming but does nothing about it. We think efficiency could be improved if they, the CAA, would again divide the departments dealing with aircrew licensing and LAME licensing. This problem backed by a not very efficient electronic answering service means that contacting the personnel licensing departments can be very difficult indeed. This problem may look trivial to the reader but causes much frustration for the LAME.

  Your final point is perhaps the prime cause of worry as to the viability of the CAA and what of its future? Since it has to fund itself with charges garnered from the UK civil aviation industry to pay for regulation plus 6% return on capital, from where will the funding be obtained now that the UK civil aviation industry has to pay its charges to EASA at the rates set down in (EC) No 488/2005? From where will the money be obtained to keep the CAA in being? We have to have a competent authority EASA requires it of all member states, who will pay for it? In all honesty, you cannot expect the industry to support EASA and the CAA in its present form. Mr Patrick Goudou, the CEO of EASA, at a meeting held at the Royal Aeronautical Society (in early October) did suggest that the competent authorities of each member state would do work for EASA on a sub contract basis; it is doubtful that this sub contracted work would support the UK CAA in its present form. In fact it is a two edged sword, it cannot pay sub contract fees until it collects charges from the industry so that it may pay its staff, expected to be 300, and also the sub contract fees that cover work carried out by the competent National Authorities. I would also point out that, at the present moment, EASA charges are slightly less than those charged by the UK CAA.

  Whilst the foregoing would suggest that the present CAA should be considerably downsized in one particular instance we would suggest it does need to expand. This revolves around the general aviation section of the industry, in particular, the light aviation end. You are probably aware that there are more general aviation aircraft than there are commercial airliners operating within the UK on the UK register. A large number of light aircraft are privately owned or are used by flying clubs and light taxi services. A lot of the maintenance is carried out by very small maintenance companies, sometimes just one LAME. The current and proposed charges levied against such organisations by the CAA could see many of these small maintenance organisations reach financial failure. We are aware that some of the senior surveyors of the CAA are of the opinion that the light aviation LAME sells himself/herself short, citing that a BMW car mechanic's time is charged at three times that of a person certifying for safety of a light aircraft. That may be so, but the certifier can only charge what the customer is prepared to pay. The owner can transfer his maintenance to any maintenance organisation within EASA which gives a lower quote, all maintenance organisations now meet the same regulations, a scenario that will be exploited by some customers at the expense of the UK LAME. In the proposed charges 2005-06 the CAA is proposing that the cross subsidy of General Aviation by the aircraft operator with aircraft above 15 tonnes will eventually cease. In other words, GA will pay the going rate for regulation to meet the CAA charges. It will be phased in, but again, the GA industry can only charge what its customers are prepared to pay. We need to be aware that annex 2 aircraft will always meet the CAA charges; the majority of these will be below 15 tonnes and privately owned a prime example for other foreign Competent Authorities to carry out their maintenance.

  We have suggested that the CAA should look at self regulation" for general aviation, but by using regional CAA offices keep an oversight on the maintenance organisations on their territory which we believe would lower charges. Devolvement was suggested as a possible means forward, but to do this would require more surveyors at regional level. The CAA says general aviation charges are under review and we hope to move the case for lower charges for some of general aviation when the review takes place. We believe that such a move is of the utmost importance to general aviation and our members.

  In conclusion, it is difficult to envisage what the CAA does as a whole because so many of us only use one part of what is available. We believe we know how the CAA deals with our five sub headings. On the whole we are reasonably satisfied with the points that you wish to investigate. We believe, that the CAA will have to downsize, unless the government picks up the tab. But providing the CAA is prepared to do something about devolving general aviation safety regulation, we would seek an expansion of regional surveyors. We are satisfied in the way that the CAA presently fulfils its role and its transparency in the civil aviation industry. Unfortunately, due to the acceptance of EASA it would appear that all National Authorities are subservient to Europe, this will inevitably lead to some modification of the CAA and ultimately lead to a much downsized Authority which will rely on what it can earn in sub contracted duties, regulation of annex 2 aircraft and possibly some UK government input into its coffers.

2 November 2005

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