Memorandum submitted by The British Air
Line Pilots Association
The British Air Line Pilots' Association (BALPA)
is the Professional Association and trade union for over 8,200
UK commercial pilots. We represent pilots in every sector of the
industry ranging from network airlines to North Sea helicopter
Our members constantly interface with the CAA;
and the evidence that follows draws heavily on their experiences.
As part of this exercise we have consulted across our membership
as best as we are able in the time available; liaised with BALPA
representatives in the 26 operators where we are recognised and
closely involved the experienced pilots who comprise the various
BALPA technical study groups.
The general views that emerge are:
that we are fortunate to have the
CAA, it is an example that others should aspire to;
but that there is growing concern
that the operators, who fund the Authority, have a dominant voice;
that the Authority is serving too
many masters, the primary safety role is suffering and the time
is ripe for it to shed some of its economic regulatory functions;
that it is overseeing a drift into
the flags of convenience that bedevils our merchant fleet; and
it should play a more proactive role
tackling the no-mans land of
cross border operators; and
stimulating debate on future
growth issues, such as pilot labour supply and health issues.
1.1 The CAA has an excellent reputation
internationally as a regulator, and has historically been at the
forefront of the development of civil aviation regulation. This
is down to the UK's primacy as an aviation nation and to the cross
party consensus that the CAA should remain primarily as an independent
and effective safety and industry regulator.
1.2 There is a belief that the Authority's
remit has become over-extended with it having an increasing oversight
for economic regulation generally and attention to micro economic
decisions such as price-capping and the awarding of route rights.
Arguably the need to focus on these areas of its remit has lead
to a dilution of focus on its core role as a safety and standards
1.3 It is possible that the CAA's need to
straddle every industry issue has led to the neglect of a more
proactive and dynamic approach to safety regulation which would
have kept pace with changes in the industry. As key aviation stakeholders
and professional employees it is the perception of many pilots
that the Authority has neglected its role as safety policeman
for that of an industry facilitator.
CAA IN RELATION
2.1 That said, the CAA performs well in
defending safety and safety standards in a difficult commercial
environment where there is a growing tendency of corporate behaviour
to be commercially rather than safety driven. The Authority oversees
the safety licencing, registration and certification of UK operators
and employs capable and experienced people to do so. It also audits
the financial health and economic viability of UK licensed airlines,
and ensures compliance with EU standards and instructions where
2.2 But it is performing less well in developing
a credible and consistent procedure for dealing with airlines
whose country of registration is outside the UK, and who exist
in a regulatory twilight zone between different jurisdictions
and have become increasingly expert in exploiting differences.
Nor, we would argue, has it drilled down" into the day to
day operational practices of some operators who are suspected
of violating regulations or engaged enough with other relevant
and qualified stakeholders.
The UK CAA is considered by BALPA to rank amongst
the safest regulators in the world, but this comes at a cost,
passed onto the users who are then at a commercial disadvantage
to their European competitors. Funding of the CAA should be from
cental Government in line with other European states, and should
be firmy based on a non profit approach (BALPA Flight Safety Group).
3.1 The CAA manages to dovetail safety and
economic regulation to a reasonable degree, from the point of
view of industry growth/expansion and stability, but is reaching
the limit of it organisational ability to juggle both adequately.
The CAA has developed a sound expertise in regulating safety and
this should remain its core competence. However, we feel that
the Authority focuses too much on its role as facilitator of the
industry. Quite often in its correspondence the CAA conflates
the interest of operators and consumers as one and the same. We
believe this is a dangerous assumption and that consumers are
as interested in the accountability of operators and other players
as they are in cheap fares and greater access.
CAA IN THE
The CAA are far too operator led, in almost
all instances on FTL changes they side with the industry when
it wants to make changes that increase fatigue. We unfortunately
have seen several instances of this at (company name) over the
last eight months. The CAA are not willing to include the pilot
workforce as a stakeholder in negotiations over changes. There
is an inherent conflict of interests when a regulator is also
charged with the promotion of UK aviation as a commercial concern
(a BALPA Company Council).
4.1 The CAA employs capable and experienced
individuals to oversee its main areas of expertise, especially
in air and ground safety and engineering. It works reasonably
well with the industry to introduce and implement change and innovation
and provides safe and efficient limits for crew scheduling to
minimise fatigue, if not always adequately enforcing these. It
provides a credible scientific lead on some aero-medical issues
notably pilot ageing and health in contrast to the discredited
politically influenced approach of other regulators. As we outline
below we believe its has been deficient in dealing with the specific
problem of cabin air quality.
4.2 But in other areas the CAA performs
less well. Inspection and oversight of individual operators can
be patchy, meaning that some operators can game" the regulations,
and often escape the minima laid down by the CAA. Often the Authority
does not make the best use of the latest techniques and methodologies
for assessing safety and regulation. Techniques such as auditing
templates for safety and fatigue as predictors of problems are
a case in point. The CAA is also guilty of being too reactive
and relying on paper records, failing to triangulate and verify
its information sources. Its consultative groups such as the Fixed
Wing Advisory Group (FWAG) tend to be dominated by operator concerns
and there is a general perception that employers are paying the
bills" so can call the tune. The approach to other stakeholders
feels very much one of consultation rather than active engagement.
4.3 And, on the issue of fatigue risk assessment
where we have sound flight duty limits, we have found poor enforcement
in some critical areas. We would suggest that when changes are
proposed to Flight Duty Limitations, (a direct safety issue),
then BALPA, as the principal stakeholder for pilots, should be
4.4 Turning to the sensitive issue of wet
leasing and the relevant rules (EU 4097/92) which stipulate that
such leasing should be undertaken only for temporary need or in
exceptional circumstances", it is our view that the Authority
is too laissez faire and is leading the UK into the same flag
of convenience syndrome that so bedevils our merchant fleet.
5.1 The Authority is at a crossroads as
it contemplates a diminished role within domestic safety regulation
and the handing over of authority for registration, licensing
and a large degree of safety oversight to the emerging EASA. How
we handle this transition is critical, and we do not believe it
has received the governmental attention and support it deserves.
5.2 We welcome the concept of a level playing
field across Europe and believe that EASA should champion industry
safety standards and certification holding member states accountable.
However it is far from being equipped with either the staff or
resources to do this effectively. And whilst we have expressed
concerns about the CAA's role and remit, it is head and shoulders
above that of some of its European comparators. The CAA is best
placed to spread good practice within the EASA network and it
would be a mistake for Government to conclude that as some of
the remit of CAA is passed to EASA that the Authority should be
slimmed down. We think there is an opportunity for the Authority
to re-focus and re-dedicate itself to its primary safety and standards
role, to provide a professional resource to EASA and to act as
5.3 One consequence of open aviation within
the EU is that whilst the majority of operators play by the rules
and to the letter others skirt regulations, and seek to exploit
differences between regulatory jurisdictions (see point 2.2 above).
We believe that the CAA has largely failed to take such operators
to task for two main reasons. Firstly, its systems and methodologies
of safety oversight are outdated and encourage a box ticking approach
to compliance and encourage an inspection regime which is reactive
and easily managed by the unscrupulous. Secondly, it fails to
use its reputation and strength as a regulator to mentor other
regulators in their approach, and to educate them in the primacy
of their safety role. As a result some other jurisdictions have
adopted a focus on the commercial viability of the industry and
in doing so have taken a lead from the CAA.
5.4 Security is another area where we feel
the CAA has been insufficiently bold in challenging the unrealistic
policies of other jurisdictions, and where the burden on operators
and employees has risen to no great effect.
Health and Safety: A Major Omission?
6.1 The Authority has always exhibited a
blind spot when it comes to the safety and health of onboard aviation
personnel. Arguably this was influenced as much by the confused
sectoral approach of the HSE, as by any deliberate disregard for
occupational heath and safety. Whatever its consequences, this
omission in promoting an agenda of occupational health and safety,
has left a major gap which has only began to be addressed. The
CAA can, and should, require operators to afford adequate time
off to allow Health and Safety representatives adequate paid time
off to address their tasks.
To operate its Heath and Safety remit effectively
the Authority needs to provide specialised resource that it currently
does not possess and it needs to tap more into the accumulated
experience of HSE inspectors as an interim measure.
Aircraft Environment and Toxic Fume Events: A
6.2 Nowhere has its Health and Safety failing
for the aviation workforce been more apparent than in the area
of cabin air quality. One of the CAA's primary roles is to ensure
that general aviation activities meet required safety standards,
eg it scrutinises any occurrences which have possible safety implications
(ie might lead to incapacitation). Historically, it has not considered
its responsibility to extend to events leading to some form of
impairment in crews, or the short and long term medical effects
related to exposure to contaminated air. This should be a responsibility
of the CAA as safety regulator.
Under section 7 (1A) of the CAA Aviation Health
Bill the Secretary of State is to be responsible for organising,
carrying out and encouraging measures for safeguarding the health
of persons on board aircraft".
On cabin air quality, arguably a significant
health risk the Authority has to date conducted only a limited
survey based on flawed methodology. This survey was not, in the
normal manner of scientific/technical papers, peer reviewed."
Nor has the Authority implemented a credible research programme
for determining the origin and effects of intoxication on both
crew and passengers in the short and long term. We believe this
reluctance is due to its conflicted role, and that this issue
has to be addressed in the interest of health and safety. The
Authority should develop a research agenda to provide expert advice
to those affected, by closely co-operating with other leading
regulators such as the US Federal Aviation Administration.
6.3 Pilot Training: A Missed Opportunity?
Airline pilot training is amongst the most expensive
occupational training undertaken. Yet its is treated like a hobby.
There is no tax relief, or soft loans and no initiative from government,
in contrast to other nations. As a result UK airlines face a diminishing
pool of qualified and type rated pilots. With pilot training costing
£50-70,000, the pool of potential recruits is diminishing
and some are concerned about the quality therein. The CAA as a
safety and standards regulator should have an interest in the
quality of pilot training. It should at the very least help to
plan and predict future pilot requirements and should act to encourage
training effort. BALPA is happy to work with the Authority on
this. One additional concern in terms of pilot training is the
continuing curtailment of general aviation. GA is where pilots
learn to fly and exercise their professional skills. GA and business
aviation are growing areas and we have to safeguard its place
in the industry. Pilot training is one crucial aspect of this.
7.1 BALPA believes in the CAA as an effective
safety and standards regulator. However, as it is currently constituted,
it has become conflicted by its dual role as safety and economic
regulator for the airline industry. And although providing an
excellent template for safety and standards it has not, because
of resource constraints, been able to enforce these as effectively
as it should. As a result it has missed some pivotal issues affecting
the industry, and has failed to take forward agendas such as health
7.2 The CAA is we believe, overburdened
with economic and commercial tasks, many of which conflict with
its goal as safety and industry standards regulator. In addition
it should be responsible for overseeing the safety aspects of
air traffic control. But does it have to oversee the economic
and commercial activities of the industry? In our view many of
its economic functions, such as determining the price cap regime
for user charges and for airports, conflicts with and even deflects
the CAA from its core purpose as a safety and standards regulator.
7.3 As a result there is a case for the
CAA role to be redefined as a safety and standards regulator with
the addition of a distinct health and safety remit. To do so it
must retain and even supplement its staff strength. The CAA should
be re-constituted as a Not for Profit concern, with an appropriate
funding source derived from Central Government, and supplemented
by chargeable services to operators.
7.4 The economic and commercial activities
of the CAA should be hived off into a newly established Transport
Economic Regulator, dealing with all issues of transport market
access, pricing and economic regulation. This would bring in the
disparate rail regulators and also those overseeing bus services,
as well as the emerging road pricing initiatives. The pooled expertise
and shared experience would be vital to a truly integrated transport
7.5 The Aviation Health unit should be refocused
on investigating health issues which affect staff and public.
It should develop its own research agenda and providing expert
advice to those affected. It should act independent of all stakeholders
and be primarily concerned with prevention. Its expertise needs
to be supplemented to deal with the issues such as cabin air quality,
DVT, radiation exposure etc. The UK AHU could provide a lead to
other EU nations.
14 November 2005