Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-179)


11 JANUARY 2006

  Q160  Chairman: Mr Luxton, did you want to comment on that? You would not disagree with that presumably?

  Mr Luxton: No, I would not, I endorse those comments.

  Chairman: Mrs Ellman?

  Q161  Mrs Ellman: What are the problems that you see with EASA?

  Captain Granshaw: They have been described very eloquently by Sir Roy. It did have an unfortunate start. I think one thing that he was perhaps unable to say is that it is currently badly led. He may have just implied that. It is under-resourced, it is under-funded. It is the way to go and what we have to appeal to you and Government to do is to make sure that the resource is there and the funding is there.

  Q162  Chairman: Badly led in what sense? One person's general facing the wrong way could be somebody else's saviour.

  Captain Granshaw: Yes, I think it is becoming recognised generally, and I think Sir Roy suggested that whilst he and his team were a lone voice a year ago, they are not so now. Regulation is not even throughout Europe. There are very small numbers of experienced regulators and in places no regulators, but the major experienced regulators in Europe now have serious doubts about their capabilities. I think we all feel it is right to move in that direction but not to move ahead of their capabilities, which is clearly evident now, and the point that was made quite eloquently about stopping research before the other one is ready is clearly ridiculous.

  Q163  Mrs Ellman: What have been the most important reasons for moving in this direction?

  Captain Granshaw: I think we did it with the car some years ago. To produce a car and then have to have it tested in every European state is, frankly, a waste of time and money, and the same thing with aircraft type certificates and so on and so forth. If you can agree a single standard then one test for it should pass it across all of Europe. We are one body with one set of standards. As was explained, this has been going on for some time. It started with the design of Concorde which was an English/French arrangement through the JAA and there has been a lot of work that has been done quite successfully. The problem with the JAA is that it had no legal basis and the problem with EASA is that it is running ahead of its abilities. I have an additional problem with EASA and that is that one senses the CAA, if it is possible for an organisation to have one of these, does have a conscience. There is a sense of responsibility and accountability. I sense in EASA that if the rule book is written and the rule book is followed then that is as far as they feel they need to be accountable and there is no conscience that anybody I speak to is able to detect in EASA, and in safety I think that is an important omission.

  Q164  Mrs Ellman: You are saying that you are not opposed to the principle; it is how it is being done and how it is being run?

  Captain Granshaw: Absolutely.

  Mr Eagles: I would agree with that. EASA was formed with very little debate rather hurriedly and it is proving it as it is becoming more used. For instance, the top four levels of management of EASA are non-aviation people.

  Q165  Chairman: EASA?

  Mr Eagles: Yes.

  Q166  Chairman: Non-aviation people?

  Mr Eagles: Yes.

  Q167  Chairman: Do we know what they are, Mr Eagles?

  Mr Eagles: The head of it, M Goudou, came from the French defence industry, nothing to do with aviation, and I think now we can begin to see the problems that the CAA and we are having as well.

  Q168  Mrs Ellman: How big is the problem of CAA staff leaving in anticipation of the work that EASA is going to do?

  Captain Granshaw: That is a question best directed to them but certainly from our point of view attracting competent people into certain areas in the CAA has always been difficult. It is very difficult to find anyone from among my colleagues who fly. There are no market rates of pay so to attract experienced captains to go in to monitor the safety regulation has proved almost impossible. With this new dimension, frankly, it is way out of alignment. There are also educational restrictions and various other limitations that mean the right people who may have spent 25 years in the industry and have an enormous amount of experience are, because they may not have some particular tick in some particular box, not eligible to apply to EASA, so I think there are some fairly fundamental flaws in its structural and human resources requirements.

  Mr Eagles: If I can give an example there. If an engineer from the CAA wants a position within EASA, the EASA requirements are first of all a degree and secondly experience. Most European engineers have to have a degree before they can practise. We adopt a more practical approach in that our engineers are practical people.

  Q169  Chairman: You like them to know a bit about engineering?

  Mr Eagles: Yes.

  Q170  Chairman: Strange!

  Mr Eagles: They are more practical. To get a job within EASA the qualification is first of all a degree followed by so many years experience. Consequently our engineers from the CAA are at a disadvantage so we are not getting the people from the CAA into EASA that we would like.

  Q171  Mr Leech: Just on that point, so are you suggesting then that the best people—and I presume we have the best people in this country—may not be getting jobs purely because they do not have degrees?

  Mr Eagles: Yes.

  Q172  Chairman: There is no recognition of comparable engineering qualifications; is this what you are telling us?

  Mr Eagles: That is right, yes, it is only from the degree and from that time onwards does their practical experience count.

  Q173  Chairman: Oh, so you could be 30 years doing the job but if you have not got a degree or you worked for the Ecole Nationale then—?

  Mr Eagles: Yes, that is correct.

  Q174  Chairman: Has anybody pointed out that this is a mild form of discrimination?

  Mr Eagles: It is indeed, yes.

  Mr Luxton: If it helps, Chairman, we had a similar problem over the licensing of air traffic controllers. I know it is not specific to this inquiry but there the initial proposal was that every air traffic controller would need to have a degree whereas of course the requirement is more about practical aptitude and spatial awareness and attributes that are not related to academic qualifications.

  Chairman: I do not find it entirely surprising that Europe does not require any knowledge of the subject but I find it a little unusual and at least we could have made it clear that we did not think this was the way forward.

  Q175  Mrs Ellman: Is this issue being pursued by Prospect?

  Mr Luxton: Certainly in the example I gave we have pursued that successfully during the UK Government Consultation in terms of the European licensing and there is not the strict requirement now for the degree level in terms of the licensing arrangements that will be introduced shortly, but I thought it is relevant to this discussion.

  Q176  Mr Leech: If you have been successful, Mr Luxton, is there any likelihood, Mr Eagles, that you will be successful in terms of the engineers?

  Mr Eagles: Possibly. The main body of people is coming from the Civil Aviation Authority and I would think that they are going to push that idea forward.

  Q177  Mr Leech: So are you aware that the CAA is pursuing this?

  Mr Eagles: I know that they are aware of the problem. I do not know what action they are taking to pursue it.

  Q178  Mrs Ellman: BALPA have said that the CAA ignores aircraft crews' and cabin crews' health and safety requirements. What was the evidence for that?

  Captain Granshaw: It was news to me what was described earlier in evidence about research. There is very serious research underway with the FAA that we have appealed to the CAA to join in with and as far as I am aware they have resisted that. We have also appealed for support into research to collect better data, to collect better evidence, to better understand the issues. The facts are, of course, that the oils that run in a jet engine are extremely toxic and when engines are either poorly maintained or seals fail or other problems occur, which happens from time to time, it is that air that is bled off and you breathe as a passenger or crew member in the aeroplane, and some individuals when there are these episodic moments (and they are not that common but they are more common on some engine types and some aeroplanes) are seriously and permanently affected, but it is so episodic as to be difficult to track. The reports are probably not collated properly and it is our belief that we should be looking into this now.

  Q179  Mrs Ellman: You believe that this is a serious problem?

  Captain Granshaw: Yes. We have a number of members who have lost their medical licences and are unable to continue with their careers as a result, we believe, of organophosphate poisoning.

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