Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)|
11 JANUARY 2006
Q180 Mr Scott: From what you were
just saying would you agree that for an airline which is not registered
in Britain, as a number of budget airlines are not, if they came
within the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority that would
alleviate some of this problem you have just mentioned through
proper servicing of the aircraft?
Captain Granshaw: I think Sir
Roy did describe the problem with it, that altering the way we
currently regulate in that context would be like pulling the roots
Q181 Chairman: Is that not an IATA
Captain Granshaw: I am not sure
where the recommendation comes from but what I would say is that
not all regulation is the same. ICAO are the overall regulator
and it does conduct an audit and there are marks and measures
given, but we are aware that some of the airlineswe now
call them trans-national airlinesoperate in a regulatory
twilight zone and their choice of place of regulation is determined
more by the cost of that regulation and the chances of being stopped
by the regulator. It is far easier to be regulated over there
and then operate somewhere completely different. It is an area
that needs addressing. It would be ideal for us to be stronger
in that arena. I do not think it is possible in an aeroplane that
arrives into UK territory for half an hour or an hour, with the
best will in the world you could flood it with engineers but actually
could you get to the core of just how safe that airline is; the
answer is probably not. I think there was a definition that was
missing in European law which was principal place of business"
and I think that if your principal place of business is in the
UK or you have a significant place of business in the UK you probably
should be regulated in the UK. We have seen what happened with
the merchant fleets and flags of convenience. We are drifting
into that twilight zone.
Q182 Mr Goodwill: A question for
Mr Eagles really. Whilst reference has been made to airlines that
operate in many countries but are flagged out for reasons of convenience,
there are a number of emerging airlines flying from countries
that people had not heard of 10 years ago into the UK. Is it your
opinion that some of these airlines would fail inspections were
they to be based in the UK and subject to the rigorous regime
of inspection and engineering expertise that you can give flag
carriers in this country?
Mr Eagles: Yes, there are a number
of aeroplanes, and it applies also in general aviation, where
British owners of aircraft register their aircraft in, in particular,
the United States where because their National Airworthiness Authority
does not have to get its finance from the industry, in other words
the state pays, therefore the aircraft are operated cheaper, and
we have quite a lot of American-registered aeroplanesBahamian,
British Virgin Islandsjust operating on a flag of convenience.
Coming back to your other question
Q183 Chairman: Can I just you there
for a second, Mr Eagles, because Captain Granshaw made the important
point that we are drifting into this equivalent of flag of convenience.
Quite apart from the actual registration of the individual flights,
is there any individual check made by the CAA of the numbers of
times in which primary services are operated within the United
Kingdom for aircraft registered elsewhere?
Mr Eagles: I am not sure of this
but certainly British aeroplanes can be maintained in any European
state now and some of the emerging European Union States' maintenance
facilities are probably not as good as they should be.
Q184 Mr Goodwill: This is not anything
to do with the fact that their engineers are paid much less than
engineers in the United Kingdom? Is it a genuine safety issue
or a protectionist issue in connection with your members?
Mr Eagles: No, it is a genuine
safety issue. On the safety issue that was mentioned earlier on,
one of the problems we feel is that the CAA are not strong enough
in making British Airways or national carriers regulate their
maintenance. For instance, the licensed engineer was always present
at the departure of an airliner and that now has been withdrawn,
so that now for an aircraft of British Airways departing from
Gatwick or Heathrow there is not a licensed maintenance engineer
in attendance. One is available but he is not in attendance on
the ramp as we feel he should be. The Australians had a similar
problem and their union kicked up about it and managed to preserve
the licensed engineer on the ramp.
Q185 Mr Goodwill: Do you think there
is enough communication between engineers in new Member States
with regards to the blacklisting of certain airlines and do you
think the blacklisting system is too blunt a tool and it could
be refined in some way?
Mr Eagles: I think it is too blunt
a tool. I do not quite know its legality. Can we stop another
European state's engineering company looking after an aeroplane?
I do not think we can.
Mr Goodwill: I was thinking more in terms
of an airline from, say, an African country or a central European
country which has had concerns raised about it. There seems to
be no halfway house. Either nobody knows a thing about that airline
or all of a sudden they are blacklisted. How does that work in
that period between concerns being raised and that blacklisting?
Q186 Chairman: Do you know the Federal
Aviation Authority's methods of operation in relation to third
countries? Are you aware of way that the FAA discipline and control
third country aircraft and would you think that was a better system?
Mr Eagles: I would think it is,
Q187 Chairman: Captain Granshaw?
Captain Granshaw: Absolutely,
the blacklist is a very crude tool and will not actually solve
the core symptoms.
Q188 Clive Efford: Can I just follow
that up. Just enlighten me, what is the situation if a plane is
considered defective in any way? Presumably we have the authority
to ground it?
Mr Eagles: In our own country,
Q189 Clive Efford: So even if it
has been maintained elsewhere if it is not deemed safe it would
not be allowed to take off again if it landed in the UK?
Mr Eagles: It would be the Civil
Aviation Authority inspector.
Q190 Clive Efford: How effective
is that in maintaining standards even for aircraft that are not
maintained in the UK under the CAA's standards?
Mr Eagles: I do not think it occurs
very often but it is there and it does happen.
Q191 Clive Efford: In your opinion,
does it have an effect on other airlines that use the UK?
Mr Eagles: Yes.
Q192 Clive Efford: So in a sense
they are applying UK standards?
Mr Eagles: That is right. I believe
it makes them think twice about sending defective aeroplanes here.
Q193 Clive Efford: Can I move on
to staffing. Prospect has told us that there are unfilled professional
posts in the Air Traffic Services Investigation arm of the CAA
and has suggested that there are some key posts that have remained
unfilled because of the lower salaries that the CAA pay in comparison
to NATS. We asked questions about that earlier on. I do not know
if you heard the answers but we were told that that situation
is being resolved. Would you care to comment on that?
Mr Luxton: I can confirm that
as of today there are still 70 unfilled vacancies within the Civil
Aviation Authority as a whole. That was information I was given
as of this afternoon. The point we were making there about the
market rates is simply that there is a recognition that in order
to attract the people who are going to be regulating effectively
NATS on the air traffic side, you need to have very experienced
air traffic controllers coming in, obviously with that relevant
experience, and there is a widening of the gap between NATS' salaries
and those at the CAA. Whilst I would, modestly, like to put that
down to my negotiating skills on behalf of the air traffic controllers
in NATS but the fact is that we have not managed to maintain those
same salary levels within the CAA. The way we attempt to bridge
that gap is through market supplements and we have negotiated
with the Civil Aviation Authority on market supplements. Our issue
there is that we do not believe the CAA has sufficient resources
to plug the gaps that are needed to bridge those gaps in every
area and it does mean that they have recruitment campaigns that
fail to get the necessary people in that they require.
Q194 Clive Efford: Just so that is
clear because you have said in your evidence that within the past
18 months there have been two separate recruitment exercises which
failed to attract sufficient suitable candidates, leaving the
posts unfilled"; you are saying that is still the case?
Mr Luxton: That is still the case.
Clearly there is a lot of fluidity within that, that you get some
posts that have been filled but you get gaps elsewhere and then
other people leave, so you have got these constant gaps and it
is difficult for the CAA to staff up to their full cadre. Our
issue here is that it is important that they have the resources
and the market rates appropriate to get the right people in. Whether
it be the air traffic inspectors or the flight operations inspectors,
it is essential that we have the right salaries to attract the
best calibre of people for those roles.
Q195 Clive Efford: It is not a question
of there not being people out there with the appropriate skills;
it is a question purely of market forces not paying enough?
Mr Luxton: It is a market forces
Q196 Clive Efford: Is there an issueand
this is an open question to any of youabout the experience
with which people come to work for the CAA concerning over-reliance
on former military personnel rather than people with civilian
experience? Is that an issue at all?
Mr Luxton: We did not articulate
that in our evidence but there is certainly an undercurrent there,
a feeling that there is too much reliance on ex-RAF rather than
personnel with civil aviation experience.
Q197 Chairman: You heard the suggestion,
which we know is of course an accurate one, that they work alongside
your own traffic controllers, do they not?
Mr Luxton: Yes, they do.
Q198 Chairman: So why should there
be automatically, to be devil's advocate, a gap between their
knowledge of how the system works and your own controllers' knowledge
about the system? They may have different functions but they do
work alongside one another.
Mr Luxton: They do. Our concern
is that there is an over-loyalty towards the needs of the military
Q199 Chairman: So it is perceived.
You cannot necessarily demonstrate there is a problem; it is perceived?
Mr Luxton: That is fair comment.
It is the perception that there is not sufficient civil aviation