Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)


11 JANUARY 2006

  Q200  Chairman: Captain Granshaw wants to add something.

  Captain Granshaw: As a receiver of the service—and I have received both because one occasionally has to fly into military-controlled airports like Gibraltar and also the civil-controlled airports around the UK and worldwide—there is a very great difference between the demands and requirements placed upon a military air traffic controller and a civil air traffic controller and we in the UK are a very small island with a tremendous amount of congested airspace. It is great that they work together but I went to Swanwick Centre late last year for a tour round and it is not quite as together as you would imagine. It is not side-by-side together.

  Q201  Chairman: They do in some areas work on the same consoles, do they not?

  Captain Granshaw: In some areas, yes, but I would advocate that you draw from a broad spectrum, and the same applies to flight operations inspectors from aircrew, as there is a difference. There is a difference between somebody who can ride on a roller-skate and somebody who drives an HGV, although they may both have wheels on, and the same applies with aircraft.

  Q202  Chairman: That is an interesting definition!

  Mr Eagles: The engineering recruitment for the CAA is from engineers who have been involved with airlines mainly, and of course we have got the two fields, the airlines and general aviation, general aviation being all aviation other than commercial transport, and in consequence most of the CAA surveyors come from airlines and know very little about general aviation, light aeroplanes, small aeroplanes, so we have a problem and always have had that problem.

  Q203  Chairman: Did you hear Sir Roy, he rather indicated that although that might necessarily be true this was partly because of the difference in the volume of work. In other words, general aviation in this country would not constitute the bulk of the work done by those who were having to regulate its functions. Would you accept that or do you think that that is an overplay?

  Mr Eagles: There are far more general aviation aeroplanes that are regulated than there are airliners. If you add to this the CAA also regulate gliders and home builds through the various organisations, general aviation has a lot of aeroplanes.

  Q204  Clive Efford: Could the CAA's recruitment difficulties be eased by an increasing delegation of work to suitably qualified and experienced organisations or people?

  Mr Eagles: Yes, it could indeed, as they delegate the regulation of gliders to the British Gliding Association and the home builds to the Popular Flying Association.

  Q205  Chairman: Do you mind if we move on. Could I ask you very quickly about EASA, do you mind if we move on. Is it fit for purpose?

  Mr Luxton: I would say not. There is one issue that I think is of particular concern at the moment and that is the effect of no aviation research being done by the CAA.

  Q206  Chairman: You simply mentioned that in your evidence but you notice the suggestion was that, yes, this was true because they would not have any legal status in the matter after the transfer of responsibilities to EASA.

  Mr Luxton: I note that the CAA have undertaken now to give you a list of what research they are still undertaking but what I am arguing is that there are serious gaps developing now in the research. I will give one specific example. We did refer in our submission to research into offshore helicopter operations. That may not be a big priority for EASA because it is primarily something that occurs in the UK with our North Sea interests, but there is a considerable amount of research that the CAA had been doing in trying to get better protection for helicopter crews when their helicopters upturn in the strong winds and volatile conditions of the North Sea. A research programme that has recently been stopped was research that was developing techniques for the helicopter to flip sideways after ditching into the sea to allow people to escape rather than to flip upside down, as it does at the present time. It concerns me that what to me seems a very important area of research is now lost, fallen between the two stools of CAA and EASA.

  Q207  Chairman: Captain Granshaw, you said specifically you thought the CAA had got a blind sport on the health and safety of aircraft crews?

  Captain Granshaw: Yes.

  Q208  Chairman: What scientific evidence is there that would support that?

  Captain Granshaw: As I say, we do have some evidence which we are currently sharing.

  Q209  Chairman: You were not aware that the CAA were undertaking this inquiry or at least a preliminary examination?

  Captain Granshaw: Absolutely not, no. In fact, we believed that when we appealed to them to join in with the $2 million FAA research programme they actually said no to us.

  Q210  Chairman: How long ago was that?

  Captain Granshaw: In the last three months.

  Q211 Chairman: In the last three months?

  Captain Granshaw: Yes.

  Q212  Chairman: So it has been quite a rapid decision?

  Captain Granshaw: It is a very topical issue.

  Q213  Chairman: Can you explain to us when you are talking about the relationship between EASA and CAA as being almost a master servant situation" what you had in mind, Mr Eagles?

  Mr Eagles: Yes, the ultimate responsibility originally was the Civil Aviation Authority. EASA was brought about rather hurriedly and rashly. It now overrules the CAA and in fact EASA regulations overrule the Air Navigation Order which is a British statutory instrument, so already we have the situation where the CAA cannot move without the go-ahead of EASA, so EASA is the master and the CAA is the servant.

  Q214  Chairman: Prospect, have you got any evidence about the numbers of experienced people who are leaving because of the uncertainty because of this interregnum that we have been talking about?

  Mr Luxton: No specific figures. It is anecdotal from people who talk to me and convey feelings of colleagues.

  Q215  Chairman: So is the morale level low?

  Mr Luxton: The morale level is very low at the moment with all the uncertainty created with the transition to EASA. I think a lot of this is about transition. It seems to me that there has not been sufficient attention given to giving EASA its role and having it up and running and fit ready to take over its new roles. I think those are issues of leadership and direction and having the necessary resources in place. To put it into context, EASA has a staff of around 200; the Safety Regulation Group of the CAA has a staff of around 700. So there is a huge disparity and when the CAA are examining 10,000 separate safety-related incidents each year through their Safety Data Unit and analysing that data, that gives an indication of the size of the task to keep monitoring safety.

  Q216  Chairman: Have you any clear exposition of what the changes in staff numbers or the transfer of responsibilities or the access to European-wide facilities would be which would affect materially your staff?

  Mr Luxton: I have not no clear visibility of that but I do know that there is a lot of uncertainty now as to how it is all going to work in the future. As I say, I think these are very serious problems of transition. There is clearly a case for EASA in terms of having better co-ordination of safety across Europe, so the concept is not flawed; it is the way in which this organisation has been set up and, as I say, the leadership and other issues that have caused the current problem.

  Q217  Chairman: From all of your points of view, are the interests of consumers and airlines the same when it comes to regulation of airport charges?

  Mr Luxton: If I may, on safety, the interests of all are the same and it is a question of interpretation in terms of value for money and risk assessment and the investment required to ensure safety. We have made an argument that, if anything, consumers should be paying more in terms of departure tax as a way of funding the CAA to ensure that it has the necessary funding it requires for the work it needs to undertake on behalf of the industry.

  Q218  Chairman: Captain Granshaw, are you aware of the height and location of flight paths being changed on a piecemeal basis?

  Captain Granshaw: Not on a piecemeal basis but certainly not with the co-ordination that we think would be sensible.

  Q219  Chairman: Is sufficient notice taken of the environmental impacts of aviation, particularly flight paths?

  Captain Granshaw: Environment is a very topical subject and I think aviation can be proud of its record. The issue is one of safety. If you invent a new environmental standard you have to allow us time to develop an engineering practice that will deliver it safely and introduce it. If I look back over my nearly 30 years in the industry and I look at the noise footprint, constituents around Heathrow do not have to wear earplugs for Tridents and 111s any more and fuel efficiency improvements are enormous. I am told anecdotally—

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