Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by de Havilland Support Limited


  Our Company, de Havilland Support Ltd (DHSL), began operations in April 2001 having assumed, from BAE Systems, responsibility as the Type Design Organisation for the wide range of de Havilland historic aircraft (types such as the Tiger Moth, Chipmunk and Dove). Later, responsibility for the Beagle Pup and the Scottish Aviation Bulldog was assumed, also from BAE Systems. Although a very small Company with only four full-time employees, DHSL holds the Type Certificate (or its equivalent) for 15 distinct aircraft types, 45% of the total number of aircraft types presently certificated in the UK (see Appendix 1 to UK CAA Airworthiness Notice (AWN) No 26). As a Type Design Organisation, the Company is approved under the terms of British Civil Airworthiness Requirements (BCAR) to take any necessary action to sustain the continued airworthiness of its aircraft types. This activity has to be undertaken together with the CAA which has ultimate authority and power of veto over what the Company can do.


  There is a clear need for a National Aviation Authority to oversee civil aviation safety in the UK. That authority must be cascaded from Parliament in legislation fit for purpose and therefore widely acceptable to the regulated community. The CAA's structure as far as the control of airworthiness is concerned is largely centred on the needs of commercial air transport and the application of these procedures to the bottom end of the light aviation sector is overkill. It is not essential that the CAA itself administer the day-to-day duties of continued airworthiness for aircraft below 2,730 kg, as has been shown so clearly in the delegation of these functions for gliding, microlight and home-built aircraft, balloons and parachuting.

  It is essential that the CAA quickly restructure to take account of the advent of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). For the much smaller direct responsibilities it will retain (ie, to oversee the continued airworthiness of Annex II" or non-EASA" aircraft) the CAA must adopt a more streamlined structure with the processes and manning suited to the task. There should be a section of the CAA devoted to the oversight of commercial air transport, looking in as much detail as is required to ensure the safety of the travelling public. The regulation of light aviation can and should be handled in a less authoritative manner, by making wider use of delegations to approved organisations with the CAA adopting an eyes on, hands off" approach to regulation and control of this sector. No doubt the CAA would respond that industry cannot be trusted to do this, but the CAA is wrong and is just trying to protect its personnel and position.

  The Transport Committee would benefit from looking at the work of Mr Bruce Byron, the relatively new Chief Executive Officer of Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Mr Byron has invigorated what had become a moribund organisation that was widely discredited in the eyes of the Australian industry. The CAA is widely discredited in the eyes of the UK industry, especially the light aviation sector, and many of the directives from Mr Byron in Australia are equally applicable to the UK CAA. Specifically, the Government should be seen to give firm direction to the CAA and ensure that its requirements are carried out, not leaving the CAA to do as it wishes. A public CASA Charter Letter" set out by the Deputy Prime Minister does this in Australia; our Government should also adopt such firm and positive leadership of the CAA.

  Most importantly, there is no independent check on the actions of the CAA. Whilst there is the ability to make a complaint under the terms of Regulation 6 of the CAA Regulations 1991, this process is onerous and hard for the layman to follow without qualified legal assistance. Moreover, such complaints are judged by the CAA itself, which inspires little confidence as to the independence of any investigation and judgement. Some form of independent authority is needed, such as OTELO that investigates the telecommunications industry, to whom complaints against the CAA's actions can be directed. The complaints process needs to be simple and straightforward, as is the process adopted by OTELO, and accessible to people without the costs associated with formal legal action.

  In summary, the CAA must re-organise and streamline, with the current changes in Australia's CASA providing an excellent model for consideration. There should be wider delegation to industry in the light aviation sector and the CAA should operate in an eyes on, hands off" manner. The Government must exercise closer control of the CAA's actions in an open and transparent manner, with Australia again providing an effective model. Finally, there should be some form of external regulator" overseeing the work of the CAA offering a simple and effective but independent means of investigating complaints against the CAA.


  In terms of its performance against its statutory objectives and functions, the airlines might deem the CAA exemplary. The whole focus of the CAA's objectives and functions is on the development of the airlines and commercial air transport. Whilst the importance of these issues, both in terms of public safety and the economic prosperity of the Country should not be underestimated, clear direction must be given to the CAA to ensure the equitable treatment of other sectors of aviation. The light aviation sector is oppressed by regulation and demands attuned to the simplistic commercial air transport one size fits all" outlook of the CAA. Moreover, many of the CAA's personnel lack the skill, knowledge and experience to use flexibility or judgement in the application of the BCAR, leading to a culture of regulation by rote.

  It is our view that the CAA's approach to the regulation of light aviation has done more to bring about the demise of civil light aircraft design and manufacture in this country than any other single factor. Almost all this activity in the UK has now ceased other than in the homebuilt and microlight sectors, which are largely self-regulated. Nonetheless, even in these sectors there is nothing like the vigour and innovation that can be seen in other countries of the EU, especially those in Eastern Europe. Like the typical British disease" of gold-plating regulation, the CAA's hard-line interpretation of the Requirements does not lead to improved safety. If anything, it deters people from open and honest reporting and drives activity underground and unreported. The CAA's performance in overseeing the light aviation sector is over-bearing when considered against the risk to the public of the sector's activity, as was clearly spelled out in a recent article in the magazine Today's Pilot".[1] Arguably, the light aviation safety record in this country is as good as it is (and it is by no means perfect) despite the actions of the CAA.

  In summary, the statutory objectives and functions focus the CAA's activity on the airlines and commercial air transport. As a result, other sectors such as light aviation have been over-regulated, to the detriment of safety and to the extent that there is little or no design and manufacture of certificated civil aircraft in this country. The CAA must be issued with a clear and open directive by the Government, perhaps following the Australian model quoted above, to give appropriate weight to fostering the needs of all sectors of aviation, not just the airlines and commercial air transport.


  In the field of light aviation, the CAA's regulatory framework is both ineffective and inefficient. The regulatory framework promulgated in BCAR served a purpose when this country designed and manufactured commercial transport aircraft, but that is no longer the case. Whilst some regulatory framework is essential, the zealous application of BCAR to light aircraft has stifled innovation and technical development, preventing the ready adoption of new technology and other measures to mitigate the environmental impact of light aircraft (such as engine silencers). This has led to such practices as the prolonged use of out of date and fuel inefficient engines. Product improvements aimed at improving aircraft reliability and maintainability have similarly been stifled, not only adding to the cost of aircraft operation but also denying the safety benefits which accrue from such developments.

  Perhaps driven by a fear of legal action, the CAA seems to have adopted a fierce regulation by rote" attitude, showing no hint of flexibility and not allowing the use of judgement, however soundly it might be based on the skill, knowledge and experience of individuals in the industry. Staffs at the CAA are paid huge salaries when compared with the light aviation industry, and they enjoy the benefits of index-linked final salary pension schemes, yet they are not prepared (or not allowed for fear of legal action?) to exercise judgement. If their approach is to be one of book-watching and hiding behind the requirements then they should be paid much reduced salaries and benefits which befit the lack of added value they bring to the interests of public safety and continued airworthiness.

  Moreover, and most fundamentally, the responsibilities for the certification and control of continued airworthiness have largely passed to EASA. After September 2008 the CAA will be required to publish its own Requirements only for the regulation of Annex II" or non-EASA" aircraft, which are almost all so-called vintage or classic light aircraft, albeit that some are used for the purpose of public transport (ie, flight training). Given this change, the opportunity has arisen for a complete overhaul of BCAR, allowing the Requirements to be rewritten with the co-operation of industry to be best suited to the needs of the sector and to safeguard the interests of public safety and continued airworthiness. The revision of BCAR could permit greater delegation to industry, allowing the CAA to operate on a much more appropriate eyes on, hands off" basis, using audit as the means of control.


  It is in the area of the effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA in the general discharge of its duties that most of our concerns lay. As highlighted above, the CAA has become obsessive and ultra pedantic in its application of BCAR—in our terms, regulation by rote—to the detriment of safety. On the surface such an approach should enhance safety. However, in reality, it has entirely the opposite effect. When carrying out an audit of an aircraft or a maintenance organisation the obsession with paperwork results in obvious operational or aircraft technical shortcomings being missed, especially in the light aviation sector. This is largely because the CAA surveyors have little or no skill, knowledge or experience of this level of activity, most of them having been recruited from the airlines. As a result organisations face unrealistic demands more suited to commercial air transport being placed on them, adding to cost and bureaucracy for no added benefit in safety. Indeed, quite the reverse almost certainly occurs with some people perhaps resorting to keeping things hidden for fear of the imposition of excessively bureaucratic requirements.

  To obtain its CAA approval to trade, a design or maintenance organisation is required to have the credentials of its staff approved by the CAA. However, there is no reciprocal requirement to ensure the competence of the CAA surveyors in the eyes of industry. The fees charged by the CAA (currently £120.00 per hour—including travelling time) demand that the CAA offer value for money. That is not the situation at present and industry must pay the cost of individual CAA personnel learning about individual aircraft types and systems. This happens time and time again and costs therefore mount. More seriously, it is often the case that whenever the surveyor overseeing a long-term project is changed previous agreements with the CAA, even those made in writing, are overturned because the new surveyor has a different interpretation of the Requirements.

  In the light aviation sector the CAA does not direct its audit and inspection activity towards the area of highest risk. For example, many operators offer so-called trial lessons" using aircraft certificated in the current Transport (Passenger) Category. These aircraft can be worked very hard but often they do not get the maintenance back-up that such operations demand. On the other hand, classic aircraft in the hands of a doting private owner can be looked after to an extremely high standard, only to be scrutinised to same extent as a commercially-operated aircraft. The CAA does not appear to use a risk-based approach to the audit of these aircraft and organisations, seemingly giving commercial operations no greater scrutiny than that given to a private owner. It is our experience that the worst examples of poorly maintained aircraft are to be found with the commercial operators and despite raising this concern with the CAA at a number of meetings we have seen no evidence that the CAA has changed its policy and implemented greater scrutiny of the higher-risk activities. The CAA can be expected to rebut this allegation, but we see the condition of the aircraft and we see details of the accident and incident statistics from the CAA's own database—the majority of arisings concerning our aircraft types involve the commercial operations.

  In summary, the CAA is ineffective and inefficient in the discharge of its responsibilities within the light aviation sector. Its staff lack skill, knowledge and experience of the sector and are inconsistent, adding significantly to industry costs with no improvement in safety. Indeed, the regulation by rote" approach may actually work to the detriment of the highest standards of safety. More seriously, the CAA seems not to direct its efforts within the sector to the areas of highest risk. The CAA's one size fits all" approach to regulation and enforcement, based on the airline and Airbus level, is wholly inappropriate to the needs of safety in the modern era and has done much to kill off the design and manufacture of certificated light aircraft in the UK.


  The Government is determined to show that the UK is a committed member of the EU and has embraced formation of the EASA as the arbiter of aviation safety in Europe. Whilst EASA still has much to learn and faces a huge task to take over fully its new responsibilities, it is the attitude and approach of many National Aviation Authorities such as the CAA which is serving to undermine the advantages that EASA will bring. Whilst EASA will set the regulations, in the UK it is the CAA that will implement them. Already we can see the CAA posturing to prevent or at least delay the adoption of EASA regulations. It seem certain that in its implementation of EASA regulations the CAA will sustain its own one size fits all" mind-set and will continue the damage it has already done to countless small and medium sized businesses in this Country.

  Independently of the CAA, the Government should seek from EASA a clear understanding of the intent of each of its aviation safety regulations and that intent should be incorporated into an open Directive from the Government to the Chairman of the CAA. Without such clear and public direction, the CAA will not change its ways and will continue to stifle the development of aviation in this Country, to the detriment of the economy. People will realise that elsewhere in Europe the enforcement of regulations is more in keeping with EASA's intent and work will be lost from the UK. Already EASA has assumed considerable responsibilities from the CAA but there are still no signs of restructuring or change. It is understood that already EASA is seeing more applications for modifications from the UK than from any other EU country because of the CAA's obsessive regulatory stance. Such inconsistency is harming aviation in the UK and the CAA must be forced to work to the intent of the EASA regulations, not to its own gold-plated perception of that intent. If the CAA fails to act responsibly in this way then pressure needs to be placed on the European Parliament to enact legislation giving EASA powers of control over the CAA. Naturally, the CAA will say that its stance is ensuring the highest standards of safety, but there is no evidence in support of that. Indeed, one might argue that the safety record of light aviation in the UK is worse than that in other countries which are known to have a light touch".

  In summary, the advent of EASA has the potential to streamline and standardise the regulation of aviation across the EU. However, the benefits of this hinge wholly on the CAA's interpretation and implementation of the new requirements. Already we are seeing attempts by the CAA to delay or water down EASA's influence and industry is fearful that the CAA's implementation of the new requirements will be shrouded in the old gold-plated ways which have done so much to destroy the UK's civil aviation design and manufacturing industry. Independent of the CAA the Government should seek details of EASA's intent and enshrine that intent in an open Directive to the Chairman of the CAA. Only in that way will the CAA be forced to change its old and dated one size fits all" ways.


  The CAA is both ineffective and inefficient and has become moribund. Its attitudes and influences have done much to bring about the demise of design and manufacture of certificated aircraft in the UK. Today the CAA adopts a zealous regulation by rote" process that has done much damage to small and medium sized businesses yet without providing any material enhancement of aviation safety. Indeed, the CAA's approach may be having the effect of driving certain activity underground, undoubtedly undermining aviation safety. The CAA lacks staff with skill, knowledge and experience of light aviation and fails to deliver the level of service its hugely expensive charges should offer. One cannot escape the conclusion that the CAA needs a big shake-up and it is essential that an independent regulator or Ombudsman be appointed to hear complaints about the actions of the CAA. For those functions it will retain in the post-EASA era, the CAA should be encouraged to implement a policy of maximum delegation to industry, adopting an eyes on, hands off" attitude with control exercised through a process of audit.

  Indeed, the advent of EASA provides an opportunity for the CAA to restructure and refocus its activity. To do that however, the CAA needs to be given clear and open direction from the Government. If the CAA is left to go its own way it will revert to its old one size meets all" gold-plated ways which is not what the European Parliament, EASA or the aviation industry wants or needs. The way the Australian Government has handled a similar situation with its own National Aviation Authority, CASA, serves as an excellent model of the way ahead and I commend the Committee to study this example.

11 November 2005

1   Third Party Risk-Fact or Fiction by Robert Saundby Today's Pilot December 2005, pp 32 and 33. Back

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