Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the British Gliding Association


  This memorandum focuses on sporting and recreational aviation (S&RA) in the UK, and in particular gliding and soaring. In this, the relevant roles of the CAA are in Safety Regulation Group (SRG) and Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP). The BGA is not concerned here with the CAA's roles in Consumer Protection or Economic Regulation, which relate primarily to Commercial Air Transport (CAT). The BGA has comments though with regard to airspace policy as between the interests of CAT and S&RA.

  The memorandum concentrates mainly on addressing the 5th issue posed by the Transport Committee—that of the effect of growing international and EU cooperation on the work of the CAA, as the BGA believes this is the most significant factor facing both the CAA and the BGA, and will be the primary driver on the future roles, effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA.

  A glossary of abbreviations appears at the end of this memorandum.


  The BGA is the governing body of the S&RA activity of gliding and gliders / sailplanes in the UK. Gliding should not be confused with hang gliding or paragliding, which is governed by the British Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA). Membership of the BGA is some 90 clubs encompassing approximately 9,000 individual members with some 2,600 gliders or sailplanes.

  The BGA was formed in 1929 and since 1948 UK gliding has not been regulated by the State except in respect of issues where gliders and glider pilots interact with other aviation activities. These issues cover the use of airspace, radio frequencies, the rules of the air embodied in the Air Navigation Order (ANO), and some related operational areas such as glider trailers under the Road Traffic Act.

  Until the advent of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2003 the BGA has provided, successfully, the complete framework for the effective self-governance of gliding, in particular:

    —  Airworthiness of gliders—validation of type certificates and issuing BGA certificate of airworthiness (C of A) for gliders.

    —  Maintenance of gliders—renewal of a C of A through its own volunteer 550-strong inspector network.

    —  Registration of all gliders (not CAA registration until recently under EASA).

    —  A complete safety management system (SMS).

    —  Gliding Clubs' operational rules and codes of practice.

    —  Pilot and instructor training and coaching, and pilot qualifications (there is no UK state glider pilot's licence).

    —  Advice to clubs for development, protection and many other aspects.

    —  Direction and organisation of competition gliding under the international FAI sporting rules.

    —  Accident investigation under delegation from the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the DfT.

  The BGA structure is an elected 12 member Executive Committee, supporting sub committee structure covering all aspects of the sport, and a small professional staff headed by a Chief Executive. Fuller details are available on request and the most recent accounts of BGA Ltd are filed at Companies House.


  The BGA is a full member of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom (RAeC), a member of the GA Alliance (GAA), and is represented at the CAA's General Aviation Consultative Committee (GACC), NATMAC and the Airprox Board. The BGA also supports, including financially, the General Aviation Safety Council (GASCo) and the General Aviation Awareness Council (GAAC). The BGA is aware of the content of submissions from the RAeC, GAA and GAAC to the Transport Committee, and where possible has avoided duplication of, or made cross-reference to, their comments.

  The BGA is a member of the European Gliding Union (EGU) and, through the RAeC, Europe Air Sports (EAS), both of which represent the interests of glider pilots and more widely, S&RA in the regulatory field in the EU.


  The BGA has always had a professional and invariably friendly relationship with individuals at the CAA (SRG and DAP groups), which has maintained an unofficial watching brief on the BGA and UK gliding in the areas that are not state regulated. For the limited areas in which gliding is subject to state regulation, such as airspace, the same comment applies. The BGA has found the CAA generally constructive and responsive in consultations, and willing to listen to reasoned argument. The CAA has supported the continued self-regulation of gliding by the BGA over many years. For this the BGA is grateful.

  That relationship is changing with the advent of EASA, and whilst the professional and friendly relationship continues at a personal level, the BGA detects an approach by the CAA corporately to become closely involved unnecessarily on the pretext of implementing EU legislation in a way that was probably not intended by EASA and the EU.

  UK gliding, and much of the BGA's activities, are delivered through volunteers, and participants are amateur, paying for their gliding as a leisure activity out of taxed income. An undue burden of regulatory attention and costs could lead to less flying which in turn can translate to lower safety (keeping in practice). This should be borne in mind when considering the regulatory role of the CAA. Limited elements of CAA SRG activities are beneficial to gliding, but the benefit has to be proportional to the cost burden to the end user. The BGA recognises the important role of the CAA DAP group and whilst not always agreeing with its policies or decisions, recognises it has a difficult job to do in balancing competing interests and demands for airspace.


  Gliding is not without risks. Those who take part are briefed constantly on the risks and the means of mitigating them. The risks are similar to many other forms of sport and recreation that provide an outlet for the UK population's spirit of freedom and adventure. The BGA's SMS aims to ensure, as far as humanly possible, that the risks to participants and particularly to third parties, be they early stage pilots under training, trial lesson pilots, or unconnected people on the ground, are as close to zero as possible. The relative success of this strategy is evidenced in the statistics of rates of gliding accidents over a long period of time. Details of the gliding accident statistics since 1987 are available if required.


  Modern high performance gliders and gliding generally requires large amounts of available airspace within which to operate. They can, and do, travel long distances cross-country in suitable weather—500 kms is by no means uncommon—and they can rise to heights of well over 25,000 feet in certain conditions and parts of the UK, though the normal operating height is up to about 7,000 feet above sea level. By their nature, gliders cannot operate exactly like powered aircraft and hold a flight level or climb (without the assistance of a thermal) if requested to by Air Traffic Controllers. Hence their ability to operate in certain classes of controlled airspace is limited to Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Certain classes of controlled airspace require Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) capability.

  Access to the maximum possible amount of free" airspace is of paramount importance to gliding. Therefore the BGA has considerable interest in the policies and decisions of the CAA's DAP, and of the future structure of airspace.


  The proposed inquiry is particularly relevant now that new EU aviation regulations are coming into effect, starting from 28 September 2003. Whilst the BGA had no desire for UK gliding to be regulated by law, as it had managed perfectly well without state regulation for 57 years in most aspects of operations, given that EU standardisation or harmonisation is a reality then the BGA wishes to see the optimal outcome. During this transition period there are several dangers to the BGA and UK gliding, which it wishes to avoid. These are set out below, particularly in paragraph 5.


1.   The remit, structure and powers of the CAA

  As described in the objectives of the CAA in the Civil Aviation Act 1982, the primary remit of the CAA is solely in relation to CAT. No mention is made of General Aviation or S&RA.

  As commented by the GA Alliance, the BGA considers that the CAA Board would benefit from at least one Non Executive appointment from the GA and / or S&RA community.

  The current structure of the CAA, in terms of the four main groupings of activities, seems appropriate to meet the objectives. However, matters relating to GA are spread between different units within SRG and might better be handled in one comprehensive unit (airspace apart). The CAA's DAP Group is appropriate for dealing with airspace related issues and the arrangements for consulting users is satisfactory.

  The CAA has wide powers as both regulator and enforcer. There may a need for an independent appeals mechanism, particularly where consultation has not been satisfactory (eg the recent JRT activity on CAA charges).

  When comparing the CAA with its counterparts in the rest of Europe and further afield, such as the USA, there is a stark contrast. In most other countries the cost of aviation safety regulation is paid for out of general taxation. In the UK it is levied on users (not necessarily the beneficiaries, particularly in relation to airspace—see 2. below). The analogy is that road safety is paid for generally out of taxation, albeit some indirect hypothecation can be assumed in relation to road fund licences, fuel duties and speeding fines. Though as most people drive, the first two of these are probably regarded as taxation. Why therefore is aviation safety regulation different? The requirement for the CAA to recover all its costs directly from users, plus a return on capital, places the UK GA and S&RA pilot and owner at a competitive disadvantage, especially when it is recognised that this group also incur fuel duties for powered aircraft, and VAT generally, when airlines and their passengers do not bear such taxation under ICAO protocols.

2.   The performance of the CAA in relation to its statutory objectives and functions

  The CAA has a tendency to over-regulate when compared with some other industry sectors, mainly, we suspect, because the public perception is that aviation safety is a zero risk objective" when in reality there are always risks, particularly in S&RA activities.

  In relation to airspace, the BGA makes the point that controlled airspace is created to provide an ATC managed environment to protect the paying passengers on CAT. Generally, GA and S&RA do not require control as most flights are under VFR, and therefore the costs of managing controlled airspace should be for the account of CAT on the principle of the beneficiary pays" and not the user pays".

3.   The effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA's regulatory framework

  The BGA has had insufficient time to fully revisit the CAA's regulatory framework and therefore does not offer any comments at this stage on the CAA's effectiveness and efficiency in this respect. However, some of the comments under other headings probably touch on this aspect.

4.   The effectiveness and efficiency of the CAA in the general discharge of its duties

  The CAA is to be congratulated on many of its safety initiatives, such as its publication GASIL", the regular annual road show of safety evenings in the GA community, the annual safety awards event, and various other initiatives too many to mention here.

  Overall the CAA appears to be effective in the discharge of its duties, but at a cost. Its efficiency as a regulator is very difficult to measure but there is a strong feeling in the GA and S&RA sectors that costs could be very much lower if a different approach were taken. In particular there is a prima facie case for the CAA taking a lighter touch in these sectors, and transferring detailed activities to a lower cost private sector with appropriate oversight.

  There is no doubt that the CAA will have to reduce its scope of operations with the introduction of EU regulations, and the transition costs should not be borne by users.

5.   The effect of growing international and European Union cooperation on the work of the CAA

  This aspect is the one that the BGA places highest in its list of issues to address as regards the future role of the CAA.

(1)  EASA

  The EU established EASA in 2002 to draft new EU law in the form of Regulations, for endorsement and adoption by the European Commission, the Council and European Parliament (EP). The overall purpose of this development is contained in Regulations 1592/2002, 1704/2003, and 2042/2003, in the form of Essential Requirements" (ERs). This legislation is essential reading to understand where the CAA fits into the future structure of safety regulation in the EU. In addition, EASA is tasked with drafting EU Implementing Rules (IRs or soft law"), Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMCs), Guidance Material (GM) and Certification Specifications (CS) for aircraft design.

  This development will have, and is already having, a profound impact on the future of the CAA, as well as the BGA and its members. For gliding it means that a previously largely unregulated activity will be regulated. One has to ask the fundamental question of why?" when the long history of UK gliding being self-regulating" has been acceptable under arrangements since 1948. But the issue for the Transport Committee is about the future of the CAA, how it will adjust and adapt to the new EU environment, and how the CAA's future role, if any, in relation to UK gliding will or should develop.


  The European Commission also established the Single European Sky (SES) project, part of whose agenda is the re-structuring of airspace throughout Europe and which will impact not only the CAA's DAP role but also potentially the rights of access for S&RA aircraft, including gliders, to categories of airspace currently available to this sector of aviation.


Original Airworthiness

  Through Part 21 of Regulations 1592/2002 and 1702/2003 EASA is taking over progressively many of the higher-level activities of the CAA, starting in 2003 with original airworthiness of aircraft in terms of granting type certificates on a pan-European basis, thus achieving economies of scale for designers and manufacturers. The CAA should, or will, have little or no remaining role in this area in future, other than those activities contracted to it by EASA for reasons of resourcing and local knowledge of manufacturers.

Continuing airworthiness (maintenance)

  Part M of Regulation 2042/2003 establishes EASA's competence for aircraft maintenance, although the IRs for Part M as they affect light aircraft in the GA sector are currently subject to consultation and not due for implementation until 2008. The impact on the CAA is likely to be significant.

Pilot licensing and Operations

  EASA submitted its Opinion to the Commission on the ERs for pilot licensing and operations in December 2004. The Commission's Opinion for the Council and EP is awaited. The BGA and its associated bodies (RAeC, EGU, EAS etc) are content with EASA's Opinion, but are watchful for any changes that might emerge during the ensuing law-making process. Whatever the outcome, it will affect the CAA's roles significantly.

Aerodromes—standards etc

  EASA and the Commission intend to regulate aerodrome standards in future. This will also impact the CAA's role.



  UK gliding is now in transition from an unregulated (by the State) environment, or self-regulated environment, to an EU regulated one. This poses many challenges not only for the BGA but also for the CAA, which will largely have a subordinate role to EASA. The BGA's concern is that, particularly on the engineering side (original airworthiness and continuing airworthiness or maintenance) the CAA will be predisposed to adopting the long screwdriver" approach, thereby adding unnecessary bureaucracy and cost to that which EASA will generate. Detailed consultation with industry (in this case GA and S&RA) and strategic direction to the CAA from the DfT is necessary here to ensure that regulatory actions are proportionate and efficient in the context of the intent of the EU.

Pilot Licensing and Operations

  Although it is very early days, it is hoped that the CAA will be more liberal on implementation of pilot licensing and operational oversight. There is already a model for partially devolved licensing in the form of the UK National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL) for light powered aircraft, introduced by the CAA in 2002. For this, a company established by three UK air sports or GA organisations (AOPA, BGA, PFA), manages licence applications for the CAA for single engine aeroplanes and self-launching motor gliders, alongside the BMAA for the microlight aircraft pilot licence applications, producing a more economic result for applicants. It is interesting to note that, before 1939, the RAeC not only handled applications for, but also issued pilot licences!

Example of unnecessary change

  One example of an unnecessary change is worth quoting in detail as an illustration. As a result of gliders becoming subject to EU law on airworthiness (Part 21), the CAA has required glider owners to register their gliders on the state aircraft register with G-XXXX". Since 1929 the BGA has maintained a register of all UK gliders, using a unique sequential numbering system. It costs the owners nothing, as it is a service provided by the BGA as part of its overall funding structure. Now the owners have to pay an additional £50 (£60 from 1 January 2006) to register their gliders with the CAA and obtain the allocation of G-XXXX letters which have to be painted" on the glider in three places at some cost. This amounts to a total cost to the gliding community of approximately £150,000 just for registration, with absolutely no safety case whatsoever. As gliders are often owned by small syndicates of members, if the lead syndicate member whose name in on the CAA register changes, there is a further £50 (£60 from January 2006) payable to the CAA for the change of registration. The BGA needs to continue its own register for other purposes (anticipating the future under EASA) and cannot reduce its indivisible costs that provide the BGA registration service.

  There appears to have been no serious consideration given by the CAA as to whether this was necessary, bearing in mind the BGA's totally satisfactory system for over 75 years! Why could the BGA not continue with its system under delegation from the CAA? Further, the BGA wanted a registration system of G-numeric (ie G-1234) so as to align the CAA registration with the BGA's own unique, sequential numbering system. That in itself would have made a glider pilot's radio call to an air traffic controller instantly recognisable as a glider, thus facilitating understanding to ATC that a glider cannot hold a level" or climb" when instructed to. Apart from the convenience of having the BGA numbering system aligned with the BGA's own register, which it needs to maintain in the future.

  The CAA's answer to the BGA position has been, essentially, it's the law". The BGA's answer is let's have some common sense and change the law (ANO)!" As the UK glider fleet as at September 2003 (most gliders) operates under a temporary exemption from EASA Part 21, this issue of registration could still be addressed constructively.

  The BGA fears this example is but one that will be prevalent in the future.


  In overseeing implementation of EU rules the CAA should keep proportionality in mind. This applies particularly to EU Regulation 1592, Part 21 which was designed under the JAA for CAT. Whilst many of the principles in Part 21 are applicable to a wide range of aircraft, the detail should be handled with a light touch" and not be seen as a job creation opportunity in a shrinking CAA.

Competent Authority status

  We re-iterate strongly the comments under the case for delegation" in the parallel RAeC submission.

Qualified Entities and Assessment Bodies

  EASA has introduced the concept of qualified entities and, if EASA's Opinion on Operations and Licensing is translated into EU law, the concept of designating air sports organisations as assessment bodies for the issue and management of pilot licences will be capable of implementation. This will depend however on the willingness of the CAA (and DfT) to see full devolution.


  The CAA has a job to do and in many areas does it well, though not necessarily in the most efficient manner. However, times are changing and it is a unique opportunity to address some fundamental issues of how the GA and particularly the S&RA sectors of UK aviation (including gliding) should be regulated by the CAA, if at all, in the context of EASA and other developments.

  The BGA trusts that the Transport Committee will address these issues seriously. The BGA remains at its disposal to provide evidence in committee in a constructive manner.

11 November 2005

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