Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


APPENDIX 23

Memorandum submitted by the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers

1.  THE REMIT, STRUCTURE, AND POWERS OF THE CAA

  1.1  The Civil Aviation Authority has no authority over operations at Military Airfields. With the increasing use of military airfields by commercial and business flights this omission makes it difficult for the CAA to fully honour its obligations in respect of the safety regulation of those flights operating at military airfields. There is no suggestion whatever that military airfields are in any sense deficient in their management or operations but the classification of technical services such as obstacle clearance limits and aerodrome fire service does vary between civil and military airfields. There is some scope for confusion that could be eliminated by widening the Civil Aviation Authority's remit to cover (in partnership with the military flight safety authorities) commercial and business flight operations at military airfields.

  1.2  The Guild feels some frustration about the economic regulation of NATS. Although we were an opponent of the part privatisation of NATS, since that process gained Parliamentary approval we have wished to see it succeed. However the economic regulation framework applied does not seem to have adjusted to the rate of change in the industry nor to the realities of a commercial supplier of air traffic services operating in the European Union. In anticipation of the Single European Sky and faced with the necessity to engage with the SESAME project, NATS must have the ability to invest flexibly in infrastructure, research and development and in commercial partnerships. Neither NATS nor the CAA can dictate the pace or direction of change required by Europe and the economic regulation policy and mechanism in respect of NATS needs a fundamental review to allow for a more flexible approach.

2.  THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CAA IN RELATION TO ITS STATUTORY OBJECTIVES AND FUNCTIONS

  2.1  The performance of the Civil Aviation Authority depends to a great extent on its staff, who are required to demonstrate considerable technical and professional knowledge and skill. This they do, but since the CAA has been funded by user charges, the impression has grown in the air traffic services world that in particular the CAA's airline customers" wish for constantly cheaper CAA charges. This in turn is believed to have limited the Authority's ability to maintain (let alone grow) its specialist knowledge base as new developments and technologies emerge for use by the air traffic services. The need for the CAA to maintain its distance from those it regulates appears sometimes to limit its ability to involve those with the necessary knowledge in its deliberations at an early stage.

3.  THE EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY OF THE CAA'S REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

  3.1  The air traffic services regulatory responsibilities of the CAA are split between three CAA departments, the Safety Regulation Group, the Directorate of Airspace Policy and the Economic Regulatory Group.

  3.2  At times to the outside observer there seems to be scope for conflicts of interest between the three departments, and some transparency in the conduct of cross-departmental discussions would therefore be welcome.

4.  THE EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY OF THE CAA IN THE GENERAL DISCHARGE OF ITS DUTIES

  4.1  This Guild has proposed to the CAA in the past that it should pursue a policy of partnership and engagement with the rest of the air traffic service. The CAA rightly has an excellent reputation for its industry consultation process—a process that is the cause of surprise and even envy amongst our controller colleagues in the rest of Europe. What can frustrate those being consulted however, is that the CAA's proposals are not always those that we would wish to have seen presented. The air traffic services world might have been able to add value to the original discussions so that they could have been even better.

  4.2  This process of partnership and engage is not beyond the CAA. It has on occasions followed precisely this path and with success. Its regulatory approach to the introduction of the Swanwick air traffic control centre, its review just a few years ago of the airspace change procedure and the current work on uninhabited aerial vehicles are all instances where the CAA has successfully adopted this approach. In each instance it appears the Authority felt it needed to avail itself of a wider viewpoint than was normally available.

  4.3  If the existing funding scheme for the CAA continues unchanged, then it becomes more important than ever that the CAA move completely to a culture of partnership and engagement to make good any shortages in skills and knowledge.

5.  THE EFFECT OF GROWING INTERNATIONAL AND EUROPEAN UNION COOPERATION ON THE WORK OF THECAA

  5.1  We are impressed by the degree of commitment by both the CAA and the Department for Transport to European activity and to the level of communication with the industry through the regular DfT forums on the Single European Sky. CAA managers chair many of the European committees dealing with this work, quiet an achievement considering the fact that our national views are often out of step with mainstream preferences in much of the rest of Europe.

  5.2   There is much apprehension about how regulation will operate if and when the European Aviation Safety Agency assumes all of it potential roles. Our controller colleagues in the rest of Europe have much lower expectations that we are used to in respect of consultation of any kind. It is to be hoped that the CAA, whatever its future status is to be, can retain effective levels of consultation with the industry and can export them to the rest of Europe.



 
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