Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mott MacDonald Ltd


  1.  Mott MacDonald is a UK-based multi-disciplinary consultancy employing over 8,000 staff worldwide. Included in our skill base are professionals specialising in airport planning, the design of airport facilities, aviation forecasting, economic regulation and other aspects of the industry. Most of these staff are based in the UK, North America and Australasia and have experience of working on aviation projects in many countries and every Continent. Such projects are usually governed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and recommended practices (SARPS), and by local civil aviation regulators—including the UK CAA, and in the USA, the FAA as appropriate. We therefore not only have first hand experience of how the UK CAA regulates the aspects of the industry that we are involved with, but can also compare this with regulation in other countries and, in particular, the over-riding role of ICAO SARPS. As a leader in the aviation consultancy field, we feel we have a duty to respond to the invitation to provide a memorandum in order to assist the committee in producing its recommendations to Government in deciding the best way forward to identify a future role and position for the CAA.


  2.  It is clear from our work that some aspects of CAA policy constraining the optimum development of UK civil aviation growth, in great part due to a clear conflict between two of its most important roles, namely those of safety regulation and of economic regulation of the UK air transport sector. We consider that in trying to balance these two roles, the CAA may in some cases be failing to provide the clear leadership and guidance that should be expected. In some instances this is hindering the growth and prosperity of the civil aviation market, a situation which may worsen should the status quo be maintained.

  3.  For example the CAA is the airport economic regulator and policy adviser and encourages the maximum use be made of existing runways in accordance with government policy. At the same time it is also the industry safety regulator with an overview on declared ATM rates from a safety perspective. We are left with a situation in the UK where we can allow 18 seconds separation between aircraft on a single runway (Annex 1). The margin for error is very tight and the pressure on the air safety regulators within the CAA will grow, from its own economic regulators.


  4.  In terms of Regional Access there does not appear to be any cohesion between aviation and transport policy on the one hand and UK and EU regional economic policy on the other. As the government's aviation advisor the CAA should support the development of accessibility between the UK regions and the rest of the world. The current Future of Air Transport White Paper emphasises the recognition of the importance of air travel to national and regional economy and prosperity. Yet the CAA appears to be abdicating its responsibilities and deferring to market forces when it comes to the importance of connections between the UK's primary international gateway and the rest of the country.

  5.  The CAA's viewpoint on Public Service Obligation routes is ambivalent and suggests these should only be operated where there are compelling reasons to do so. It is against ring-fencing slots for vital routes from Heathrow to the regions, arguing in part that the new wave of low cost carriers are operating many services into other London airports from domestic points, ignoring the fact that these have no connectivity with long haul services out of Heathrow (Annex 2). It also seems to take the view that in the event of a third runway being built at Heathrow, this would enhance the opportunities for flights between the UK regions and the airport, while not even mentioning that without any sort of ring-fencing or control, there is absolutely no guarantee that this would happen under internationally agreed slot allocation rules. New slots created at Heathrow from either a new runway or mixed-mode use of the existing ones of themselves do not provide guarantees of domestic usage. It may simply provide more long haul slots on the main runways, with existing short haul European services moved to any new runway at the expense of domestic services.

  6.  In CAP 754—the UK Regional Air Services study (February 2005)—the CAA suggests that the answer could be to create a transparent and efficient secondary slot market. It believes this could be an opportunity for UK-based airlines, and goes further to suggest some form of trading where non-airline concerns such as regional bodies, other public bodies, or business consortia could buy slots. Airlines have recently been seen to buy slot pairs at Heathrow for figures as high as £20 million (Qantas January 2004). Few non-airline bodies would be prepared to pay such sums for any slots at Heathrow not already governed by historical precedents (grandfather rights). Furthermore, there is absolutely no guarantee that UK based airlines buying slots would use them for domestic services. There is also the possibility under existing rules concerning new slot allocation rules giving priority to new entrants that smaller UK airlines could take advantage of these new entrant rules to buy slots in order then to sell them on at a premium to a larger international carrier already operating at the airport. Many smaller carriers have already sold their existing slots at Heathrow and moved services to Gatwick to realise short term financial gains, rather than for any compelling route profitability reasons.

  7.  For the airports themselves, the allocation of new slots to an international wide-body service will always be more attractive than to a short domestic route, not only from the increased revenues it will obtain from landing fees and passenger charges from the use of larger aircraft, but also from additional revenue from commercial sources such as retail and duty-free sales. Although regional services may be strategically important for the remote regions of the UK, the reality for these airlines and airports is that in order to maximise shareholder revenues at highly constrained airports, economic pragmatism will prevail. The CAA believes that the best means of securing continued access to Heathrow from regional airports goes with the grain of commercial decisions and the dynamics of the airline market".[2] Mott MacDonald disagrees, and believes that the CAA should advise Government that positive action is needed to counter the natural inclinations of airlines and airports.

  8.  The BAA in its official Investor Relations presentation of its own half year 2005-06 financial results states At Heathrow, it is anticipated that traffic growth will continue to be limited, over the next few years, by capacity constraints and the slow transition of slots from short-haul operations to more attractive long-haul. The pace of slot usage change to long-haul at Heathrow is slowed by the highly regulated nature of international aviation." Furthermore, in answering a question raised at the Brabazon lecture given by BAA's Chief Executive Mike Clasper at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 10 November 2005 he stated We currently have an aircraft mix of one third wide bodied, two thirds narrow bodied at Heathrow. We want to change this mix to two thirds wide bodied and one third narrow bodied." The implication is clear: the BAA is more interested in long haul use of its Heathrow slots, and the CAA is not ensuring that vital connections are retained between the UK regions and the rest of the world.

  9.  In fact the CAA goes further in its conclusions to suggest Access to Heathrow remains an important issue for regional airports and regional economic development, and in particular for passengers wishing to connect to other services. There has been some reduction in services between UK regional airports and Heathrow over the past decade. However, overall, London is better served from the regions than in the past, with more services at Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City that numerically much more than offset the loss of Heathrow services. In addition, links to other European hubs from regional airports can provide an alternative means of making connections." [3]As the body tasked with advising the government on the UK air transport sector, the suggestion that passengers from the UK regions can fly with (invariably) non-UK carriers to connect to their long haul services out of Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris, cannot possibly be a view that is in the best interests of this country's aviation industry. CAA general policy objectives laid out in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 state that it shall be the duty of the CAA to perform its functions in a manner which it considers is best calculated: to ensure that British airlines provide air transport services which satisfy all substantial categories of public demand (so far as British airlines may reasonably be expected to provide such services) at the lowest charges consistent with a high standard of safety in operating the services and an economic return to efficient operators on the sums invested in providing the services and with the securing the sound development of the civil air transport industry of the United Kingdom; and to further the reasonable interests of users of air transport services".

  10.  In fact some UK regions have links to other European hubs but not Heathrow at all. Travellers from South Wales may find it more attractive to fly with KLM from Cardiff to Amsterdam for onward connections than make a long train or road journey to Heathrow, with the added costs and hassle factor involved. Passengers in Yorkshire for example have the choice of more flights daily to mainland European hubs out of Leeds-Bradford than to Heathrow (Annex 3).

  11.  It is true that many regional airports have seen major growth in passenger numbers and new destinations, but this has largely come as a result of the massive growth of the low cost sector serving predominantly leisure destinations. Where some regional airports have been successful in attracting long haul international services, this has in many cases come from Route Development Funds. Scotland in particular has benefited from such a scheme, both for long haul and short haul international services. These developments have come about from private and governmental/local authority initiatives—not from any work done by the CAA.

  12.  The CAA seems to be content to let the market get on with it" but as the economic policy advisor to the government it is necessary that it should be more proactive in ensuring that regional interests are addressed, and that accessibility is secured.


  13.  As part of the 1985 government White Paper on aviation, two key areas in particular were highlighted. The first was to establish Heathrow and Gatwick as global airports. The second was to ensure airport capacity is built as and when required, to meet demand where it is greatest. This has manifestly not happened over the last 20 years—and the CAA's own stated approach to this is to let the private sector/commercial developers decide if and when they should meet demand.


  14.  We recognise the CAA's work in ensuring that the UK has a safety record second to none, and the respect that it has earned across the globe in this field. However, we do have some areas of concern and in this submission we have decided to concentrate the following comments on the specific aspects of the role of the Safety Regulation Group (SRG) that have given us the greatest concern and which have industry-wide implications.

  15.  These cover the following areas:

    I.  consultation with Consultants; and

    II.  CAP 168 (Licensing of Aerodromes), including unpublished requirements and differences between CAP 168 and ICAO Annex 14 (Aerodrome Design and Operations) and other related ICAO documents.


  16.  Airport owners frequently choose to appoint Consultants to plan and/or design airport development projects for them. There are many potential reasons for this, but in general, owners do not routinely employ sufficient numbers of professional staff to undertake such work. That applies to both small and large airports, where the scale of projects may also vary, but can still be a major development if viewed in relative size.

  17.  Aspects of any such development may be regulated by CAP 168 or other CAA requirements and so, as designers, Consultants require:

    I.  a clear statement of the regulatory requirements;

    II.  a clear procedure for handling issues where those stated requirements cannot be fully achieved; and

    III.  a process to obtain a formal approval (or at least a no objection") in advance of the Airport proceeding with, or relying upon, such an intended course of development.

  18. In general CAP 168 is a complicated document, but no more so than ICAO Annex 14 that it is primarily intended to replicate. The subject of differences between these is discussed next in this submission. There are however a number of elements where:

    I.  the CAA reserves a decision to itself;

    II.  the CAA has unpublished rules or guidelines as to the application of CAP 168 or ICAO SARPS; and

    III.  the CAA takes a particular view on a particular issue, but one which cannot be predicted from published documents or from past decisions taken in similar circumstances at airports elsewhere.

  19.  We have also encountered a situation where a development that was in full compliance with CAP 168 was still not approved and another situation where operations from an extended runway were not subsequently permitted as intended by the designer and airport operator. [The references are to: Scatsta apron flood lights and apron marking; and to Scatsta declared runway distances]

  20.  In most of these instances, designers would benefit from consultation with the SRG.

  21.  However, we have been informed in the past that the CAA SRG will only liaise with airport Licensees and will not discuss a project with Consultants. This has certainly been our experience in recent years. This makes it difficult to give accurate or complete advice; it generates a risk of abortive design work—incurring additional cost; and it can delay the project, placing an additional burden on airport Licensees.

  22.  We therefore ask that the CAA respect the fact that Consultants form an integral part of the development process and that the CAA takes a more open, constructive and helpful approach in ensuring that Airport developments are achieved in both a safe and cost effective manner. This would be to the benefit of all airport owners.


  23.  The CAA is responsible for the application of the UK's obligations that stem from it being an ICAO Contracting State. CAP 168 is the CAA's document that describes its regulatory requirements in respect of aerodromes and airport operations. It does so in terms of Licensing requirements. Many of the provisions of CAP 168 are identical to those SARPS stated in ICAO Annex 14. However, CAP 168 departs from Annex 14 in numerous places. We are going to concentrate on one aspect in this submission, which is the classification of runways and their declared lengths. It is a technical matter and we will describe the issue as succinctly as possible, but we raise it as it has potentially very serious implications that could threaten the future of public transport operations at numerous regional UK airports.

  24.  The background to this is as follows. Both Annex 14 and CAP 168 classify the design of runways by two measures. A runway has a Code Letter, which relates to the largest aircraft wingspan and undercarriage width that can be accommodated. Safe clearances are determined from this classification. A runway also has a Code Number, which is the pertinent issue here. Together these produce the Aerodrome Reference Code".

  25.  ICAO Annex 14 and (prior to February 2001) CAP 168 classified the Runway Number in terms of the runway performance of aircraft it is intended to serve. This is determined by the aeroplane reference field length, which is the take-off distance required under specified standard conditions. These are reproduced in Annex 5.

  26.  Both documents said that this Code is a simple method of interrelating the numerous specifications of the aerodrome's characteristics, but also stated that it is not intended to be used for determining" or influencing" the actual length of runway provided.

  27.  However, in their February 2001 amendment, the UK CAA fundamentally, and as far as we are aware unilaterally, redefined the Code Number and its application at UK airports. We are not aware of any event or substantive safety issue that gave rise to this change and note that ICAO and other Contracting States has continued with the former definition.

  28.  CAP 168 now states that the Number is determined by selecting the higher value of declared TODA or ASDA" (Annex 6). This, in effect, reverses the earlier intention that the Code Number does not even influence" the runway length provided, in that the length provided now determines the Code Number.

  29.  The implications of this change can be substantial, particularly in the case of Code 2 runways. The clearances and obstruction surfaces associated with Code 2 and Code 3 runways are substantially different. For example, a runway sits inside an obstruction-free surface area termed a runway strip. The required width of an instrument approach runway strip doubles from 150m to 300m. There are also much more onerous obstruction surfaces associated with these two classes of runway. Again for example, the take-off climb surface increase from a 4% gradient surface 2,500m long, to a 2% gradient surface 15,000m long. As a result, many existing aerodromes with Code 2 runways cannot comply with Code 3 requirements due to existing developments and natural features on and off their site.

  30.  This change also makes the declaration of clearway and stopway pointless.

  31.  In a direct response to a written query from us, the SRG stated that they would not be expecting existing runways to be brought up to the new standard, nor would they reduce declared distances of existing Code 2 runways to no more than 1,199m. However they would expect new developments to comply with this new definition and the related requirements.

  32.  The CAA also said that if a newly developed runway is not able to comply with the provisions for a Code 3 runway, then its declared take-off distances will be reduced to those applicable for a Code 2 runway. This could cause the cessation of public transport operations at these airports as only very few aircraft types can reliably operate with a commercial payload off of a 1,199m long runway.

  33.  In a related matter, as a general principle a longer runway is a safer runway and it is usual to provide a length greater than the minimum requirement. In addition, the length provided will also be increased, if applicable, to reflect runway gradient, airport altitude or reference temperature. These are standard industry practices that are included in ICAO runway design documents. CAP 168 (and the SRG) do not allow a runway length to be increased for such reasons. They do have an unpublished allowance that will permit declared runway distances to be increased by up to 10% to allow for the variation in air temperatures, but that is all and remains contrary to the stated definition in CAP 168.

  34.  As a consequence of this, we have had to advise one airport not to undertake runway end safety improvement measures as these may be considered as development" and result in the reclassification from Code 2 to Code 3. A change which could not be provided for, due to physical constraints and the prohibitively high cost of compliance.

  35.  It has also become apparent that many existing regional airport Code 2 runways cannot be improved as they then become subject to the unacceptable commercial risk of having reduced declared runway distances. We also detect a reluctance on the part of such airport operators to openly challenge the CAA over this change, in case it highlights their inability to comply with the much more onerous clearances and obstruction surfaces required for Code 3 runways.

  36.  In making these points, we repeat that we are not arguing in favour of any unsafe practice or the perpetuation of any unsafe practices. Indeed, we would accept that there is an argument for reviewing all the runway classifications and related clearances to reflect the changed levels of risk associated with modern aircraft operations. However, that should at least be done after a proper study and after full consultation with all sides of the industry. It should also be done through ICAO, if at all possible, to ensure international uniformity in standards, practices and operations.

  37.  By its simple act of amending CAP 168 in 2001, the CAA has put the majority of UK regional airports outside of regulatory compliance and virtually prevented their future development. It is also now unable to enforce the provision of its own regulations, which undermines the value of these important documents and has departed from the UK's obligations to apply ICAO SARPS. Such a move displayed the underlying attitude of the SRG of the CAA, which quite rightly causes concern to consultants and aerodrome operators alike.


  38.  Clearly the European Commission is evaluating proposed further central regulation of the civil aviation sector. The Commission has recently launched a public consultation on airport capacity, efficiency and safety in Europe, the future outcome of which could lead to significant changes in the role and remit of the United Kingdom's CAA.

  39.  In particular the Commission is proposing to extend the functions of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) into the airport environment, a policy which will be outlined in an official communication published at the end of 2005.

  40.  An enhanced EASA, given greater powers could potentially become a safety authority operating at the same level as the United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). From the discussions that led to its creation, the intentions were that an organisation would be set up:

    —  to draw-up common standards to ensure the highest level of safety;

    —  to oversee their uniform application across Europe; and

    —  to promote them at world level.

  41.  Furthermore, the adoption of a European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 1592/2002 of 15/07/2002, put in place a Community system of air safety and environmental regulation and led to the creation of EASA. The objectives of that regulation can be found in Annex 7.

  42.  These will impact the role of the CAA. It is also the intention of the Commission that EASA would develop its know-how in all the fields of aviation safety in order to assist Community legislators in the development of common rules for:

    —  the certification of aeronautical products, parts and appliances;

    —  the approval of organisations and personnel engaged in the maintenance of these products;

    —  the approval of air operations;

    —  the licensing of air crew; and

    —  the safety oversight of airports and air traffic services operators.

  43.  As a first step however, the Regulation established only the basis of Community action in the first two domains listed above. The Commission, assisted by the Agency, plan to progressively propose the necessary amendments of the Regulation to extend its scope to the other domains.

  44.  So where would this leave the CAA in the future? How much authority would it have in the area of safety? Already EASA states that European aviation authorities perform a critical role in assisting EASA with the performance of its core rulemaking, certification and standardisation functions." This suggests more of a support function for the CAA, where it ensures implementation of EASA Europe-wide standards and legislation in the UK, rather than creating them in its own right. Furthermore, when one looks at the Management Board of EASA, the UK member is currently Mr Michael Smethers of the Department of Transport, with the UK CAA only providing an advisor to the board. For the majority of other European countries, it is their Civil Aviation Authority who provides the board member. As safety regulation is arguably the most important function of the CAA today, any large-scale removal of its powers to a central European body in this area, would bring in to question just what sort of organisation it should be in the future.

  45.  According to its own literature, the CAA's key responsibilities are in the areas of Air Safety, Economic Regulation, Airspace Regulation, Consumer Protection and Environmental Research and Consultancy. Safety is becoming increasingly led by EASA, and regulation of it in the UK is also arguably undermined by economic pressures in other areas. Economic regulation may get increasingly constrained by decisions made in Brussels as part of wider international agreements and treaties signed between the EU and other countries, although it could be argued that this would ensure no change in the CAA's sit back and let the market get on with it" approach it seems to have increasingly taken in this area. Airspace regulation is led by Brussels (through Eurocontrol) and NATS in the UK.

  46.  Consumer protection has long been an area of great importance to Brussels, with EU-wide legislation recently introduced to protect passengers' interests regarding delays and cancellation of flights, surely only the start of further central regulation in this area in the future. Indeed the CAA itself actually states that one of its responsibilities is to license UK airlines and enforce European Council requirements in relation to their finances, nationality, liability to passengers for death or injury and insurance." When the CAA recommended the bonding of scheduled air services the UK government rejected its proposal, further undermining the CAA's role as a policy-making body in this area.

  47.  Research and consultancy in the environmental field is something the CAA is keen to highlight. The environment is high on the European Commission's aviation agenda, with suitable funding in place for such research to be undertaken. While this is an area of great importance, and one that will become greater still in the future, research in environmental issues is a function that could be carried out by a myriad of respected institutions across Europe, many of which will not be hindered in this research by potential conflicts of interest in other areas of their work. It is not ideal for a body which is charged with getting the maximum possible use out of its country's runways to also be charged with research into environmental issues, which could include economic areas such as emissions charging. Furthermore, the CAA is investing a great deal of time and energy in an area when it doesn't even have a mandate from the government to do so. None of its original mandates set out by the government or its own stated objectives cover the environment.

  48.  We believe that with many of its key roles becoming increasingly Brussels-led and with its record of sitting back in the area of Economic Regulation, an area where it can still potentially lead rather than be directed from Brussels, the future position of the CAA is uncertain. Its future seems increasingly to be a somewhat smaller rubber-stamping institution, no longer charged with policy initiatives or legislation creation, merely ensuring European Union legislation is implemented within the United Kingdom; a role of mere oversight but no duty.

15 November 2005


Annex 1


  (Photograph not printed)

Annex 2

London airport: HeathrowGatwick StanstedLuton London City

Total Destinations served
Full Fare-
Low Cost-

Total Weekly Departures
Full Fare-
Low Cost-

Long Haul Destinations—USA
14160 00

Long Haul Destinations—Other
77230 00

Terminal Passengers (Year 2003-mn)

ATMs—(Year 2003-000s)
458236 1726150

Annex 3


Short-haul destinations Long-haul destinations

1990 2001 19902001

Heathrow 73%24%Edinburgh Heathrow70%57%
Gatwick8% 11%Gatwick 23%6%
Other hubs19% 65%Other hubs 7%37%
100% 100%100% 100%

Heathrow 56%33%Glasgow Heathrow40%48%
Gatwick9% 9%Gatwick 13%9%
Other hubs35% 58%Other hubs 47%43%
100% 100%100% 100%

Heathrow 58%36%Aberdeen Heathrow58%41%
Gatwick11% 14%Gatwick 29%20%
Other hubs31% 50%Other hubs 13%39%
100% 100%100% 100%

1994-95 2001 1994-952001

Heathrow 49%25%Newcastle Heathrow60%55%
Gatwick7% 11%Gatwick 12%14%
Other hubs44% 64%Other hubs 28%31%
100% 100%100% 100%

  Notes:  Figures for Scottish airports include only those passengers whose surface origin is in Scotland.

  Figures for Newcastle include only those passengers whose surface origin is in the Northern planning region.

  In both cases this captures the majority of users at these airports.

  Source:  CAA O&D Surveys at regional airports.

Annex 4


    —  To foster a strong and competitive British airline industry by providing enough airport capacity where it is needed."

    —  To support the leading position of Heathrow and Gatwick among the world's major international airports and interlining centres."

  The 1985 Airports Policy White Paper; Department for Transport

Annex 5

Aeroplane Reference Field Length Aeroplane Reference Code Number

<800m 1
800m to <1,200m 2
1,200m to <1,800m 3
>=1,800m 4

Annex 6


    —  Declared TODA is the declared Take Off Distance Available, which is the surface take-off run available (TORA) plus any declared clearway beyond that for aircraft to gain height.

    —  Declared ASDA is the declared Accelerate and Stop Distance Available, which is the surface take-off run available (TORA) plus any declared stopway provided for to stop in the event of an abandoned take-off.

Annex 7


    —  establish and maintain a high uniform level of civil aviation safety and environmental protection in Europe;

    —  facilitate the free movement of goods, persons and services;

    —  promote cost efficiency in the regulatory and certification processes;

    —  assist Member States in fulfilling their ICAO obligations on a common basis; and

    —  promote world wide Community views regarding civil aviation safety standards.

2   (CAP 754 UK Regional Air Services P 94). Back

3   (CAP 754 UK Regional Air Services P 102). Back

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