Memorandum submitted by R E J Dawson and
M L Burlyn
In response to the Transport Committee's inquiry
into the remit and work of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA),
as civilian air traffic control officers we should like to offer
the following submission concerning the areas to be examined by
We wish to stress that our comments are a personal
view arising from a combined total of over 65 years of working
in the UK air traffic services industry and should not be taken
as representing the view(s) of any employer or other organisation
with which we may be associated.
Our comments are necessarily, confined to those
areas in which we believe we have the requisite knowledge to enable
objective comment to be made and are therefore, largely reference
matters relating to air traffic services (ATS).
1. THE REMIT,
We believe that the remit of the CAA, in particular
its combined responsibilities of economic regulation, airspace
regulation and safety regulation whilst originally complimentary,
are now mutually incompatible.
1.1 Economic and Safety Regulation
Whilst the original Edwards Committee concept
for the CAA may have been generally speaking, appropriate in the
early 1970s prior to ATS providers' privatisation and semi-privatisation,
we believe that it is now inappropriate for the CAA to play a
combined role of economic regulator and safety regulator since
these are not necessarily, fully compatible. We would draw attention
to the recent CAA firm" proposals for the National Air Traffic
Services (NATS) Charging Period 2 (CP2) covering the period 2006-10
to modify the price control conditions for the regulation of NATS'
en-route business for this period of next five years.
Some respondents expressed concern about the
possible effect of the CAA's proposed service quality incentive
on safety but the CAA's response (broadly in line with NATS and
the responding airlines) was that it is satisfied that there will
not be any compromise to the maintenance of high levels of safety
and that in its view, the proposed financial incentive will encourage"
NATS to provide staff and other resources at peak times or to
alleviate particular bottlenecks. We would question the basis
for the CAA's conclusions given that presumably it consulted internally
with its Safety Regulation Group and did not utilise any independent
outside" specialist risk-assessment organisation to undertake
an in-depth hazard analysis of this particular safety issue.
We are also aware of the proposals arising from
the recent CAA review of ATS Outside Controlled Airspace (ATSOCAS)
and the suggestion that NATS should be required to provide Radar
Advisory Service (RAS) on-demand. This despite the Lower Airspace
Radar Service (LARS) element of ATSOCAScurrently funded
by way of a rebate of Eurocontrol Navigation Charges totalling
£1.6 million annuallywhich according to the UK Department
for Transport would cost around £7 million to provide.
1.2 Airspace and Safety Regulation
The part-privatisation of NATS, because of the
possibility of a conflict of interest, quite properly in our view,
required the responsibility for airspace regulation (as opposed
to airspace management) to be transferred away from NATS to the
CAA where it now sits. However, we are aware of conflicts of interest
now arising within the CAA itself whereby the ATS inspectorate
has on at least one occasion during the last 18 months recommended
to an airport situated outside the formal controlled airspace
structure that it should apply for controlled airspace in order
to afford greater protection for the public transport flights
operating at that airport, yet the CAA's Directorate of Airspace
Policy (operating in line with directives from the DfT) indicated
that the airport in question did not qualify for such airspace
because of the level of flight activity at the time.
Please see our additional comments in Section
1.3 Provision of Adequate Resources
We believe that the current arrangement for
funding the CAA whereby it is wholly funded by the civil aviation
industry is increasingly unviable at a time when there is continuous
and mounting pressure on industry and therefore, the CAA, to reduce
operating costs. We consider it inappropriate that the industry
safety regulator should be subjected to such intense cost cutting
pressures at a time when arguablybecause of the exponential
rise in flights (expected to increase by around 3.6% annually
until at least 2008)it should be in a position to increase
its monitoring activities and safety oversight functions.
These financial imperatives have also made it
increasingly difficult for the CAA in both its safety regulatory
and airspace regulatory divisions to recruit and retain adequate
numbers of appropriately experienced and skilled air traffic controller
staff. Whilst previously, the CAA was able to rely on the secondment
of such staff from NATS, such an arrangement is now inappropriate
given NATS' status and the European requirement to separate service
provision from regulation; therefore, this source of expertise
is now unavailable. Retirements and resignations have exacerbated
the CAA's staffing situation, which has also led to a lack of
transparency to outside organisations as to the identity and contact
availability of some individual post holders.
The resultparticularly within the Directorate
of Airspace Policyhas been that an increasing number of
former military air traffic control staff have been employed in
key positions and roles. Whilst such staff are unquestionably
highly skilled and have extensive experience in their military
air traffic services field, they are naturally, lacking in experience
with regard to civil air traffic services and particularly civil
ATS provision which now in the UK, is delivered predominately
on a commercially-orientated basis with the attendant pressures
2. THE PERFORMANCE
CAA IN RELATION
2.1 At the 1999 Maastricht ATC Conference
the CAA's previous Chairman, Sir Malcolm Field stated that the
previous laissez-faire" attitude of ATS safety regulation
would be changed and that he expected the CAA to become the champion
of the travelling public, commenting that ...."the days of
the cosy world of self regulation are numbered."
We believe that this ethos is even more important
as external commercial pressures both on and from ATS providers
are nowadays, becoming more prevalent.
2.2 The movement towards a more lighter
touch" as emphasised in the new proposed Government Bill
for Better Regulation," could we believe, inadvertently lead
to an increased risk for the safety of the travelling public which
we consider unacceptable.
It is therefore, essential that safety-critical
areas of regulation are not subjected to cost cutting with the
result that the CAA abdicates its responsibilities to the service
3. THE EFFECTIVENESS
The effectiveness and efficiency is directly
related to the CAA's ability to recruit staff having the highest
credentials and credibility within the industry.
In 1999, the Transport Committee identified
the need for the CAA to obtain the best quality of applicant for
vacancies from as large a number of applicants as possible. However,
little appears to have changed, with the resulting unfilled positions
requiring remaining staff to carry an ever-increasing workload.
This situation is unacceptable and if the CAA
is to retain its position as a centre of excellence" offering
blue-chip" experience and expertise, remedial action is required
as a matter of urgency.
4. THE EFFECTIVENESS
CAA IN THE
4.1 Airspace and Safety Regulation
Whilst we do not wish to pre-judge the outcome
of the recent review of ATSOCAS, we believe that the CAA's safety-related
assumptions and judgements in respect of public transport flights
operating outside controlled airspace are fundamentally flawed.
The position taken by the CAA is that LARS and
specifically RAS provides the necessary Target Level of Safety
(TLS) to all flights, including public transport flights, operating
outside the UK controlled airspace structure. However, the CAA
to-date, has repeatedly failed to state what TLS it considers
acceptable or appropriate for such flights and we therefore, question
how the CAA can make any judgement in this regard without comparing
quantitive and qualitative data against a predetermined benchmark.
The CAA should identify through its own Safety Management System
(SMS) process what level is acceptable.
We would draw attention to the TLS previously
sought by NATS in respect of safety significant events of 1<100,000
flights and would question whether this might be considered an
appropriate benchmark by the CAA.
4.2 Safety Oversight
The effective safety regulation of ATS providers
being undertaken by the CAA being of a non-prescriptive"
nature accords with the pan-European move towards SMS with ATS
providers then taking responsibility for their own quality and
safety management processes which can be audited by the safety
regulator. Whilst this arrangement is entirely adequate for a
large well-organised ATS provider such as NATS which has the necessary
levels of appropriately skilled and qualified staff and a well-developed,
effective SMS, we question whether the CAA's policy is likely
to prove wholly effective in respect of the many smaller ATS providers
operating within the UK who may lack the necessary skills and
resources to undertake this level of self-regulation. In our judgement,
this is a particular difficulty for the UK in that other states
participating in the Single European Sky initiative do not have
a multitude of private and semi-private ATS providers delivering
civil ATS, such as the case in the UK. We would question what
areas in this regard, the CAA's own SMS process identified as
being of concern.
In our view, this situation combined with the
need to provide adequate resources (as referenced in paragraph
2.3) presents a major challenge for the CAA and risks creating
a situation not dissimilar to that which obtained within Railtrack
prior to that company's demise.
5. THE EFFECT
The main effect is the degree of uncertainty
that the newly formed European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will
have on both the standards currently in place in the UK and the
effect of location changes for existing staff.
As EASA will be given the power to impose standards
European-wide we believe it is essential that this common standard
does not dumb down" the current standards, which the CAA
has established in the UK and it is essential that the CAA's role
and responsibility as a National Supervising Authority is clearly
defined both now and in the future.
It is equally essential that the CAA demonstrates
to EASA through its own Quality Assurance System and SMS processes,
the necessity to maintain the highest possible standards of safety
for the travelling public.
In respect of the UK air traffic services industry,
we believe that the structure and role of the CAA as envisaged
by the Edwards Committee has failed to keep pace with the changes
that have taken place within that industry.
In consequence, we feel that the following changes
should be implemented in order to ensure that the CAA is enabled
to maintain its role of industry safety regulator acting primarily
on behalf of the travelling public and fulfilling the concept
outlined by its previous Chairman, Sir Malcolm Field.
Remove all economic regulatory functions
of the CAA and place these within a separate Government department.
Modify the funding arrangements for
the CAA whereby it is in part, funded from general taxation and
so is enabled to (a) recruit adequate numbers of appropriately-qualified
civil air traffic controllers who have the necessary civil ATS
experience and (b) provide the necessary level of safety oversight
pro-activity, where this is deemed appropriate.
Require the CAA to change its priorities
in respect of airspace regulation whereby it is directed to consider
primarily, safety issues followed by equitability of access issues.
Direct the CAA to publish a Target
Level of Safety for public transport flights operating outside
controlled airspace together with methodology to measure the operating
safety of such flights.
Transfer from the CAA, responsibility
for consideration of environmental issues relating to airspace
management, to a separate Government department.
Ensure that all CAA senior management
post-holders have the relevant civil industry experience for the
departments they are required to manage.
We would be pleased to elaborate on our submission
by giving oral evidence to the Transport Committee if desired.