HAA/CAA JOINT COMMUNIQUE
The recent issue of AIRCOM 2010/08 by the CAA resulted in a variety of differing reactions and opinions from HAA engineers and operators, having responsibility for implementation of the ex-military BCAR requirements. Some within the historic aircraft industry saw the issue of AIRCOM 2010/08 as a warning to ex-military aircraft operators to “put their houses in order” or else lose Permits to Fly. Some engineering organisations were also deeply concerned that the CAA would use AIRCOM 2010/08 as an empowering document to emphasise more strongly to ex-military aircraft operators the authority to issue or revoke permits to fly.
The HAA had just begun consultation with the CAA in an effort to gradually introduce a more expeditious and efficient regulatory regime for historic aircraft continuing airworthiness. The issue of AIRCOM 2010/08 therefore puzzled the historic aircraft industry. Inevitably the AIRCOM was seen as an announcement by the CAA that it was “business as usual”. Whilst this may have been an exaggerated reaction, the HAA felt that an immediate meeting was needed to clarify the current situation.
Accordingly a meeting took place on Thursday 24th June at CAA SRG HQ Gatwick attended by Captain Wally Epton HAA Special Projects and Mr John Romain of ARC representing the historic aircraft industry, and Mr Jim McKenna (Airworthiness Strategy and Policy), Mr Rick Bewsey (Aircraft Certification) and Mr Graham Rourke (Survey) of the CAA.
A full and frank discussion was held of the current situation in the historic aircraft restoration and maintenance industry during which the concerns of the industry and the CAA surrounding AIRCOM 2010/08 were fully reviewed. The HAA was able to express its views about the perceived attitude of some areas of CAA in their dealings with industry. The Association was also able to convey the views of the ex-military aircraft operators and maintainers who felt that modern regulations were being applied to old aeroplanes that were designed and built long before the modern requirements of design and airworthiness were introduced.
BCAR A8-20 Group M5 is not a modern regulation, having been introduced specifically to provide greater scope for maintaining ex-military aircraft. Provided it is interpreted and applied appropriately, this regulation will continue to effectively address and cater for such aircraft types. The CAA acknowledged that recent queries over the status of some aircraft had, in part, led to these concerns. However, the CAA had found genuine cause for concern and the resulting actions to address these issues had been justified. Mr McKenna also noted that it was not a question of applying modern standards to old aeroplanes, simply a matter of requiring the changes to the aircraft to be captured, formalised and approved.
The HAA suggested there had been a gradual diminution of the experience, knowledge and skills of CAA surveyors engaged in the continuing airworthiness of ex-military aircraft. It was felt that the CAA surveyors were not as familiar with old aircraft types as their predecessors were. Mr McKenna noted that the aviation industry itself had changed significantly over the years. Surveyors were still recruited from a pool of very well qualified engineers but their role included dealings with all sectors of the aviation industry and not just ex-military aircraft. He also noted that industry itself had a diminishing population of engineers with experience on the older and ex-military types.
It was noted that some parts of the historic aircraft industry have very good working relationships with CAA. Other companies were frustrated by the apparent opposition they felt which caused delays to flying permits or grounding of aircraft over what seemed to be paperwork issues. Industry felt that 2 or 3 decades ago surveyors had better knowledge of the particular requirements surrounding historic aircraft and their continuing airworthiness. Mr McKenna explained that any grounding of aircraft, or company approval action does not happen in isolation and will involve an objective assessment of the circumstances before a CAA manager approves any action.
The CAA asked industry to note that the surveyor role does not demand the detailed knowledge and experience of specific types that would be necessary to carry out restoration or maintenance activities. Mr McKenna highlighted that it is the industry, the individuals or organisations involved that are required to hold the skills, knowledge and expertise on type. The surveyor relies upon the embedded competence in an organisation, and its quality system, both to carry out the work properly and to ensure the aircraft is safe. An approved organisation ought to be able to comply with the relevant requirements without the CAA having to exercise enforcement. The CAA’s ability to perform its role is therefore highly dependent upon that competence, and the trust and integrity with which industry works.
The HAA felt that publication of AIRCOM 2010/08 at this time seemed to bring to a head the need for a “more understanding” attitude from the CAA. The industry believed it was important for everyone involved that the requirements of AIRCOM 2010/08 were met, but the industry needed the help of the CAA to apply the BCAR A8-20 requirements in a more supportive manner. The HAA appealed for a more understanding attitude by the CAA regional offices in the audit process. Mr McKenna pointed out that the AIRCOM simply reminded industry of the existing requirements, particularly in relation to BCAR A2-5 on modifications. Industry had to realise the role they had to play in meeting the requirements and that the success of the CAA/Industry relationship required an appreciation of each other’s function and role. He accepted that the AIRCOM required a further clarification as changes to maintenance schedule, limitations or operations manuals may arise from the embodiment of modifications or repairs, not as triggers for modification action as suggested in the AIRCOM.
Items other than AIRCOM 2010/08 were also discussed. These included the subject of operations manuals, maintenance schedules, and flight test schedules. The HAA felt that these were not design airworthiness issues but maintenance issues. Mr McKenna had already indicated in his earlier discussions with the HAA that the CAA would look at further devolvement of tasks to industry through the company approval mechanism. Under BCAR A8-20, the approved organisation was already responsible for compiling and managing the maintenance schedule. The CAA review would look at the possibility of clarifying how A8-20 could provide for an indirect approval of such schedules, with the CAA only performing a process review as part of audits against the organisation and at the time of permit issue.
The meeting recognised that most of the topics discussed were issues that had been raised at the HAA/CAA meeting in March 2010, and that they were topics that had been incorporated into discussion papers currently under review by the HAA and CAA Airworthiness Policy department. Since AIRCOM 2010/08 had caused such concern in the industry the HAA felt that the meeting to progress these discussion papers planned for late Autumn, should be brought forward to early September. This was agreed, and Jim McKenna asked the HAA to collate responses to those papers by the end of July 2010. Wally Epton undertook to co-ordinate responses but to restrict discussion at this phase to the 3 most pressing subjects covered in Papers 3, 5 and 6.
The HAA and CAA agreed that the meeting had been worthwhile and pledged to work closely together in an atmosphere of mutual co-operation between industry engineers and CAA surveyors to ensure continuing airworthiness standards would be maintained. It was further agreed to progress with vigour the on-going discussions for change to current procedures in pursuit of a more cost-effective and expeditious system of regulation of the historic aircraft industry. To that end the next meeting of the HAA and CAA would be brought forward to early September 2010 on a date to be announced.
Mr Jim McKenna
Captain O W (Wally) Epton
HAA Special Projects