12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
COMMENT: CAA Must Strike a Balance
The need to strike a reasonable balance between regulatory control, safety standards and airport operations was highlighted at an Aviation Club luncheon last week addressed by Bob Macleod, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL). Addressing the gathering of leading aviation industry figures he compared the regulatory approach in the UK to other countries. He also noted that the government must be persuaded to insist on ring fencing an expanded Heathrow if that airport were to get a third runway. The loss of the Heathrow route was bad news for Inverness, headquarters of HIAL. This was reinforced by Neil Pakey managing director of Liverpool Airport and also echoed by Jim French, chief executive of FLyBe, who spoke up for the Channel Islands.
Highlands and Islands Airports, the operator of 10 airports in the North of Scotland, has commissioned an investigation into some of the more onerous operating standards that currently apply in the UK. This study, due to be completed at the end of 2003, will weigh operating regulations against the retention of current safety standards.
Speaking at the Institute of Directors in London, Mr Macleod said: ”There are fundamental differences in the way in which the UK CAA and other significant signatories of the International Civil Aviation Organisation conventions approach safety regulations. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, for example, there is a robust safety regulatory review process that is totally transparent, draws upon the experience of all stakeholders and, most significantly, is based upon assessment of risk.
”In these countries aviation safety regulations that have high cost impact on the community are periodically reviewed and subsequently modified to reflect local conditions and the concept of mitigating risk at reasonable cost. The result of this is that smaller airports, by virtue of their scale and thus risk exposure, are treated differently than larger airports with a concentration of public risk.
”The UK CAA, on the other hand, seeks to apply the same regulations to all airports, irrespective of scale. Regrettably the UK CAA does not have a transparent regulatory review process and, therefore, does not benefit from the experience and inputs of stakeholders.
”At our 10 airports we believe that we are faced with excessive regulatory costs because the UK CAA applies its standards across the board. The cost impact on us is very substantial and is a major factor in the high level of subsidy we receive from the Scottish Executive to provide airport infrastructure to facilitate lifeline air links. We are constantly concerned about overprovision and the high cost of meeting UK CAA regulations. We would welcome the introduction of a system which applies more appropriate regulation at reasonable cost while maintaining safety standards.”
Mr Macleod cited the example of Barra Airport in the Outer Hebrides and its beach landing strip that caters for around 8,500 passengers a year.
”Barra with its tiny runway has to comply with the same operating regulations and standards as London Heathrow even though the operating environment and conditions are markedly different. Barra handles less than 9,000 passengers a year while Heathrow handles 9,000 an hour. I keep three fire appliances on stand-by at Barra for a 19 seat Twin Otter. This is a prime example of blanket regulations placing a hard to justify burden on our operations,” said Mr Macleod.
To put the whole thing in perspective HIAL has an annual budget of almost ”30m (one third revenue and two-thirds subsidy from Scottish Executive) and is responsible for providing airport infrastructure, facilitating lifeline air links and promoting economic sustainability and social inclusion in Scotland”s remoter regions. It is somewhat smaller than BAA Plc, see below, but in fact operates more airports. However in passenger throughput the number is 864,000 passengers per annum rather than the one hundred million plus of BAA. The CAA has to consider its role in these matters. Otherwise let the airport standards be turned over to a European body, whom, with their normal socialist attitude will certainly come down on the side of the smaller operator. One then has to question the role of an even more truncated CAA. http://www.hial.co.uk