15 MARCH 2021
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Using the classic words of Flight International magazine in its heyday Sir Stephen Hillier, the new chair of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), came across as a “total aviation man” at a webinar hosted by the Aviation Club of the United Kingdom last week.
Sir Stephen introduced himself by stating that whilst a former Marshal of the Royal Air Force he started as a mere Private Pilot Licence (PPL) holder, a licence he still held. For his prepared discourse it was clearly refreshing to know that in the appointment was somebody who had a fine knowledge of the industry he was now serving. In a new civil aviation role he saw the way ahead.
Safety was the major point he emphasised, returning to the subject again and again, but he also covered topics as varied as the handling of refunds during the Covid-19 pandemic, the environment and airspace. He said the CAA looks to beef up its powers to improve consumer protection with regard to the Air Travel Organiser's Licencing (ATOL) scheme. Sir Stephen pointed out that the CAA is represented on the travel taskforce “and has an important part to play”. On the technical front the management delays associated with Covid-19 has meant delays in giving approval extensions, something the CAA is monitoring.
Pilots with a licence from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which the United Kingdom is not now part of, can fly within the UK but this has not been reciprocated. The CAA is working on this issue. “We are doing what we can and aware of the situation. This is the same for engineers,” he noted. Regarding EASA, decisions were made not in his time “and was taken at a higher level”. He pointed out that the CAA had the advantage of a solid foundation and only required 25 people to upgrade the UK system from what already existed in the way of skills needed. “No risks were flagged up”. He pointed out that the Boeing MAX had been approved by both Authorities.
Questioned about slots he noted it was not a CAA responsibility.
And asked what was the best aircraft he has flown during the final Q&A, Sir Stephen made it clear rather, like himself, the now RAF retired Tornado was his favourite, and that he had pulled rank to fly one in a final sortie two years ago. He also flew in the RAF Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster, “a memorable experience”. His first solo was in a Leicester Flying Club Cessna 152 at the age of 17.
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Arnold Country, London
At last someone chairing the CAA who knows something about aviation. No cronyism for a change.