The CAA has made the controversial announcement today that pilots who infringe controlled airspace could have their licences provisionally suspended whilst the incident is being assessed.
This new process is the latest attempt by the CAA to reduce the number of infringements that have been occurring in the UK’s airspace. The number of incidents – despite previous attempts by the CAA, air traffic service providers, and, General Aviation (GA) representatives – have been alarmingly high since 2015 when over 1,000 incidents were reported.
Under a new process, any pilot who is identified as having infringed controlled airspace, a Danger Area or Restricted Area, could have their licence or licences provisionally suspended, while the details of the incident are investigated and follow-up action considered.
All new infringement events that are received will be assessed by the CAA on a weekly basis by a team of experts. The team will be made up of in-house pilots, investigators and air traffic controllers. Should the incident be deemed to reach a certain level of seriousness then the licence belonging the pilot involved will be provisionally suspended indefinitely. The criteria that determines the level of seriousness of each infringement can be viewed here: www.caa.co.uk/cap1404.
The CAA has always acknowledged that the majority of infringement events are unintentional but some do have a significant impact on the operations inside Controlled Airspace. All events, however, carry some risk. Some events clearly show inadequate pre-flight planning, poor airmanship, or insufficient pilot knowledge. In a few cases, a deliberate intention to fly into Controlled Airspace has been found and there have been instances of multiple infringements by the same pilot. It is likely that in these circumstances pilots will have their licences suspended.
Following a recent serious incident at the beginning of the flying season, when a Red Arrows display was severely disrupted because of an infringement, the CAA has provisionally suspended the licence of the GA pilot involved.
Despite today’s announcement the CAA will continue to focus on tackling infringements through education and training and opt for provisional suspension or legal enforcement in more serious cases.
The CAA’s Rob Gratton, Chairman of the joint Airspace Infringement Working Group, said: “The number of infringement incidents in the UK has not seen any serious decline in recent years, despite the strenuous efforts of the CAA, GA representatives and many others. Therefore, we really do feel that this measure has become necessary. We hope that this decision will bring home to those pilots who do infringe the gravity of the situation. Any infringement has the potential to be a very serious safety incident. We need to see the numbers decline urgently”.