Secretary of Transport Grant Shapps says the CAA should not be “the judge, the jury and the executioner” and that an independent panel for appeals may be operational by March

In an exclusive interview with Pilot, the Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps has revealed that appeals against CAA procedures will no longer be handled by the CAA itself, but by an independent body. Shapps, who spoke to Pilot at the LAA Rally in Sywell, said “I don’t think [the CAA] should be the judge, the jury and the executioner”.

At the moment, if pilots are not satisfied with the way the CAA is handling investigation, sanctions and ultimately prosecution, they can only appeal to the CAA itself, or escalate the case (at a significant cost) by going through regular court proceedings. Shapps said this needs to change, since “the appeal goes back to the same person who made the original decision. We want to make sure that there is a proper and fair execution of justice” through implementing a new system, where complaints and appeals would go “an independent panel, not in the CAA”.

The issue has become increasingly more important over the last few years, as numerous pilots found themselves issued with Mandatory Occurrence Reports (MORs) for airspace infringements. The process has been often perceived as unfair and not transparent by the General Aviation community, and in a detailed investigation (‘Infringement Injustice’, November 2020 edition) Pilot chronicled some of those problems.

In one instance that we examined, an experienced display pilot deviated from his course to maintain safe VFR conditions, but was nonetheless sanctioned by the CAA and was not given the possibility to explain his action. On another occasion a CAA officer was taped threatening “licensing action” on a first call to a professional pilot, who was eventually acquitted of all wrongdoing. In a third instance another pilot reported that an ‘interview’ turned into a two-and-a-half hour interrogation that covered his entire flying career of more than forty years.

Shapps said the independent appeal body could be operational by March 2022, and that the Department for Transport has “been working on this for quite some time”.

Image(s) provided by:

Parliament UK / Richard Townshend Photography