‘The assertion by the CAA’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Haines, reported in the Times yesterday, that there has been resistance in the air display community to the changes [to the regulations] being proposed is factually incorrect,’ says the British Air Display Association and Honourable Company of Air Pilots in a robustly worded joint statement issued on 4 March. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth.’
‘The entire airshow community has been focussed on drilling into the core safety issues that stem from the Shoreham tragedy to assess what changes can sensibly be made to prevent a recurrence,’ the statement continues. ‘There has been great anxiety about the massive increase in charges, made without realistic consultation or with any meaningful impact assessment. To suggest, however, that the airshow community has declined to ‘co-operate with reforms such as rigorous checks on pilots, new training for organisers etc’ is completely false. That Mr Haines should compound this blatant piece of politicking by a public body by saying that ‘the community seem to think that Shoreham is a one-off and therefore you can carry on as you are’ is totally inaccurate, and a reprehensible statement from the CEO of the CAA.’
BADA and the Honourable Company ask if the regulator has being minding its own shop: ‘before Shoreham, Mr Haines carried out cuts within the CAA budget such that many departments were unable to exercise proper regulatory management of various aspects of the aviation industry… The system was sustained only by the professional involvement of Display Authorisation Evaluators (DAEs) from the airshow community, and by the presence of a sound and well-framed regulatory system evolved over many decades… As part of the hollowing-out of the CAA, as late as mid 2015, Mr Haines was personally involved in trying to offload the responsibility for airshow management, with its associated deregulation, to the British Air Display Association. BADA declined, as they perceived this to be a retrograde step with regard to regulatory oversight and fundamental safety.’ Now, of course, the CAA is demanding increased fees to cover the cost of new employees, charged with overseeing air displays.
The associations feel their expert input was excluded from the CAA’s review of air display safety; ‘it became apparent that, apart from a little window dressing by involving the inclusion in the team of an Air Marshal, this was to be an in-house exercise with no involvement of the display community at all’.
‘Mr Haines has chosen to deflect criticism of him and the CAA by falsely accusing the display community of obdurate behaviour, which the public should be aware is completely untrue. The CAA has yet to issue the full details of the regulation changes even at this late hour, so display organisers have no regulations with which they can refuse to comply…
‘Of course, post Shoreham everyone needs to review how, if possible, we can prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy, but imposing draconian changes, with inadequate consultation, risks not only depriving the public of something they enjoy but also depriving young people of an experience which for so many has inspired them to become aviators or aeronautical engineers, contributing to one of the UK’s most successful, world-leading industries.
‘The intemperate and irresponsible approach by the CAA suggests that these rushed measures are not driven so much by a desire to enhance air show safety as to pre-empt any criticism of the CAA which might arise from forthcoming enquiries. Accordingly, we call upon Mr Haines to retract his criticism.’