Monday, 13 July 2009

I'm from the Civil Aviation Authority...

A UK airfield, sometime in the past...

It's not that he was very loud, but the words, "Hello, I'm from the Civil Aviation Authority and I'm here to see...." seemed to be picked up by everyone in the room, which unsurprisingly fell silent. Later, when I went to pay my landing fees the man from the CAA was in the office talking to the airfield staff. It was impossible not to hear the content of the conversation.

It turns out that Mr CAA is an investigator with the legal branch and he'd driven the 250+ miles to the airfield to take a statement. Allegedly, earlier this year a visiting aeroplane had infringed some Gatwick airspace and he was seeking a statement confirming that said aeroplane had actually visited. I won't repeat it here, but the registration, type and names of occupants were stated openly. The man from the CAA and a couple of others in the room made some other comments that bear repeating.

  1. Mr CAA stated that at least both of the alleged offending pilots (there were two), were flying in the UK on their FAA licences.
  2. That they had a GPS in their aeroplane.
  3. That they'd probably only get a slapped wrist.

Nothing too radical there, but the tone/sucking of teeth (from others in the room too) was interesting.

There was an implication that an FAA licence is inferior to a CAA/JAA licence. I looked up one of the pilots, and he does indeed hold an FAA PPL (and instrument rating). While that doesn't bring any specific knowledge of UK airspace or procedures, it doesn't suggest inexperience either.

There was a suggestion, by someone other than Mr CAA, that the GPS was the cause of the infringement. According the the local expert, "They (GPS units) should only be used if you are 100% certain of your position without them." I would suggest that such disdain for GPS is one of the reasons that it is not taught properly, and that would be one way of improving navigational accuracy and situational awareness.

Finally, Mr CAA man gave (me) the impression that he'd driven a long way and gone to a fair amount of trouble, but that the offenders would probably only get a letter. I sensed a degree of frustration.

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