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Licences to be provisionally suspended for infringing pilots

CAA publishes details of new process

Pilots who infringe controlled airspace could have their licences provisionally suspended while the incident is assessed, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced today. The decision is the latest attempt to try and reduce the number of infringements occurring in UK airspace – which remain worryingly high despite previous attempts by the CAA, air traffic service providers and General Aviation (GA) representative bodies to tackle this serious safety issue. In 2015 there were over 1000 infringements reported to the CAA.

Under a new process, a 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. The CAA is committed to delivering a speedy resolution to any investigation and will only impose a suspension for as long as necessary.

Details of new infringement events received by the CAA are assessed on a weekly basis by a team of experts made up of in-house pilots, investigators and air traffic controllers. If an incident is deemed to reach a certain level of seriousness then the licence of the pilot involved will be provisionally suspended until further notice (the criteria used to determine the level of seriousness of a particular infringement has also now been published Depending on the outcome of the subsequent follow-up action, a decision will be made about lifting the provisional suspension.

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 is fully engaged in the Airspace and Safety Initiative campaign with GA representatives, air traffic control providers and others to promote awareness of the risks of infringement.

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.

”We will be working with the GA community and in particular, the Future Airspace Strategy VFR Implementation Group over the coming months and developing our education work. We are hopeful that this continued engagement activity will lead to a reduction in these incidents and enhance aviation safety.”

For further press information, contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 .

Notes to Editors:

• The Airspace Infringement Working Group is made up of representatives from the CAA, the air traffic control body NATS and organisations such as AOPA , BMAA, BGA, GATCO, AOA, LAA, GASCo and the Vintage Aircraft Club.

• The CAA is the UK’s specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.