Safety Checks of Foreign Airliners to Increase in UK

Thu, Feb 28, 2008 — David Evans


Oftentimes when bureaucracies are threatened with loss of their primary function, they tend to emphasize lower-order tasks to justify their survival.

A case in point might be the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the United Kingdom. Like many comparable national regulatory bodies in Europe, the CAA is losing functions to the consolidated European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). To compensate, the CAA has announced that it will increase inspections of foreign aircraft in the UK.

As one source observed of this development, “The UK CAA is running short on raison d’etre. The loss of CAA responsibilities is so widespread that jobs are now on the line.”

UK Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick announced recently that the number of safety checks carried out on foreign aircraft will more than double in 2008 to 600 inspections, up from 250 in 2007. Further increases are expected, rising to about 1,000 in 2009.

“The government is totally committed to ensuring that foreign aircraft coming to this country are operated safely and that unsafe aircraft do not find their way into European skies,” announced Fitzpatrick.

“I have been extremely impressed by the thoroughness of the CAA’s rigorous safety inspections,” he added. “We hope that the increase in the number of annual inspections to 1,000 every year will help give passengers full confidence in their aircraft’s safety, whether it is owned by a foreign operator or not.”

  • The inspections are unannounced and cover both passenger and cargo planes. They include checking that:
  • The required documents, including crew licenses and the airplane’s certificate of airworthiness, are valid;
  • The flight has been properly planned;
  • The required safety equipment is serviceable;
  • The cargo has been properly loaded;
  • And there are no obvious defects in the airframe, undercarriage or engines.

The increased number of safety checks, known as ramp inspections, are to ensure that the UK plays its part in maintaining the safety of the skies over Europe, as part of the pan-European Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) program, according to a Department for Transport statement.

The inspections in the UK commence 1 April 2008. The results will feed into the European Union’s (EU) role in assessing the safety record of airline, and updating the region’s blacklist.

Under EU Regulation EC 2111/2005, foreign airlines may be prohibited from operating anywhere in the EU if there are serious concerns about the safety, hence the so-called “blacklist.” The ban is published on the Internet and currently includes a whopping 152 airlines that are prohibited from operating in European skies (see box below). The list of banned airlines seems to be concentrated on those in Africa, Central and South Asia. For example, the list features some 50 airlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an amazing number, if nothing else because the DRC is not commonly perceived to even have that number of airlines. Some 47 airlines are banned from Indonesia, and a further 24 airlines not permitted to fly in Europe are from the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. In fact, airlines from these three countries alone make up more than 120 of the 152 banned airlines in total.


List of Airlines Banned Within the European Union

To improve safety in Europe further, the European Commission – in consultation with Member States’ aviation safety authorities – has decided to ban airlines found to be unsafe from operating in European airspace.

Where an airline which is currently included in the list deems itself to be in conformity with the necessary technical elements and requirements prescribed by the applicable international safety standards, it may request the Commission to commence the procedure for its removal from the list.

(Sample entries from the list)

Air Carrier                                  State of Operator

Ariana Afghan Airlines               Afghanistan

Volare Aviation Enterprise          Ukraine

Cargo Bull Aviation                    Democratic Republic of Congo

Guinea Airways                         Equatorial Guinea

Adam Sky Connection               Indonesia

Golden Rule Airlines                  Kyrgyz Republic

Air Bangladesh                          Bangladesh


The UK CAA is responding to an EU compromise that hands over more powers to Europe’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The compromise includes the possibility of imposing fines on unworthy aircraft manufacturers, in a bid to tighten variable air safety standards across the 27 nation bloc.

EASA will take over from national authorities the task of regulating air companies’ operations, licensing pilots and certifying third-country aircraft. The adoption of the new regulation, with compulsory and uniform measures, is aimed at reducing disparities in safety standards among the member states.

The European Commission is expected to make fresh proposals in mid-2008 extending EASA’s oversight to the safety of airport infrastructure, air traffic management and air navigation services. For example, air traffic standards continue to be set by a number of intergovernmental bodies, such as the EU’s Joint Aviation Authority (JAA), Eurocontrol, or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), none of which have binding authority over member states. As a result, safety standards continue to vary widely across EU nations.

It is evident that more tasks will migrate to EASA, leaving fewer missions for member states.

The UK CAA’s announcement of greater involvement in ramp inspections of foreign airlines may be seen as the first of a number of staff adjustments to compensate for reduced workload in its traditional areas of service. One might say that its loss of responsibilities to EASA is so widespread that jobs are on the line and new “empires” need to be built and bolstered.

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