I have held off making a post for quite some time, but no longer.
I am not usually one to get too worked up, but there is something happening that is really getting me annoyed!
Recently, the Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] went through a funding review [CAA website: funding review], and, cutting a long story short, has decided to raise many/ most of the charges that are levied on industry.
What has really got a lot of pilots riled up though, is the imposition of a brand new fee for the issue of pilot medicals. This has nothing to do with the evaluation of an applicant for a medical certificate, but is simply, for the vast majority of pilots, an administration fee - that is a payment for the CAA to file the paperwork [and irrespective of whether a medical is granted].
OK, so that simplifies things somewhat, and there is no doubt that the CAA medical unit does more than just file medical reports, but when compared to other jurisdictions, you really begin to wonder what they do to justify such a large fee, or whether in fact they are just an inefficient monopoly supplier that has no incentive to improve its practices.
Compare this to Australia, which, according to the CASA website [CASA website: medical certification FAQS, accessed 21 Oct 2012] levies an AUD$75 fee for the same sort of services, or the FAA website [FAA website: pilot medical cert Q&A, also accessed 21 Oct 2012] which shows that there is no fee set by the FAA.
Now, nobody I know objects to paying for the medical itself. In fact, from my perspective, there is a definite personal benefit in getting the medical, and the costs are not too unreasonable. However, paying a large admin fee is another story...!
The particularly galling part of this is that the attitude of the CAA appears to be that a medical [and the associated administration that they claim to do] is purely a private benefit, and therefore should be fully funded by pilots [and incidentally, air traffic controllers].
To some this may seem reasonable on the surface, except that the benefits of robust medical certification [and some would argue whether or not we have this...] extend well beyond the pilot community!
Think about this for a moment: every time you fly on an airline, YOU receive the benefit of medical certification! Every time an aircraft flies over your town or city, you benefit from knowing that the pilot(s) are unlikely to die and crash into your house or workplace! Every time you take your friends or family for a flight, they benefit also. Economically, the country benefits greatly from a robust medical certification system, because crashes due to medical incapacitation, particularly in airliners, would have immediate and very serious consequences for the airlines, air transportation in general [if people don't trust the airlines, they don't fly...], and therefore for the country as a whole.
Nobody is arguing that pilots shouldn't pay their way, but imposing full "cost recovery" on pilot,s claiming they are the only ones to benefit, is somewhat disingenuous.
One consequence of this new fee will likely be a reduction in pilots [particularly private pilots] continuing to maintain their medicals, and it will likely dampen the inflow of pilots into the system in the future - why would you get into aviation when the costs are so high?
My belief is that there will also be a movement over the next 2-3 years into the less-regulated side of flying with sport aviation [microlights/ ultralights]. While this is fine in and of itself, the safety record and standards of some microlight operators is worse than for general aviation [GA] using certified aircraft, and so I imagine this "hidden" cost will begin to show itself in due course.
Unfortunately, this is just a continuation of what some people would consider to be a drop in the safety-first attitude from the CAA [the met info issue is another very clear example]. I'm struggling to find any concrete examples of how CAA have engaged positively with GA over the past year. It all seems to be about pushing costs [and risk] onto others, irrespective of the outcome for this nationally-critical sector of the economy.
There's a great poster that can be downloaded or ordered from CAA from their website [CAA website: posters]. Click on the one that says "Aviation Safety Needs You". It has a great by-line in it which says "Aviation Safety is Everyone's Responsibility". It seems unfortunate that this "everyone" is starting to exclude one of the key "partners" [I use the term "partners" loosely!] in aviation... the CAA.
Well, as I stated above, these are just my thoughts. If you see anything that is blatantly wrong, please let me know and if I agree with you, I'll change it.
You may agree with me, or disagree with me - I don't really mind which. Feel free to drop me an email [contact details are on my website], or leave a comment to this post. If you're looking at this on FB and want to leave a comment... would you consider leaving it on this post, not on FB? That way we can all share in your wisdom. I do not tend to censor comments, unless they are off the topic, defamatory, or encourage stupid or illegal activity, so keep it on topic and clean and it'll stay up, even if I disagree!
This extends to the good people at the CAA [and many of them undoubtedly are good people doing a good job]. You're welcome to comment also.
Lastly, there's a very interesting FB group that relates to this. If you're interested, take a look: https://www.facebook.com/CaaSeriouslyUnimpressed