The CAA says: ‘Why not?’

Pilot - - CON­TENTS -

The Malone Col­umn Casti­gated by many, this time the CAA has lis­tened and got it right

At the turn of the year a short state­ment came out of the CAA say­ing it had is­sued au­t­o­gyro night rat­ings to two pi­lots. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the state­ment was a pic­ture of three men, two of them hold­ing pieces of pa­per which must have been the rat­ings in ques­tion.

That state­ment, and pho­to­graph, tell you more about the CAA to­day than all the pa­per­work that’s come out of Kingsway in a gen­er­a­tion. The 'gyro night rat­ing is the cul­mi­na­tion of years of work on ob­sta­cle-clear­ance, the de­bunk­ing of re­ceived wis­dom, the cre­ation of eggs where there are no chick­ens, and the forg­ing of trust. It speaks of a pro­found cul­tural change in the CAA at ev­ery level. Creat­ing the rat­ing re­quired whole­hearted buy-in from ev­ery cor­ner of the Author­ity — le­gal, fi­nan­cial, pol­icy, ap­provals, flight stan­dards, Un­cle Tom Cob­ley, any or all of which could have kicked it into the long grass. And that buy-in had to be backed by ex­ec­u­tive sup­port from the top to the bot­tom.

Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the amount of ef­fort, pain and dis­lo­ca­tion that’s gone into heav­ing the CAA oil tanker onto this new course. Ten years ago it could not have hap­pened; any one of a hun­dred risk-averse bu­reau­crats could have killed it sim­ply by ig­nor­ing it. But if we’d had the sort of part­ner­ship be­tween reg­u­la­tor and reg­u­lated ex­em­pli­fied by the gyro night rat­ing, we’d never have got­ten into this mess.

The men in the photo are Ian Bryant, Steve Box­all and Richard Craske. Bryant and Box­all are the rat­ings re­cip­i­ents, Craske is a Flight Ex­am­iner (Heli­copters) in the CAA’S Tech­ni­cal Ap­provals De­part­ment. When he joined the Author­ity seven years ago, Craske was asked to lift the stone on the ne­glected au­t­o­gyro sec­tor. A high-time he­li­copter pi­lot who flies an air am­bu­lance to keep his hand in, Craske shared his col­leagues’ opin­ion of au­t­o­gy­ros, which is that it’s quicker and less messy to do it with a shot­gun. But when he looked at the de­tail, a dif­fer­ent pic­ture emerged. First, the ma­jor­ity of au­t­o­gyro ac­ci­dents hap­pened on take­off or land­ing, which pointed to a train­ing prob­lem. Se­cond, while the ac­ci­dent record of home­builts was dire, shop-bought au­t­o­gy­ros built to cer­tain stan­dards — Sec­tion T of the Bri­tish Civil Air­wor­thi­ness Re­quire­ments — had a safety record as good as sin­gle-en­gined Per­mit fixed-wings.

So the CAA de­cided proac­tively to re­lieve Sec­tion T au­t­o­gy­ros from a re­stric­tion that banned over­flights of any built-up area. That got the sec­tor’s at­ten­tion — they’d been com­plain­ing about it for years. Next, Craske im­mersed him­self in the busi­ness. Given the time and bud­get by his su­pe­ri­ors, he learned to fly au­t­o­gy­ros, tak­ing lessons from dif­fer­ent in­struc­tors. Qual­ity was vari­able, but some train­ing was ex­tremely good. Once stan­dards were raised to the level of the best, train­ing could be stan­dard­ised to the ben­e­fit of safety. Craske cre­ated the Gyro Panel of Ex­am­in­ers, chaired by him­self. What fol­lowed was a gen­uine part­ner­ship be­tween in­dus­try and reg­u­la­tor, with both sides trust­ing the other to do the right thing. A key fig­ure was Phil Har­wood, au­thor of gyro train­ing books and tire­less pro­moter of the sec­tor. With help from across the spec­trum, Har­wood de­signed the first ever FIC course, and Craske brought the CAA along — no easy task when sim­ply de­sign­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion form or a rat­ing in­volves many, many de­part­ments, each with its own im­per­a­tives; don’t even ask what ‘back­room test­ing’ means.

The cre­ation of the night rat­ing il­lus­trates the way in which ob­sta­cles were tack­led. No au­t­o­gyro was cleared for flight at night, so Gerry Spe­ich, MD of Ro­tor­sport UK, got a Cavalon Pro night-qual­i­fied. In­struc­tors had to be in­vented. Box­all, an ATPL(A) with night ex­pe­ri­ence, and Bryant, a high-time exmil­i­tary he­li­copter in­struc­tor with a great deal of NVG ex­pe­ri­ence, were au­tho­rised to fly ‘day into night’ so they be­came ac­cus­tomed to fly­ing gy­ros in the dark. Then they slowly pushed the bound­aries, ev­ery step ex­plic­itly au­tho­rised by Craske af­ter due de­lib­er­a­tion, un­til ev­ery party was sat­is­fied that this could be ac­com­plished in safety. Thus were two highly ex­pe­ri­enced pi­lots given in­struc­tor priv­i­leges.

It was agreed that Phil Har­wood should be the first non-grand­fa­thered night rat­ing can­di­date. He was taught half by Box­all, half by Bryant and, us­ing his knowl­edge as an FIE and Se­nior Ex­am­iner, Har­wood was able to cri­tique each in­struc­tor and road-test the stan­dard­i­s­a­tion. And so the rat­ing was born.

There’s much more. Rules that said you couldn’t go solo in a gyro un­less you owned it were re­scinded. Craske wrote an in­ter­nal CAA re­port on au­t­o­gy­ros at a time when the ANO was be­ing rewrit­ten, and as a re­sult it’s be­come pos­si­ble to get a com­mer­cial li­cence for an au­t­o­gyro and to use it to make money, and that’s a real game-changer. It’s not a mat­ter of wav­ing a wand. You need C of A au­t­o­gy­ros, ATOS to train at, you need to de­sign pre-en­try re­quire­ments, to write an au­t­o­gyro tech­ni­cal exam — and it can’t be done by any­one who’s go­ing to take it, but some­one has to go first. Grand­fa­ther rights were ac­corded to Har­wood in view of his ex­pe­ri­ence, and he was tasked to write the tech­ni­cal pa­per on the grounds that he ef­fec­tively al­ready had the li­cence and wouldn’t have to take the exam. By the time you read this, some­one in Bri­tain will prob­a­bly have the first new CPL(G)*.

So now there's a safe, ro­bust train­ing syl­labus, and it’s help­ing to re­vi­talise this sec­tor of GA. The num­ber of gyro in­struc­tors is in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially, sales are on the rise and, best of all, we’ll be able to pre-empt EASA when they de­cide to step in and screw ev­ery­thing up. When I look back over the thirty years I’ve been deal­ing with the CAA I find it hard to be­lieve what’s hap­pened here. The right thing has been done for the right rea­sons, with trust, re­spect and good­will on all sides. Per­sonal and pro­fes­sional risks have been taken at the CAA on GA’S be­half. We must ask our­selves whether we are tak­ing full ad­van­tage of this new at­mos­phere. We’re so used to re­jec­tion, to moan­ing about what’s wrong that we don’t know what to do when some­one says “yes”. I’ve seen a few false dawns down the years, but the gyro night rat­ing is a glimpse of the sun. Carpe diem!

The gyro night rat­ing is the cul­mi­na­tion of years of work It's pos­si­ble to get a com­mer­cial li­cence... a real game changer

*The CAA says Gy­ro­plane, we say au­t­o­gyro — Ed

Pat Malone PAT MALONE Pat has worked as a jour­nal­ist on three con­ti­nents and is a fixed-wing pi­lot and for­mer he­li­copter in­struc­tor with 1,500 hours TT

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