My time with the Civil Aviation Authority 1984 - 1998
I joined the CAA in late 1984 as a General Aviation Specialist, their very first.
Initially with the General Aviation Section of the Operational Planning and Development Department. I was promoted to Head that Section in 1987.
A reorganisation in 1988 alongside a move from Central London to the new Aviation House at Gatwick resulted in the establishment of the General Aviation Department and I was appointed Deputy to the Head of GAD as well as being Head of the Operations Section. We regulated all facets of GA from a folded paper dart to a corporate Boeing 747.
Our headline activity in the period April to October was the Air Display industry involving the creation of permissions and exemptions to enable the shows to take place.
Our routine work involved heavy model aircraft, unmanned advertising balloons, kite flying, model rocketry and low flying exemptions for all types of aircraft. Droppnig of flower petals, poppies and human ashes were a regular feature, all of which needed some form of dispensation from the Air Navigation Order.
We had the odd unusual request such as walking the plank between two hot air balloons on close formation linked by ropes and climbing to the top of a hot-air balloon in free flight. A request to fly under a very solid stone bridge for the TV series 'Piece of Cake' by the famed Ray Hanna. An unessessary request, from a film company, to crash a Boeing 747 on take-off with resulting explosion and inferno; but since it was never to actually get airborne it did not need any dispensation from the CAA.
We dealt with General Aviation Occurance reports to ascertain the reasons behind the incident and to recommend remedial action to the person concerned.
I was often asked to assist the CAA Legal Advisor;s Department on possible prrosecutions arising out of alleged breaches of aviation law. I would weigh the evidence and give an opinion as to whether a prosecution was justified or administrative action to restrict a pilots licence might be more appropriate, In a number of cases I had to give evidence as an expert witness and those prosecutions were always successful.
We liaised with all the General Aviation representative bodies and inspected around 40 events each year, mainly airshows.
I had a staff of five Flight Standards Officers and two administrative assistants. We worked well as a team.
During my employment with the CAA I was involved in a number of major developments and drafted the legislative changes required.
The establishment of an AOC system for Ballooning along with the necessary Commercial Balloon Pilots Licence. This to allow the legal carriage of paying passengers
The development of a system of Permissions for major Flying Displays along with a Display Authorisation system for the pilots who were involved.. This also involved a major revision of CAP403, the Guide to Arrangements for Flying Displays and Special Events.
The sheer variety of our activities ensured that there really was never a dull moment, especially for a, dyed in the wool, General Aviation enthusiast for over 55 years.
I both enjoyed and endured my time with the CAA. I made many friends both inside the organisaton and externally. My managers were varied, some excellent but a few others were really unpleasent people who should never have been appointed to their position in civil aviation management. It did, howeve, provide me with an index linked, final salary, pension, which amounted to over a fifth of my final salary, that makes my life in retirement comfortable, if not wealthy. I had no regrets at being, for nearly 14 years, a General Aviation gamekeeper but was glad to resume poaching.