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  • We have confirmed our intent to expand the category of microlight by creating a new definition and widening the category of microlights up to 600kg maximum take-off mass (MTOM). Previously known as the “Opt-Out” in terms of exclusion from the EU Basic Regulation, this will bring aircraft and helicopters up to 600kg under direct regulation in the “Microlight” category. This should improve the availability to the UK market of more modern, light, two-seat aircraft under a lighter regulatory regime and thus help to modernise the UK fleet. This decision has received very positive coverage in the GA press and its social media forums.
  • We have launched the new PPL online exam system. This system uses a new set of theoretical knowledge exam questions developed by GA stakeholders and will be available for all registered training organisations to use to undertake their exams online from 5thOctober 2020. Paper-based PPL theoretical knowledge exams use will be subject to an exceptions process and will be phased-out early in 2021.
  • We are planning to host a number of virtual GA Roadshows to engage a wider and more diverse GA audience with the aim of both communicating and receiving feedback interactively which can help shape our future programme of activity.

We have continued our ongoing engagement with the flying display community and have recently undertaken the following:

  • CAP 403 Flying Displays and CAP1724 Flying Display Standards have had their guidance updated and are now being used as best practice across the UK and by other countries.
  • Established in 2019, the Display Pilot Evaluator project will conclude in October, resulting in significant improvements to our oversight of Display Authorisation Evaluators (DAEs) through improved engagement, procedures and processes.
  • Launching the first Airborne Flying Display Director (AFDD) course online in November; this will become a requirement for AFDD's from 2021.

Other highlights include:

  • CAP 660 Parachuting - published updated guidance on parachuting
  • We started the transition of many GA maintenance organisations to Part-CAO (Combined Airworthiness Organisation), a more proportionate approach to the regulation of production and maintenance activities for GA aircraft.

We have continued to engage with the GA community helping to increase understanding of the regulations and we feel these efforts are going some way in helping us to radically improve the regulation of the GA sector in the UK.

  • As part of our commitment to improve the way we communicate and engage with GA, we have completed a series of video interviews with GA representatives, including five of the Government Aviation Ambassadors. We covered subjects such as their views on GA recovery and their top safety tips, and produced a two minute Safety Tips video to help support the GA on their safe return to the skies after a longer than usual break from recreational flying.
  • We have reviewed and improved the recording, measuring and response times for incoming stakeholder communications to the GA Unit. 74% were responded to on the same day.
  • We conducted roadshows (latterly, these were virtual) to explain recent changes in rules for maintenance (Part M-L) and Part-CAO. These reached over 200 delegates from 106 organisations, we received excellent feedback and plan to do more in the future.
  • Loss of Control (LOC) Safety Campaign: LOC is one of the leading safety issues in general aviation. Over the last five years, these events have made up 20% of all GA accidents, 44% of all fatalities and 55% of all serious injuries. Many of these events occur on the approach to land. In July, we launched our Stay in Control safety campaign to raise awareness of LOC issues and provided advice on ways to avoid an incident.
  • The GA Airworthiness team coordinated on the compliance, testing and approval of Hawker Restorations Ltd's modification that converts a Hawker Hurricane aircraft to a 2-seat version. This created the only two-seat Hurricane in the world which is airworthy and back in the air.

The year 2020 has been dominated by the impact of the Global Coronavirus pandemic. We have worked quickly with other CAA departments and the Department for Transport to provide legal exemptions enabling members of the GA community and the 27,000 GA pilots in the UK to continue flying once the easing of social distancing measures allowed, thus minimising the impact of COVID-19 as far as possible. These included extensions for EASA and UK licences validity, including class, type and instrument ratings, and instructor, examiner and medical certificates.

Other areas of activity include:

  • Setting up a dedicated COVID-19 website with a specific area dedicated to recreational flying.
  • Providing supplementary guidance on engine health and maintenance check flights.
  • Supporting the safe return to flying for the GA Community by increasing our safety promotion and communications, and releasing the following information over the past few months:
    • Safety advice and tips for pilots returning to GA flying post COVID-19 - this will also be turned into a checklist to aid pilots;
    • Preparing to return to normal flying operations for GA Pilots - more detailed advice to supplement that above;
    • Guidance for GA Pilot Training Organisations who are preparing to return to normal flying operations;
    • CAA Podcasts interviews with two GAU colleagues who talk about return to flying and Threat and Error Management from their perspective as active GA pilots.
    • Our continued Safety Risk management work has shown an increase in accidents and incidents during approach and landing, most likely associated with skill fade of pilots over the long wet winter and ensuing COVID lockdown. We have therefore released GA Safety - Landing issues to help support and educate pilots, making them more aware of the potential hazards associated with this critical stage of flight.

Throughout this work we have sought to deliver on our top-level principles for better GA regulation to help create a vibrant and dynamic GA sector in the UK. These principles are:

  • Only regulate directly when necessary and do so proportionately
  • Deregulate where we can
  • Delegate where appropriate
  • Do not gold-plate, and quickly and efficiently remove gold-plating that already exists

Rachel Gardner-Poole, Head of the CAA's GA Unit said: “2020 has been an unprecedented year for the GA community. In addition to all the work completed as part of our GA Programme, we hope to have played a part in helping it to navigate the various challenges it has faced through the guidance and regulations we have produced, and by our work to provide reassurance and pragmatic exemptions that have allowed the sports and recreational pilots to quickly and safely get back into the air this summer”.