Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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Some will know that I’ve been interested in and peripherally involved with the matter of Infringements for some years. I’ve had spasmodic engagement with the CAA on this at a fairly high level following which, at the CAA’s request, I wrote the 2017 FASVIG paper proposing a proper strategy for dealing with the problem. Much of that is, in effect, water under the bridge since little has really changed and, therefore perhaps unsurprisingly, little has been achieved in terms of significantly moving the cursor on the problem. We are where we are.

In the meantime I watch the impassioned to-ing and fro-ing on the Flyer Forum with a sense of weary deja vue. Aside from occasional cat-calling, what I pick up is a number of really unhealthy themes that we should address.

The first is that there appears to be a strong and perhaps growing mistrust of the CAA and a lack of faith in the fundamental fairness of the processes for dealing with alleged infringements. This, it seems to me, it not helped by opacity on the part of the AIWG which itself fuels a sense of conspiracy in the minds of those predisposed to such theories. Nonetheless, whilst the opacity is disappointing, it is a mistake to think of the CAA as ‘the bad guys’. They have a job to do; this is a serious problem; and we can’t just wish it away. So demonising them isn’t the solution.

The second is that there appears in at least some quarters to be a real and slightly puzzling hostility towards GASCo who deliver the Infringement Awareness courses under contract to the CAA. It seems to me that that’s a bit like shooting the messenger. No fair-minded person can seriously criticise GASCo for running these courses. I attended the beta-test of the course whilst it was in development and felt that as a forum for fairly broad-brush re-training it was actually quite good. I have my own view on whether, as a matter of principle, the course is really a solution to the problem, but that’s another issue. That question isn’t fairly laid at GASCo’s feet.

The third is that there are at least some GA pilots who advocate completely ‘opting out’ of the system altogether by a) either not installing a transponder; or b) not turning it on near controlled airspace; or c) refusing to engage in any dialogue with the CAA or with ANSPs in the event that they are accused of an infringement. These courses of action seem to me to be fundamentally irresponsible (and of course in the case of deliberately not operating a fitted transponder they are actually illegal). But I recognise that they are borne of a sense of persecution and mistrust on behalf of those who advocate them. The solution is to tackle the sense of persecution and mistrust, not just to disengage.

So, should we not perhaps take a deep breath and approach this problem another way? Here’s an idea:

Let’s take as a start-point the assumption that no-one deliberately infringes controlled airspace or danger areas. OK, I know that there has been the odd individual who famously has, but they are very very few in number and, to be frank, they represent the lunatic fringe of GA which we can all do without. For you and me and almost everyone else who flies, an infringement is a mistake; almost always driven by some simple and easily recognised errors or omissions.

With that in mind, let’s also assume (and the evidence bears this out) that the huge majority of infringements are due to in-flight distraction/inattention on the part of the pilot, or unfamiliarity with the navigation aids in the aeroplane including the absence of (or incorrectly used) moving map equipment, be it fitted or carry-on. The great majority of such infringements could almost certainly have been avoided if the pilot had used a 3D moving map; adopted the Take 2 initiative; and, dare I say it, paid a little more attention to maintaining his or her track and level. If we all did these things all the time then I’d guess that 75% of infringements would simply not occur.

So far so good? Well I guess so. But some will argue that the problem arises from what they perceive as a heavy-handed response from the Regulator. It drives a sense of ‘them and us’; it is fuelled by distrust and opacity; it leads some people to disengage and obstruct; all of which further widens the gap between the Regulator and the Regulated. Both 'sides' of this issue are at fault.

So, why don’t we do a deal? Why don’t we take some ownership of the problem and set up a pilot-driven scheme in which we, the GA pilots, undertake to do some things in return for an undertaking from the Regulator that they will do some things? If we play ball; they play ball. If it works then everyone is happy and, if I’m right, the stats would go down.

So what I’m thinking of is this. We set up a voluntary scheme to which pilots individually sign up as, if you like, Infringement Ambassadors - on the basis that good practice can and should be contagious. A pilot subscribing to the scheme undertakes that he will:
1. Always use a moving map system of some sort;
2. Always plan to Take 2 when operating near controlled airspace;
3. Always use his transponder in Mode C/S (when fitted);
4. Always recognise and try to manage the risks associated with distraction and inattention in-flight;
5. Always engage constructively and honestly with any allegation of infringement.

In return the Regulator undertakes that, if dealing with an alleged infringement involving such an Infringement Ambassador, it will:
1. Make a presumption of innocence and good faith;
2. Seek, for the purposes of education not punishment, to establish the facts surrounding any alleged infringement;
3. Aside from the process of ascertaining the facts, take no further regulatory action in relation to an allegation of infringement;
4. Publish a quarterly update of all episodes of infringement involving such pilots, focusing on the learning points arising from them.

If I’m right that would both defuse the somewhat toxic relationship between the CAA and GA in this arena. It would also at a stroke promote best practice. And it would drive down the stats. What’s not to like about that?

I would sign up to such a scheme tomorrow if the Regulator would agree to play ball. Who would join me?
Crash one, ls8pilot, Ben K and 5 others liked this
Well I've said what needs to be said since around 2008. What has changed since then?

Not “enough” - unsurprisingly.

But there’s always some excuse from "the other party" for not doing "enough". So what's next?

As long as private/unregulated "large" airports continue to operate unregulated with a mindset of either prohibiting, unfairly discouraging, or pretending (light) GA do not exist or does not deserve to exist, I'm afraid this problem will never be really resolved.

The same goes with ANSPs that operate Class A airspace unnecessarily.

So the enforcement unit at the regulator could just slowly get rid of the undesirable GA pilots anyway by making life difficult or terrifying for them. They have targets to make and it’s the cheap and simple solution. :roll:
Last edited by James Chan on Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
It's a great plan if it worked.

I do all this already - Except 2) in places where to do so would be positively dangerous or impossible.

1. Always use a moving map system of some sort;
2. Always plan to Take 2 when operating near controlled airspace;
3. Always use his transponder in Mode C/S (when fitted);
4. Always recognise and try to manage the risks associated with distraction and inattention in-flight;
5. Always engage constructively and honestly with any allegation of infringement.

I am now sitting back and waiting for the man from the CAA to tell me I have my "Get out of jail free" card, When might I expect this?

3. Aside from the process of ascertaining the facts, take no further regulatory action in relation to an allegation of infringement;

Rob P
davef77 liked this
From my time as the NATS Infringement Lead back in 2006 I think it has swayed a few times since then. NATS paid to have CAIT developed and installed as an knitted bid to stop their biggest safety risk - a mid air collision between CAT and an infringer.

We argued that issuing a fine would
Probably make most pilots less current and therefore more of a risk. We started joining the CAA on Safety evenings and Presenting data and video replays.

I cannot say if NATS or the CAA led the seemingly polar attitude towards GA on this topic.

I really don’t know what the best solution is - probably a mix of all of the obvious;

Easier to Navigate CAS
Better Initial and Refresher Training for pilots
More PR from the regulator on the events
Etc etc

I too read this continuation of Infringements with as much desperation as the next person.

As an aside, Jersey CTR has seen a large increase in infringements in the last 18 months and I was in a meeting with EASA today where it was asked what our plan is. So, this is not going away.....
I think all the above in DW's post would not need to be said if a true "Just Culture" existed for the light end of GA and administered by the CAA. on the basis that in the majority of industrys it fits in with the "No Blame" unles complete and disregard of the rules has taken place.
flybymike liked this
David - a couple of thoughts -

2. Always plan to Take 2 when operating near controlled airspace;

Many infringements occur where it would be difficult to take 2

4. Always recognise and try to manage the risks associated with distraction and inattention in-flight

That is a difficult one. The problem with distraction is that it sneaks up on you. We are human and that is part of the human condition, as is inattention in flight (sometimes because there is an external distraction and sometimes (up to 44% of the time) our minds are wandering).

As you may know, I am researching pilot error in the context of infringements, talking to pilots who have infringed to hear their stories, something that has never been done before. An initial view suggests that no matter how conscientious, how prepared and how experienced a pilot is, s/he can err, often as the result of distraction of one sort or another. Hopefully as a result of the research I will be able to find methods to help pilots recognise distraction and avoid or at least mitigate the consequences. I also hope to do similarly for inattention, which at least has been researched in the commercial sector.

Finally, I wonder if your list should include the suggestion, made often on here, that pilots who infringe should be directed/requested/suggested/recommended to take a flight with an instructor to address any identified shortcomings, if any? I have heard people say they found the Gasco course interesting and useful, but not really focussing on the issues important to them. And some of those I have interviewed have in fact flown with an instructor afterwards anyway.

Best wishes

FrankS liked this
I think there are a couple of things you haven't considered.

First, are most infringements really a serious problem? Obviously someone lumbering through a busy CTR is a serious problem, but most infringements seem to be minor vertical deviations. Don't controllers already allow for separation from the base of controlled airspace? Isn't there already some tolerance given? What actual safety problem is created by this?

I appreciate that the current rules require controllers to expend considerable grief when some appears to cross the line even the tiniest bit. From my perspective, that's a required panic response, and therefore doesn't justify "serious problem" by itself.

Imagine if a city were required to immediately set all traffic lights in the entire city to red if a single red light camera goes off. Because "nobody knows what that red light jumper might be doing". There would obviously be chaos. Would it be the car that went through just as it turned red that is causing the serious problem, or the rules that require the panic response?

So a sensible approach must take into account the actual safety consequences of an alleged infringement, and right now it doesn't.

Second, there's the problem of not realistically being able to plan a route that "takes two" in various crowded areas. How will "infringement ambassadors" deal with that? Just not go there? A sensible approach would require airspace design to take into account the needs of uncontrolled airspace users better.
Rob P, flybymike, anglianav8r and 1 others liked this
Following on from @rdfb 's last points.

Controlled airspace necessity appears to be firmly stuck in the era of converted bombers, DC3's and the like. Professional, current, highly -skilled Pilots with hugely expensive and supposedly accurate navigation equipment and aids are still given a (2-mile?) bubble around them.
AIUI, this was reduced, sometime post-war, to a more realistic level of separation, in that era Meanwhile, the 4-engined CAT aircraft is now history to the vast majority, but still these huge swathes of largely -empty airspace are forbidden to all and sundry at the whim of the controller of that privileged empire. Time to reduce the huge "safety-margins" again to reflect the current precision capabilities of 21st. Century CAT?- that should reduce infringements of the remaining needed Controlled airspace, at a stroke.

Meanwhile, the Private Pilot, with vastly cheaper and by inference, less accurate or capable equipment, is expected to magically be able to precision-fly with as-great, or better precision than the afore-mentioned professionals. (who are paid handsomely for their skillset, whereas the amateur pays handsomely to be allowed to share the air that we ultimately all own.
anglianav8r liked this
I wonder how many infringements are due to missing important NOTAM s ? That is probably my greatest worry, missing some temporary class d or other zone buried in the mass of notices about repainting runway markings or stray badger sets! While the electronic aids help a lot they depend on internet access and other infrastructure. ....

Looking at the CAA infringements publications they seem to give the impression that the blame is always on the pilot, not the sometimes bizarre airspace design. I don't see evidence of real root cause analysis that looks at all aspects of the issue, so I can see why some are suspicious...
anglianav8r liked this
Don’t know the infringement fix, but having GASCo do any sort of mandatory training does seems to me like it was an easily forseeable error.

Hacing been out of the loop a while I was honestly startled to read it was them delivering it.

You can’t run with the fox and hunt with the hounds and mandatory retraining is rightly or wrongly always going to be seen as punitive.

I don’t see how any organisation however well intentioned can at the same time be “those friendly chaps you can be honest with about your naffups at safety evenings” and the people who are going to slap wrists on behalf of the CAA.

Comparison with speed awareness courses and the resentment they seem to generate among road users were always inevitable, no fine words or promises were going to magicwand existing history or the road user precedent out of existence.

No organisation can reasonably be expected to be both friendly educational confidante AND enforcer. Gasco have placed themselves in an impossible position. And with all that human factors knowhow sloshing around they should have been the first to predict that problem, really.
ls8pilot wrote:I wonder how many infringements are due to missing important NOTAM s ?

Not a lot by the looks.

Seems to me both sides need to be making some evidence based decisions. Rather than just demanding “be better” and “stop comitting human error” at each other.

The CAA by looking at where these things are happening and if there’s loads of non-safety infrignmening ones around weird shaped airspace, fixing the airspace not the pilots.

And the pilots by having a sensible approach to consequences versus hazards in the air.

Turning off your transponder to avoid a course, when the facts are that 40 people got a sharp note, and only 9 got sent on said course , (of which 6 were either repeat “offenders”, or had ploughed on through multiole bits of airspace in one outing), does not seem to be a particularly proportionate or evidence based bit of decision making.
Dave W, ls8pilot, flybymike and 3 others liked this
Electronic Conspicuity for all is just over the horizon.

How much money will be offered to facilitate equipage and for what equipment needs to be agreed but It will be a vital enabler for UAS.

It will help militate against infringements as result.
In return the Regulator undertakes that, if dealing with an alleged infringement involving such an Infringement Ambassador, it will: ......

Even if you achieve this, the perception will remain that the undertaking will only be valid when it suits the CAA.

While I agree with your sentiment and support your ideas, I would add the need for a gatekeeper. Anyone familiar with the airline world will recognise the concept. At a stroke, it would put a stop to punitive and summary action. As to who would be the gatekeeper, that’s above my pay grade although something approximating the Airprox board could be a good start.
davef77, flybymike liked this
David Wood - some very good ideas with regards the solution.

I actually think the vast majority of pilots actually take infringing very very seriously. I also think the problem is much smaller than made out. Already the data would suggest the vast majority of infringements are minor, and would almost certaintly not have resulted in a loss of seperation.

Inevitably there are some pilots who require some re-training, and, almost entirely, these are the pilots that require our help.

I suspect to some degree understandably as much as the contract you propose is sound, the regulator will feel they should have some oversight. In other words for the more serious infringments the pilot may well say he kept his side of the bargain in that he had a moving map, had the transponder switched on, was doing his best not to be distracted, but still managed to infringe.

It happens. I have just done a 500 ish mile trip, and had some issues with weather having decided to go entirely OCAS VFR. I think it takes a good level of currency and experience to sometimes work your way around weather whilst always avoiding all the traps or realising that you need some help from ATC, assuming even that it is available when you need it most.

I have advocated for some time that the answer is refresher training with an instructor.

What happens in the RAF and commercial enviroment. Time is spent in the sim and / or in a one to one discussion with a flying instructor. Only this process effectively teases out the real causes of the infringment.

The CAA say instructors cant be trusted. Perhaps, in some isolated instances. However, it wouldnt take too long to build up a bank of instructors who had the additional qualification of providing infringement refresher taining. These are the people that might benefit from going on the GASCo course to have the qualification added.

The material covered by GASCo is in the majority and for the majority a total waste of time. It fails to address the specific circumstances that lead to most pilot's infringing other than for perhpaps the 30 minutes of the course that is relevant to them. The reasons for infringement are not generic and it is a ridiculous simplification to think they are.

At the extreme there will be those that dont use a moving map. GASCo will tell them they absolutley should - but they still wont. The majority of the rest of the course is irrelevant to them. What is needed is time with an instructor exploring solutions that will actually work for the pilot, and, in this case, probably some actual time in the air.
T67M liked this
As one or two others have noted, all of this discussion is equivalent to aspirins for appendicitis. The problem isn't pilots it's airspace design and fragmented ATS and it is getting worse not better as the Brize/Oxford and Farnborough debacle as well as the demise of Bristol LARS shows all too clearly.
T67M, James Chan, B1engineer and 5 others liked this
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