The course itself may be excellent. I do not know, I’ve not been required to attend one.
It does seem to suffer from aviation mark up though. It cannot possibly cost £200 to educate someone for 5-6 hours. The speed awareness courses for errant drivers (not been required to attend one of those either) seem to cost £100 for something very similar.
What concerns me is the journey to the course. With speeding, you’ve been caught by an approved device and been given the option of paying a fixed penalty, defending yourself in court, or attending a course. No such options are offered in the CAA process. It seems to be an extra-judiciary £200 fine.
Then there are the credible stories associated with this. At my aerodrome, at least three that I know of which to me raise serious questions about the value of these courses, as opposed to the CAA desire to push people through them, whatever.
Infringements are bad and should not happen. But all of us should have the protection of the law and the opportunity to exercise it, should we choose.
Wonder what happens if you end up in Magistrates’ court, charged with a 100ft bust for 10 seconds, then ask the prosecuting expert what the accuracy/tolerance of the equipment used to determine that 100ft act is? Would the standard of evidence be acceptable to the Magistrates? Would the CAA legal team even prosecute it?
I am concerned that this entire process has little to do with remedy and is more a CAA reaction to a dismal history of prosecution failures and an inability to prosecute examples like the above. All too hard, so we’ll invent a course, make it scary and compulsory then overprice it.
Peter fly about 1 hour north to our great open skies of Lincolnshire and you will see a very different scenario. Free landing at our lovely grass strip and I will buy you lunch as well!
Free landing at our lovely grass strip and I will buy you lunch as well!
Where’s this grass strip? :-)
Where’s this grass strip? :-)
That’s usually the problem.
Where’s this grass strip? :-)
Sorry guys I dont own it and use by invitation only.
Here are some notes from a recent Gasco session.
20 delegates; 19 men and 1 woman. From introductions and subsequent conversations, all but 2 or 3 appeared to be PPLs and apparently without IRs. One was a PPL instructor and one an examiner+TRE, known to me personally, who got suckered into a minor bust by an ambiguous ATC service while flying a multi pilot jet.
General aircraft profile: 10 x PA28/C172 or similar, a few ULs, around 5 helicopters, 1 bizjet
1 who was no longer flying due to loss of medical.
This was said to be the 22nd monthly session, suggesting they have processed 400+ pilots since they started in Q4 2017 (their 2017 Accounts contain additional information).
Many people had come from far away, with a few hundred miles not uncommon. You had 90 days to do this from the date of the CAA letter sending you there, which limited you to probably two venues.
Stats were presented on busts, with 2017 and some 2018 numbers. These showed constantly rising numbers; this was taken at face value with no discussion (e.g. on the real reason being modified data collection methods) entertained.
Some videos of huge “completely silly pilot” busts shown (shutting down Stansted for 45 mins, etc).
55% of busts are by SEPs. This data is public from the CAA and other groups. Some data went back to 2015.
We each got a wireless voting pad, to choose from multiple choice questions on a projection screen. This was used at various times through the day.
10% or 25% (depending when and how asked) of delegates used no GPS, ever.
One question list on type of GPS (on which we voted) itemised a “panel GPS” and a “moving map GPS” as different items!
90% use the 500k chart, 5% 250k chart, 1 delegate uses only Skydemon and with no chart.
45% of busts in the room were due to distraction. Zero were claimed due to faulty visual navigation (!).
In 2015, 87% of busts used no GPS; this is obviously not reflected on the Gasco attendance.
Infringers have 5000ft and 5nm added to them, to determine a “bubble” for an official loss of separation.
CAIT has a zero tolerance to determine a bust. Apparently even 25ft into CAS will do it. That would be 25ft with a Mode S unit or 100ft with a Mode C unit. No more details of CAIT were mentioned.
There was a one example of an ATZ bust, where a pilot was avoiding a line of CBs in the Manchester/Liverpool low level route. He got a transit from Manchester, all very correctly, but upon exiting their CAS he just about busted the edge of the Barton ATZ. The bust was reported by an eye witness (a pilot in the Barton circuit) and then Manchester helped things along by confirming the pilot’s position and Mode C altitude within the ATZ, from its radar data. I thought this was a poor example because a lot of pilots, especially working under pressure, would have naturally got caught up expecting a better service from Manchester ATC which – as per UK practice – washed their hands of him the instant he left their CAS.
TEM (threat and error management) was discussed. It was a struggle to apply this contrived doctrine to GA flying. I thought it is basically what was always called “airmanship” e.g. planning the flight properly! But now you have to do a “risk assessment” on different aspects of the flight e.g. approaching CAS but not getting a transit in time and having to do Plan B is classified as a “threat”.
Some of the TEM discussion suggested phoning the CAS zones before the flight, for a heads-up, which is obviously bizarre. The only phone calls should be re airport PPR.
The new scheme where you pre-book CAS transit by email (used by some London airports) was promoted. A figure was given of about 85% of those transits having been granted. I asked what % was being granted before the scheme and the presenter said he did not know.
Any “off message” questions were not entertained. Strict doctrine all the way, all stats are correct and real, etc.
Radio proficiency was said to greatly improve chances of getting a transit. This is obvious but has always been denied by ATC and other official channels, over the years.
We were given a choice of 1 of 2 routes to plan, on supplied 250k or 500k charts. Each table (each group of 4) did a route. Then we swapped around and examined/questioned the routes from the other tables. One option was Compton Abbas to Goodwood and the other was Headcorn to Duxford. Both pass through lots of CAS if plotted as a DCT. What surprised me was that almost nobody planned via navaids; using VRPs instead. Especially as the first one is best done via SAM and that normally requires a transit at 4000ft or 5000ft, with a Plan B being a rapid descent to below 2000ft and going south of Solent. Any problems with VRP recognition in this exercise will produce a big CAS bust.
The presenter said that only those who failed the CAA online infringement exam get sent to Gasco. The curious thing is that his colleague had earlier asked how many in the room had done that exam and nobody put their hand up! Also everyone I managed to speak to privately had been sent straight there. He later said the failure rate on that exam started at 80% and later fell to 50% so it wasn’t used much now.
I asked him what is the next stage in the CAA process after the Gasco session. Does one’s license get removed? He didn’t say other that they have got several who had their second session. It sounds like that if you bust say a year later you get another Gasco. (The CAA has said, under an FOIA request, that after 2 years it is not a repeat offence unless a prosecution was involved).
A video was showed of a short talk by a CAA examiner who does flights with infringers who did something serious. He said that in 2/3 of these cases the flight is not done because the pilot is not able to prepare it on the ground.
There was a session with PPL QB questions; these were answered using the voting pads. The results ranged from slightly worrying to 100% right. I had earlier spoken to the presenter over lunch about the old online infringements exam and mentioned the duff questions in it. He said Gasco went through the QB and removed the duff questions, but had no means to remove them from the QB used by the CAA or tell the CAA about them so they could remove them!
At the end, the other presenter announced that all had partitipated adequately and a report to that effect will be sent to the CAA. In most cases this is expected to close the matter.
At the end everyone got a Course Completion Certificate signed by Michael O’Donaghue, Chief Exec of Gasco.
My personal opinion of the session is that while there is no doubt the two presenters did their best and worked hard, it is a patronising waste of time for anyone who applies even minimal due diligence to his preflight and flying.
It is also clear that the delegates did not represent the GA community but were mostly pilots involved in CAS busts where Mode C or Mode S enabled them to be caught. This is supported by the large disparity between GPS usage in the general CAS bust community and GPS usage among the Gasco delegates. So the course delivers content which many clearly regard as unhelpful and patronising.
Good to see the CAA finally accepting GPS, more or less unconditionally.
A report is sent to the CAA “chief bust enforcer” on the participation performance of each delegate. The room was informed that all had earned a satisfactory report. A couple of weeks later you should get a letter from the CAA saying they closed your file.
That is such a weasel-like letter from the CAA.
Peter – this is an excellent write up – thank you.
I am afraid it has to be said (and this is not intended personally) that it is at great odds with the position we were lead to believe earlier by a contributor who told us he was closely involved with the process. I find it of great concern that there is such a disparity, that can only leave one to wonder whether the data has ever been adequately recorded and / or analysed.
I feel with such an important issue as this it is reasonable to draw attention to another thread on Flyer which is very interesting to follow.
I also feel that in view of our numerous European friends here it is terribly important that when they fly in the UK they can expect to be treated in a very different way than in most of the rest of Europe. i assume of course they will not end up at GASCo, but presumably they can expect to receive a letter through their own regulator, although again one is left to wonder whether it is one rule for UK pilots, and another, for everyone else.
Do we know how many infringments are by foreign registered aircraft?
Again, I would ask the question why AOPA UK seems to be showing so little interest in such an important topic. Martin is a trustee of GASCo so I would expect him to have intimate knowledge, and be in a position to defend the construct of this process. Perhaps I have missed something?
One question is how many of the (say) 1300-1500 infringements per year, which are claimed to result in no action against the pilot, are thus because the pilot was not traced. It is obvious that non Mode S pilots are exponentially harder to trace unless they are talking to ATC. That is perhaps one Q which should have been asked in the FOIA requests, because to classify untraced pilots as “no action” is obviously hugely disingenuous.
One thing which really surprises me is how the people working in the system (well, those who talk) are happy to say that all infringments are [equally] serious. That is just lousy risk management because is ensures that the main underlying issues will never get addressed.