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Aviation Regulatory Framework Comparison UK Vs USA Engineering Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Engineering
Wordcount: 3686 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This report looks at the aviation regulatory framework in both the United Kingdom and the United States, their differences and similarities. Due to the high level of cooperation between the FAA and the CAA and also EASA most regulation is very similar if not the same. By looking at the structure and functions of the regulatory bodies in terms of safety and security it is obvious that because the two countries are aiming for the same high level of safety that they should be taking the same steps in order to do this. The main difference between the regulation of civil aviation between the two countries is the fact that the FAA is the regulation making body for the US alone whereas the UK has regulation passed to it from EASA which the CAA has to implement over and above any regulations the CAA or the British government may have had in place previously. The US has a system where the FAA literally regulates every single aspect of civil aviation and although they freely communicate their findings and recommendations with foreign countries the FAA alone control us Regulatory framework reporting only to the Department of Transport.

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In this report the aviation regulatory framework of the United Kingdom will be compared and contrasted with the aviation regulatory framework of the United States. The report will describe the structure and functions of the bodies responsible for aviation regulation in both countries while addressing the responsibilities of airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers within the respective frameworks. The issue of UK regulation being underpinned by EU legislation will also be discussed and anomalies between the UK and US framework will be identified.


In the UK the secretary of state for transport is the government minister responsible for civil aviation. This position is currently held by the Rt Hon Lord Andrew Adonis who oversees the Department for Transport (DfT) which is involved in a number of areas in civil aviation although the regulation and supervision of civil aviation is the function of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Aviation Regulation in the United Kingdom is statute law created by acts of parliament most of which is covered by the Civil Aviation Act 1982 which lays down the roles of the main authorities for the control and regulation of civil aviation in the UK, mostly covered by the secretary of state for transport, the department for transport and mainly the CAA. The Civil Aviation Act 1982 aims to deal with issues of roles, functions, duties and policies but does not act alone as other legislation affects civil aviation regulation. For example international conventions such as the Warsaw Convention and the Airport Act 1986 which provides of most of the regulation for UK airports (Blackshaw, 1992, p. 30). Civil aviation in the UK is also influenced heavily by EASA who will be discussed in detail later.

The CAA is the National Aviation Authority (NAA) for the UK and amongst other things deals with most of the key functions of the regulation of civil aviation.

The DfT as a government department deals with bilateral agreements and is directly involved in certain safety issues particularly the investigation of aircraft accidents through the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). The DfT also has an important role in environmental issues within civil aviation, namely noise and aviation pollution from aircraft emissions and other areas. The DfT is also involved in national airport development and the management of aircraft security (Blackshaw, 1992, p. 31) (DfT)

Civil aviation in the UK is regulated by the CAA which is “an independent body with responsibility for economic, safety and consumer protection regulation, and airspace policy” (DfT) The CAA provides advice to the government on aviation issues, represents consumer interests and conducts research to provide statistical data. The CAA regulates all aspects of aviation in the UK. In some areas the CAA is the primary regulator although in areas where responsibility for regulation lies with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) The CAA merely implements the Europe wide regulations put forward by EASA.

The CAA is structured in four main groups, the Safety Regulation Group, Economic Regulation Group, Directorate of Airspace Policy and the Consumer Protection Group (DfT). The Safety Regulation Group (SRG) work closely with EASA to improve aviation safety in the UK and across Europe by setting civil aviation standards and ensuring that they are achieved (Transport Research Knowledge Centre, 2009). The SRG looks at the proper design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of aircraft in that flight crews and aircraft maintenance engineers are competent and that licenced aerodromes are safe to use. The SRG also ensure that air traffic services and general aviation activities meet the required safety standards (DfT). EASA provides regulation for the CAA to implement in the fields of aircraft and product certification and has responsibility for the rules related to the design and maintenance of aircraft products and parts and setting standards for organisations involving design, production and maintenance of these products and parts. EASA has also expanded into the CAA’s rulemaking role by implementing rules for aircraft operations and flight crew licencing and aims to introduce essential requirements to cover air traffic management and aerodrome activities with air traffic management involving Eurocontrol which is The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation. (CAA)

Nonetheless the CAA is still the UK’s NAA and the CAA SRG maintains its responsibility for all aspects not being adopted by EASA and is expected to monitor the safety of UK civil aviation against EASA’s Pan European rules and standards whilst ensuring the UK’s good safety performance is sustained. The CAA SRG is tasked by “with regulatory oversight of production, maintenance and continuing airworthiness management organisations whether approved to UK or EASA standards.” (CAA)

The CAA Economic Regulation Group (ERG) looks at UK civil aviation from an economic viewpoint. The ERG regulates “airports, air traffic services and airlines and provides advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint” (CAA).

The ERG aims to secure the best sustainable outcome for users of air transport services by promoting liberalisation by removing government restrictions to entry to the airline market and to aid the optimal supply and regulation of aviation infrastructure (CAA). The ERG acts as an adviser to the government and produces statistical information on airlines and airports

The CAA Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) is required by the government to make the most efficient use of airspace consistent with the safe operation of aircraft and the expeditious flow of air traffic whilst taking into consideration the requirements of operations and owners of all classes of aircraft (CAA). The Directorate of Airspace Policy approves and establishes controlled airspace and monitors and enforces standards, rules and regulations. The DAP is required to allocate radio frequencies and secondary radar codes for the use of air traffic control and provides meteorological services to UK civil aviation. (CAA, 2004)

The CAA Consumer Protection Group (CPG) has four main responsibilities; firstly the CPG regulates the finances and fitness of travel organisers selling flights and package holidays in the UK. The CPG also manage the UK’s largest system of consumer protection for travellers in the form of Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL). The CPG license UK airlines and enforce European Council requirements in relation to their finances, nationality, and liability of passengers for death or injury and insurance. Finally the CPG enforce certain other legal requirements and codes of practice for protection of airlines’ customers.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has much bearing on the aviation regulatory framework of the United Kingdom. EASA aims to develop European framework for the regulation of aviation safety using themselves and the NAA’s of the community member states. EASA focuses on a European regulatory system which is focused on seeing that aircraft are properly designed, manufactured, operated and maintained and that airlines operate safely, that flight crews, air traffic controllers and aircraft maintenance engineers are suitably skilled; that licensed aerodromes are safe to use and that air traffic control services and general aviation activities meet the required safety standards. (CAA)

EASA provides a common initiative at European level to keep air transport safe and sustainable by developing common safety and environmental rules at European level. The agency works with the member states NAA to implement standards and provides the necessary technical expertise, training and research (EASA). EASA looks towards a single European aviation market and a single European sky and carries out executive responsibilities in the certification of specific models of aircraft, engines or parts approved for operation in the European Union (EU).

The main tasks of EASA are to draft aviation safety legislation and provide technical advice to the European Commission and the Member States as well as Inspections, training and standardisation programmes to ensure uniform implementation of European aviation safety legislation in all member States by conducting inspections of national authorities as well as operations throughout the EU to monitor the application of EU rules on aviation safety and to assess the effectiveness of these rules. EASA also handles the safety and environmental type-certification of aircraft, engines and parts and approves aircraft design, production and maintenance organisations worldwide. The agency also handles the authorization of non EU operators and uses a Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) to judge the safety of foreign aircraft using EU Community airports. EASA also uses data collection, analysis and research to improve aviation safety and will soon be responsible for safety regulations regarding airports and air traffic management systems, a responsibility handed to EASA as part of the Single European Sky initiative (EASA).

EASA works with the NAA’s of the EU members but has taken over many of their functions with the aim of promoting aviation standardisation which will eventually culminate in a Single European Sky, a much safer alternative to the system we have today. EASA assists the European Commission in negotiating international harmonization agreements with the rest of the world on behalf of its member states which includes working closely with its counterparts around the world such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). (COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES, 2008) (EASA, 2007)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is an agency of the United States (US) Department of Transportation (DoT) it is responsible for the safety of American civil aviation and regulates and oversees all aspects of civil aviation in the US. The FAA aims to regulate civil aviation to promote safety, encourage and develop civil aeronautics including new aviation technology, develop and operate a system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft and research and develop the National Airspace System including regulating air navigation facilities and flight inspection standards. The FAA develop and carry out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation and also regulates U.S. commercial space transportation. (Federal Aviation Administration, 2005).

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The FAA carries out many activities in order to fulfil these aims, for safety regulation the FAA issues and enforces regulations and minimum standards covering the manufacture, operation and maintenance of aircraft. The FAA also certifies airmen and airports that serve air carriers. The safe and efficient use of navigable airspace is one of the FAA’s primary objectives. A network of airport towers, air route traffic control centres and flight service stations are all run by the FAA who develop all of the air traffic rules, assign the use of airspace and control all air traffic. The Federal Aviation Authority also builds, installs, maintains and operates all air navigation facilities and sustains systems to support air traffic control and air navigation. (Federal Aviation Administration, 2005)

To promote aviation safety and encourage civil aviation abroad, the FAA exchange aeronautical information with foreign authorities, certify foreign aircraft maintenance organisations, engineers and airmen. Technical aid and training is also provided by the FAA to other countries.

The FAA negotiates bilateral airworthiness agreements with other countries and takes part in international conferences. In terms of research, engineering and development, it researches and develops the systems and procedures required for a safe and efficient system of air navigation and control. The FAA actively helps develop better aircraft engines and equipment and test or evaluate aviation systems, devices, materials and procedures. The FAA administers aviation insurance and develops specifications for aeronautical charts and publishes information on airways, airport services and other technical subject in aeronautics (Federal Aviation Administration, 2005).

The Aviation Safety (AVS) department of the FAA is subdivided into three parts, firstly Flight Standards (AFS) which includes aircraft maintenance, safety team program, civil aviation registry, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), regulatory support and general aviation. The second subdivision of AVS is Aerospace Medicine (AAM) which is responsible for managing all flight doctors and medical certificate deviations. The final subdivision of AVS is Aircraft Certification (AIR) which covers airworthiness certification, the small airplane directorate and the Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO). (Randy Hansen, 2007)

It is clear that in the UK aviation regulation is formulated with great input from the European community in the form of EASA and many powers have therefore been transferred to EASA from the CAA whereas in the US the FAA is the only regulatory power for all aspects of aviation from running air traffic control towers, a duty that the CAA has licenced to NATS, to negotiating bilateral airworthiness agreements and administering aviation insurance. The FAA is the NAA for the US and holds all responsibility for aviation safety and oversees all aspects of civil aviation in the US.

The responsibilities of airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are very similar both in the UK and the US. This is not surprising as ideas on best practise are shared between the two countries extensively, especially in the field of aviation safety. One example of this is in the naming of aviation regulations, In the UK we have JARs which are Joint Aviation Requirements whereas in the US they have FARs – Federal Aviation Regulations. JARs were introduced as a result of UK and EU collaboration in the production of joint ventures such as Concorde and Airbus, JARs set out common airworthiness requirements that have been agreed upon by all of the cooperating nations. JARs have now been superseded by EASA Parts under the basic regulation, for example JAR 21 has been superseded by EASA part 21. The Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) is an associated body of European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) representing the civil aviation regulation authorities of a number of EU states cooperating in developing and implementing common safety regulatory standards and procedures intended on providing high and consistent standards of safety and a level playing field for competition in Europe. Much emphasis is also placed on harmonising the JARs with the FARs in the US (Fisher, 2009).

In the UK aircraft manufacturers are regulated under EASA Part 21 Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Certification Procedures for Aircraft and related products and parts. Similarly in the US aircraft manufacturers are regulated under FAR 21 certification procedures for products and parts. Aircraft Manufacturers are monitored throughout the design and manufacture process of aircraft and parts by the CAA & FAA to ensure they comply with regulations. At the end of this process the aircraft type is certificated for appropriate use. It is up to the aircraft manufacturer to follow the internationally recognised standard for airworthiness to gain a Certificate of Airworthiness which is issued in accordance with the ICAO Chicago Convention. Aircraft manufacturers both in the UK and US are responsible for producing aircraft which are safe and fit for purpose. This is tested in four categories; Structural integrity, systems integrity, operational integrity and crashworthiness. (EASA, 2008)

EASA Part 21 lays down common technical requirements and administrative procedures for airworthiness and environmental certification of products and parts specifying: The issue of type – certificates and changes to those certificates; the issue of certificates of airworthiness; the issue of repair design approvals; the showing of compliance with environmental protection requirements; the issue of noise certificates; the identification and certification of products and parts; the certification of design and production organisations and the issue of airworthiness directives. (EASA, 2008)

In order to fly commercial services for example carrying passenger or cargo for payment, UK airlines must gain an operating licence from the CAA (CAA). Similarly in the US airlines must undergo air carrier certification. Under part 121 airlines must comply with regulations and safety standards and manage hazard related risks in the operating environment (FAA, 2009). To qualify for a CAA Operating Licence an airline has to meet a number of requirements in respect of its safety, insurance and financial status. Once a CAA operating Licence is gained by an airline it is free to operate within the EU. To gain air carrier certification US airlines must follow a very similar system which is set out to determine whether an airline is able to conduct business in a manner that complies with all applicable regulations and safety standards. (FAA, 2009) (FAA, 2008)

In the US the FAA requires all commercial airports to have Part 139 certification which ensures a uniform level of safety across all airports. To obtain Part 139 certification an airport must agree to certain operational and safety standards and have provisions for fire fighting and rescue. The requirements for Part 139 certification vary due to the size of the airport and type of flights it operates. Part 139 looks at the airport paperwork and finances and the aircraft movement area to make sure the runway and pavement conditions, marking and lighting are safe for use. Part 139 also lays out airport responsibilities in the area of ground vehicle operations and wildlife. Aircraft rescue and fire services are also inspected as are fuel facilities. (FAA, 2009) In the UK airport responsibilities are laid out in CAP 168 Licencing of Aerodromes. CAP 168 requires that in the UK all commercial flights take place at a licenced aerodrome, a government aerodrome or at an aerodrome managed by the CAA.

Like Part 139 the requirements laid out in CAP 168 reflect the standards and recommended practices of the ICAO and form the basis for an assessment of the potential suitability of the aerodrome to be licenced taking into account the size of the airport and the type of flights it handles. (CAA) (CAA, 2008)

There are few anomalies between the UK and US aviation regulatory framework as much collaboration and communication now takes place via agencies such as ICAO and EASA to provide the aviation industry with a set of best practices. The main difference between the frameworks is the way the UK is being integrated with the EU using EASA to provide regulation that overrides that of the CAA. EASA will eventually take over most of the duties of the CAA and will provide most of the civil aviation regulation for the EU including the UK. The FAA on the other hand regulates the whole aviation industry in the US, everything from insuring aircraft to regulating commercial space transport. Although the FAA communicates its ideas with the rest of the world the agency retains all responsibility for anything aviation related in the US. Regulation in the US and UK is very similar as a result of this communication and much of the regulation developed from this will be implemented across Europe to create a single European sky and improve aviation safety.


In conclusion the aviation regulatory frameworks in place in the UK and the US have their striking similarities but also have very important differences. The FAA works alone in the USA and is the single authority responsible for all aspects of aviation regulation safety and security. In the UK the CAA, our equivalent to the FAA, implements European regulation decided by EASA. UK aviation regulation is underpinned by EU legislation in that EASA aim to create a single European sky and therefore aims to create uniformity between its member states. The FAA already has this uniformity over the whole of the United States and implements only the regulation it creates itself. Many of the safety regulations that cover airports, airlines and aircraft are very similar between frameworks if not identical in places, this shows that the JARs worked to harmonise EU regulations with US regulations a step still being taken by EASA today.


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