Minister has not approved IAA appointment, months after deputy CEO offered the job

Ross plans to split aviation authority into two sections to regulate safety and air traffic control

Minister for  Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross: has yet to formally approve the appointment of Peter Kearney. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross: has yet to formally approve the appointment of Peter Kearney. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Minister for Transport Shane Ross has yet to approve the appointment of Peter Kearney as chief executive of air travel safety regulator, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), months after its board offered him the job.

It has also emerged that Mr Ross intends to press ahead this year with plans to split the authority, merging safety oversight with consumer watchdog, the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), and leaving air traffic control with the IAA.

Mr Kearney has been the authority’s chief executive designate since the beginning of the year, when his predecessor, Eamonn Brennan, left to head up Eurocontrol, the equivalent EU body.

The IAA board chose Mr Kearney, then the deputy chief executive, to succeed Mr Brennan in November. However, Mr Ross has yet to formally approve the appointment.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport pointed out that the appointment of the IAA chief executive is subject to section 38 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993.

This demands that the authority’s board consult with the Minister before appointing the chief executive. The spokesman said the consultation was “ongoing” in line with the law.

He did not indicate how long the consultation was likely to take, nor when it had begun. The IAA did not comment on the time that the Minister is taking about approving the appointment, but it is understood that it is causing the authority concern.

Splitting functions

This would involve merging the IAA’s safety role with the CAR, the authority responsible for consumer rights and for determining Dublin Airport’s passenger charges.

At the same time, Mr Ross intends that the IAA will continue to handle air traffic control, which is a commercial service for which airlines pay.

Splitting the IAA follows a review of the organisation by consultants, Helios,which recommended taking this step on the basis that most other EU member states have taken this approach.

The authority has been responsible for regulating aircraft safety and air traffic control since it was established in 1993 to take over both roles from the Department of Transport.

This means that it oversees the movements of planes taking off and landing at the Republic’s airports, but also those travelling through the State’s airspace.

As most flight paths from Europe to North America pass through the Republic’s skies, this means the authority handles thousands of aircraft movements every day.

Profit

Mr Ross recently said that Fingal County Council would regulate noise at Dublin Airport. He had originally earmarked the IAA for the job until Government lawyers advised against this.

A recently passed EU law requires the airport to have an independent noise regulator. Appointing one is central to Dublin Airport’s own plans for a second runway.