Spike in demand for pilot and aircraft engineer licences

Irish Aviation Authority says it has made all necessary arrangements to separate safety regulation and air navigation

A spike in demand for pilot and aircraft engineer licences put pressure on resources at air travel regulators last year, according to a government-commissioned report.

The annual report of the regulator, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), recently confirmed that the number of aircraft engineer's licences it issued jumped 42.1 per cent to more than 2,500 last year.

Peter Kearney, IAA chief executive, attributed the growth mainly to Brexit. Ahead of the UK leaving the EU in January, aviation professionals based there sought Irish licences to allow them to continue working in the trade bloc.

A recently-published government report on the IAA notes that the increase in licence applications by pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers presented a challenge to the regulator. The document adds that the regulator had coped with the growth in applications, but was under pressure to deal with the requests as there was a short time-span for approvals.

The Department of Transport commissioned the section 32 report, as it is known, from UK consultants Helios. Legislation establishing the IAA requires that the government publish a report on the regulator every five years.

The IAA regulates aviation safety, controls air traffic and aids aircraft in navigating through Irish and north Atlantic air space. Airlines pay for its services. The organisation received €197 million in revenue last year.

Helios recommends that the Government should press ahead with proposals to split safety regulation from air navigation services. Dividing the roles is in line with international civil aviation organisation recommendations, the report points out.

Passengers’ rights

Under the Government's proposals, the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), which oversees passengers' rights among other roles, would take responsibility for safety.

Helios notes that the speed of separation has been slower than some department officials and IAA executives expected. Its report recommends that the separation is concluded quickly, and that the IAA and CAR implement transition arrangements while ensure that safety is maintained through the process.

Helios notes that the IAA is at the "forefront of aviation safety" in the way it handles many of its tasks, and says this is reflected in the consistently good scores it receives from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and other bodies.

The IAA said at the weekend that it had made all the necessary arrangements to separate safety regulation and air navigation. “The project awaits the required legislation to give effect to the separation,” it added.