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Response to CAA Proposed changes to VMC minima in class D airspace

This is the response I made on behalf of AOPA:

Questions

4 Do you agree with the CAA’s assessment of typical weather conditions in the UK?
No
Comments:
The issue of weather has potential safety implications for GA and for VFR flights in particular. Some of our members have raised the point that SERA 5001 requires a vertical separation from ANY cloud of 1000 feet which is different from saying cloud base or ceiling - With the UK having a maritime climate cloud bases are often lower than 3000ft particularly in the Northern part of the UK . The SERA cloud ceiling is based on a covering of half the Sky in METAR terms
OVC/BKN therefore we believe that number of VFR flights affected by this proposed compliance with SERA will be significant particularly when you also consider the geography of the UK . This will mean an increase in the number of SVFR requests ; the data that has been used in the document is flawed and under estimates the likely numbers of affected VFR transits.

5 Do you support the CAA’s preferred option and the associated assumptions?
No
Comments:
No, we do not accept or agree with the assumptions - if we take the cloud base at 3000 ft or lower potentially we push VFR flights to take place at lower levels where a type of funneling could develop , particularly in areas where controlled airspace is a factor, and in places where there is high terrain- this may lead to pilots being unable to easily maintain the minimum sector safety heights-in the event of an engine failure en route this may present a situation that is more difficult to handle especially for low hours pilots who are still developing their skills. It may also affect the business of flight schools where they reside within a CTR who will need to take extra measures before sending students on solo cross countries - the rule as it is applied today serves the needs of the UK even though its an exemption.

This was put in place for all the reasons expressed so far. This proposal could lead to more airspace infringements particularly of CTRs where pilots may be expecting a clearance (SVFR) which they do not in the end get. This may then lead to more ATC delays.The consultation document claims that increased vertical distance from cloud increases the efficiency of see and avoid in Class D airspace. This is a subjective view , as GA aircraft flying VFR transits are flying below all cloud and in sight of the surface and having had a clearance to enter the airspace from a controller who will be aware of all the traffice both VFR and IFR in their area. We do not agree that this change to the existing rules improves see and avoid. This proposal has nothing to do with safety its an administration compliance matter.

6 Do you agree with the CAA analysis of the projected workload change for ATC units and the effectiveness of the proposed mitigation?
Yes
Comments:
Yes any additional requests for a clearance has the potential to increase controller work load , however a concern that we have is the requirement for controllers to priorities IFR flights particularly CAT flights over non commercial operations - so the work load increase comes form the need to separate SVFR from the IFR flights not SVFR from SVFR . This causes us concern as it will affect GAs ability to operate safely if clearances are denied - All CAT airports have Class D airspace so the affected areas will be significant - unless with widespread use of EC devices clearances are automated. EC devices will improve help to situational awareness .

7 Do you agree with the CAA analysis of the potential impact on the provision of non-IFR flight? Are there any additional factors you feel should be considered?
No
Comments:
Given the responses above we think that the CAA has under-estimated the potential impact. The combination of not understanding the the additional work load on ATC combined with the MET requirements under SERA the CAA fails to understand the true implications which are operational in nature . We think that this proposed change has a disproportionate impact on GAs ability to continue to operate safely , it may affect the utilisation of GA aircraft and impact on training flights all down to a need for compliance . If there is threat of the UK being taken to court for failing to comply - I would suggest the state should defend that action on grounds of safety.

8 Do you agree with the CAA’s assessment of safety impact?
No
Comments:
There is no attempt to assess the real implications in respect of pilot behavior in dealing with SVFR clearances particularly if there is a refusal. There is no attempt to consider how EC devices maybe used with SVFR in order to provide better situational awareness for pilots and ATC. The problem is that the current legislation prohibits the use of EC devices in airspace that require the use of mode-s transponders. Where it may be possible to comply with the minimum visibility requirements foregoing the need for SVFR a clearance would still be required for entry into D space. We would like the CAA to carefully consider the impact on GA in safety terms as well as to other airspace users where artificial choke points develop and what the impact on airspace infringements might be too ultimately we need to be sure there is no risks as a result of the proposal:
1. Therefore there is likely to be an increase in controller work load which may mean there is a capacity constraint or a denial of clearances.
2. GA pilots having to reroute around CTR's could mean more airprox reports as well as more airspace infringements all which as a domino effect in other areas such as investigations.
3. The combination of airspace structures , terrain , weather and the impact on VFR operations need to better understood and that the CAA should be more focussed on the likely safety outcomes.
4. We do not believe that this changes is in keeping with the CAA's safety objectives or its requirement for efficient use of the airspace.
5. This proposal aims to achieve compliance with SERA only without really understanding the operational / increased risk it poses.

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