Blog update: 14th April 2020
Clarification of the somewhat confusing statement issued by the CAA on the 9th April relating to currency during COVID-19 has been received. Although the statement includes a paragraph that could be taken to include all operators, that was not its intention. The statement only refers to those operators seeking to renew their PfCO. Formal clarification will be released by the CAA later.
For all those operators wishing to set themselves apart from the herd, I stand by the best practice statements below. Treat any renewal currency as the absolute minimum in terms of providing safe services.
CAA “Statement” on Currency
On Thursday 9th April the CAA released the above statement (not a Safety Notice or General Exemption) on currency. This appears to be a reaction to complaints from operators that they have been unable to achieve their minimum currency hours at the point of renewal.
What Does it Mean?
It is unclear from the statement whether it applies to those remote pilots (RP) who remain current. It also remains silent on where the flights should take place. At the job site, thereby increasing risk of an incident? Or perhaps in an open field area, forcing an operator to potentially make an arguably unnecessary trip? The CAA has been asked these questions and the response is eagerly awaited.
Whatever the ins and outs of this specific statement, it does emphasise the importance of currency to the CAA. So why is currency so critical?
Operating a UAV when everything is going well is relatively straightforward. There is a stick input and the majority of the time the aircraft responds as expected. Sometimes though, it doesn’t. This could be because of a malfunction of the aircraft, a pilot error, incorrect programming of an automated flight routine, environmental issues….the list goes on.
The CAA wants to know that RPs maintain familiarity with their processes and equipment both to minimise the risk of an incident and to ensure the RP knows how to react if such an error occurs. CAP722 (a remote pilot’s guidance document) doesn’t state all this…but your NQE should have explained it…or perhaps reconsider their vocation.
How do I Improve?
What does this mean in practical terms?
Well, your Operations Manual probably requires you to complete two hours flight time in the three months prior to renewal, after all, this is what the CAA demands of you. However, safety-focussed operators will view this as a rolling requirement. So at any time you should be able to look at your flight logs, count back three months and find a couple of hours flight time.
Is this easy to do? Not always… after all we have busy lives and the weather doesn’t always play ball. But for those offering services commercially, isn’t it the professional approach and one which helps you stand out above the rest?
This brings us back round to the CAA’s recent email.
There has been a COVID-19 lockdown for 2 weeks. Already, the CAA is receiving complaints and pushback from operators who have been unable, or unwilling, to fly their drones…an activity they have chosen as a job…for two hours since, let’s say mid January.
Now, I know that despite some horrendous weather and very little spare time (I have a full-time job and commute three hours a day), it has been possible to get currency flights in every month this year…because Eyeup’s OSC requires constant familiarity and practice.
So operators shouldn’t be surprised if the CAA pushes back a little and makes what appears to be unreasonable demands. Perhaps a little more effort from the profession would have made this unnecessary.
Eyeup is more than happy to advise on currency flying and suggested activities.