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As long-time readers will know, I've bumped heads with CAA on one or two occasions in the past.
Generally however, my relationship with the aviation regulator has been a positive one with us both singing from the same hymn book in respect to safety.
CAA says that "compliance" is the key to safety, I say "education, knowledge and understanding" is the key.
The truth is that both are key elements of creating a safe environment... although I suspect we'll never totally agree on the ratios required.
However, yesterday CAA proved themselves "unfit for purpose" in my eyes and now I have decided to hold their hand to the fire.
I'm not doing this without a great deal of considered thought, since the cost to myself could be significant. What transpired yesterday however, was simply unacceptable.
As regular readers will already be aware, several of my drone flying YouTube videos were the subject of an investigation in the wake of complaints laid by a person or persons unnamed.
The investigator dealing with those cases called me on the phone, we had a chat, he emailed me some questions, I responded. What could be more straight-forward?
I was told that the investigation should take about a week.
Today marks the start of the third month since I was told that.
I don't think so. When an agency sets an expectation I would expect them to meet their own self-imposed timelines. Perhaps unusual circumstances might produce an understandable 20% over-run? But we're getting close to an order of magnitude difference between the expectation and the reality.
And this from an organisation that demands strict compliance and unwavering accuracy in all things -- from those it regulates.
But that's not all.
Yesterday I got another call from a different CAA investigator. His name is Doug.
Doug said he was investigating another complaint about a video on my YouTube channel.
Here is that video:
If you watch that video you will see our local park -- obviously filmed from a moving perspective at a height that varies from around 1m to 2m and often from beneath a canopy of trees.
I was quite frankly surprised that CAA would even waste their time considering a complaint against this video and so I asked him "Does the flying in this video represent a danger to aviation?"
His response was an incredible "yes".
Now I'm sorry but I certainly can't see any way that there should be manned aircraft of any kind weaving their way through the trees of our local park just 1m above the ground so that the presence of a tiny drone would represent a threat to them. But hey... who am I to challenge the expertise of a CAA investigator?
If a tiny toy drone flying *under* the trees is a danger to aviation then why do they allow trees in parks? Surely the trees themselves pose a bigger danger!
I will of course also just briefly mention that the last CAA investigator I dealt with (Chris) knew less about the regulations than I did and I had to educate him as to some of the salient details.
So in the wake of this silliness I figured I'd put in a call to whoever was in charge of these investigations and ask: a) why a 1-week investigation was now in its third month and why a month of that delay was because the report was sitting on someone's desk awaiting a sign-off; and b) why investigators seem to be so clueless in respect to what is and isn't safe and what the regulations they're enforcing actually are.
I was put through to the EA (executive assistant) of someone further up the food chain and she told me she'd organise a time for a phone conversation with her boss. I had related my situation and my extreme concerns over this whole process, emphasizing that I'd had enough of being held "under suspicion" for such a protracted period and that this was an unreasonable slur on my reputation as a figurehead in the drone community.
A few minutes later I got an email from the EA advising me that the earliest I could speak to her boss was sometime next week.
Now CAA may be prepared to move at a glacial pace in all things ( even when it costs lives) but I am not.
As a result, I am about to hold their hand to the fire, as I explain in this video.
Am I taking a risk?
Of course. The judge on the day may feel that it's only the letter of the law that matters and I will then have to pay a stiff fine for my contempt. However, I think there's a pretty good case for arguing that CAA has no business stopping a 67-year-old man with Parkinson's from flying a tiny toy drone in his own back yard when he's clearly posing no threat to person or property by doing so.
My flying days are numbered (some days I choose not to fly because the shakes are too bad and it is not sensible or safe for me to do so) but the least I can do is to bring an awareness of the lunacy that is going on within the halls of the regulator. Hopefully by doing this, others will be free to enjoy their hobby without the lunacy of over-reaching regulations that have been imposed by bureaucrats in suits who have no experience, understanding or awareness of exactly what is involved. Where's the risk assessment CAA? Show me the bodies CAA.
If the wifi in prison is up to the job I will continue to bring you your daily dose of Aardvark whilst being housed at Her Majesties pleasure :-)
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