Instant Expert

Get to know the new Skyway Code

It is quiet on the regulatory front this month – I think most Covid and Brexit housekeeping was wrapped up last time and hopefully, by the time you read this, a lot of us will be focusing on getting back in the saddle, as it were. A few pointers, both practical and legal, can be found in the recent special edition of Clued Up, which is available on the CAA website.

Another good resource is the CAA’s Skyway Code, version three of which recently came out. I should say at this point that I have been involved in editing the Code on and off since it first came out in 2017, so forgive me for using this month’s intermission from the usual stream of regulatory updates to make a bit of pitch for it.

The Skyway Code was conceived as a practical guide to safe and compliant GA flying. It covers areas such as the Rules of the Air and basic operating regulations, but beyond that the focus is practical. It was not really possible to condense the content down into neat chunks as found in the Highway Code, but I like to think that a reasonable job was done of drawing together a range of disparate material in one place.

With this month’s FLYER having a focus on people starting out or even just thinking of starting out with flying, it would be relevant reading for that audience as well. It does assume some knowledge, but if for example you are scratching your head over Air Law books or lots of confusing terms, it might help with the bits that are good to know in practice.

But what does this latest version bring? Version three now reflects terminology post-Brexit and makes a start on explaining how the former European regulations have transitioned into UK law. A few early regulatory changes post-Brexit are also captured, but the message on that front is very much ‘watch this space’.

Frequency monitoring

Moving on to more familiar issues, all the aeronautical information content such as frequencies, frequency monitoring codes has been checked and updated. Some airport and radar frequencies have only gone over to 8.33 frequency spacing recently, so watch out for things like this and check Notams for further changes.

There are not really any major changes in policy in version three, but a few subtle changes that might otherwise go unnoticed are worth noting:

Originally the terms ‘GPS’, ‘GNSS’ etc were a bit inconsistent. The term ‘moving map’ is now used throughout to refer to a range of devices that depict the aircraft’s position in real time. The CAA is clear that the use of these devices is strongly encouraged but they must be used in a way that enhances safety and does not become a distraction in flight.

Obviously moving maps are nothing new, but a lot of recent focus on their use has been driven by airspace infringements and the fact that many instances involve ineffective use of them, or none at all.

In 2017 when the Code first came out, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) were not covered – it was never the intention for it to become a significant resource for operators of unmanned aircraft, as useful as it might be for understanding the manned aircraft world. At the time it was thought that GA pilots would not really find details of UAS particularly relevant. Things change though and whatever your views on ‘drones’ might be, clearly they are here to stay and manned and unmanned aircraft now have to share the sky. So you will now find a page on UAS operations with details of how to find out more.

Electronic Conspicuity (how aircraft broadcast their position electronically), has also been tweaked a bit, almost to remove detail though. Since 2017 the subject area has grown and there such a volume of information and debate that it is was thought better to provide a basic introduction and rather like with UAS, links to further detail elsewhere.

The phrase ‘Threat and Error Management’ (TEM) has appeared a few more times – there is no great mystery to what this means, it just refers to a more systematic approach to assessing threats involved in a flight and how they might be managed. Early on in flying you will realise that there are various risks involved, but the good news is that pilots can manage these and reduce them. A lot of threat and error management is perhaps common sense or overlap with what is often called airmanship.

A term new to the Code is ‘Just Culture’. Rather like TEM, the term started out more in the commercial air transport world, but it has relevance to GA as well. Just Culture was first thought of in an organisational context and addresses how organisations deal with safety incidents and the individuals involved in them. Essentially it is about balancing the need to have open and honest reporting of incidents – which generally means not punishing people for honest mistakes – with the need to ensure that corrective action such as additional training is taken, and acts of negligence are addressed appropriately. It is not something most GA pilots will have to think of often, but if you ever are involved in some sort of incident that must be reported to the CAA, the principles of Just Culture should apply.

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