Not all aircraft arriving at UK airports from overseas are commercial jets returning with holidaymakers and tourists. Many light aircraft land at our smaller airports and airfields from abroad every day. But how do we know the pilots and passengers on board these aircraft are not operating outside of the law?
About our role
The UK Border Force work diligently to meet these aircraft to ensure passports and luggage are appropriately checked. The CAA also lends its expertise to these inspections by checking that both pilots and aircraft are legitimate. Working alongside Border Force colleagues we scrutinise pilot licences, medical certificates, aircraft registration details and other paperwork to try to spot any inconsistencies. Out of date, or counterfeit documents may point to more serious illegal activity. Unlicensed pilots and poorly maintained aircraft are also of course a serious safety risk in their own right.
What do we look for?
During two recent operations in the west and north-west of England we found a number of private pilots were carrying out of date airworthiness and insurance documents, while others were not carrying their licences or medical certificates at all - something they are required to do by law.
We also speak to any passengers on board arriving aircraft, to find out if they had paid for their flights. If the pilot is operating the aircraft as an air taxi they need appropriate certification and cannot claim that the flight is private. The costs of a private flight can be shared by passengers and pilots but there are still rules that need to be observed. These rules are designed to protect the safety of the passenger and the integrity of the system.
Carrying out joint inspections with the UK Border Force, and on occasion officers from the National Crime Agency, allows us all to share intelligence and target resources appropriately. Working together we can simultaneously tackle crime, security threats and improve aviation safety. All of which is getting a big thumbs-up from the law-abiding majority we talk to.
Want to know more?
Our website has more details about what we can investigate and how to report a potential breach of aviation law