The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is a public corporation, was established by Parliament in 1972 as an independent specialist aviation regulator and provider of air traffic services.
Following the separation of National Air Traffic Services from the CAA in 2001, the CAA is now the UK's independent aviation regulator, with all civil aviation regulatory functions (economic regulation, airspace policy, safety regulation and consumer protection) integrated within a single specialist body.
The UK Government requires that the CAA's costs are met entirely from its charges on those whom it regulates. Unlike many other countries, there is no direct Government funding of the CAA's work.
The CAA's main statutory functions are:
- regulating civil aviation safety;
- advising and assisting the Secretary of State on all civil aviation matters;
- management of UK airspace so as to meet the needs of all users, having regard for national security, economic and environmental factors, while maintaining a high standard of safety;
- economic regulation of the designated airports and of the provision of air traffic services, licensing and financial fitness of airlines, and
- licensing of air travel organisers.
The CAA's general objectives are set by the Civil Aviation Act 1982 which requires the CAA to perform its functions in the manner it considers best calculated:
'to secure that British airlines provide services which satisfy all substantial categories of public demand ...., at the lowest possible charge consistent with a high standard of safety in operating the services and an economic return to efficient operators on the sums invested in providing the services and with securing the sound development of the civil air transport industry in the UK; and to further the reasonable interests of users of air transport services'.
The CAA's mission is to provide best practice regulation and expert advice that are independent and enable civil aviation to best meet the needs of its users and society in a safe and sustainable manner.
The CAA Values are:
- Performance: the regulation and advice CAA provides must meet the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.
- People: CAA believes in maintaining and developing excellence in people as they are the source of CAA's reputation and success.
- Value for Money: CAA must deliver value for money and continually review activities to ensure that they operate in a cost-effective way.
To enable the CAA to achieve its Mission and values it will:
- foster a culture where safety is paramount;
- operate as a cohesive organisation under the direction of the CAA Board;
- work together effectively, internally and externally;
- develop and empower the staff, and value their contribution;
- continuously improve its performance and processes;
- play a full part in the activities of international aviation organisations in support of the UK;
- implement an open and fair regulatory regime based on robust principles and processes.
The CAA is divided into four Groups:
- Safety Regulation Group: airworthiness of aircraft and operational aspects including flight crew, aircraft engineers, air traffic controllers and aerodromes; certification of UK airlines and aircraft; and maintenance of air traffic service standards;
- Economic Regulation Group: the regulation of NATS; the regulation of designated airport charges; route licensing; and limited regulation of air fares for journeys outside the EU;
- Directorate of Airspace Policy: planning, developing, approving, promulgating, monitoring and enforcing airspace policies and arrangements for the UK;
- Consumer Protection Group: the regulation of the air travel industry and management of Air Travel Organiser's Licensing (ATOL) system; airline licensing and airline consumer issues.
The CAA has also set up a specialist Environmental Research & Consultancy Department which is part of the Directorate of Airspace Policy.
In addition, the CAA advises the Government on aviation issues, represents consumer interests, conducts economic and scientific research, produces statistical data and provides specialist services.