Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has today announced the creation of a new military airworthiness authority to ensure aviation safety standards are of the highest order at all times.
The Military Aviation Authority (MAA) has been created as part of the MOD’s full response to the Nimrod Review by Charles Haddon-Cave QC following the deaths of 14 service personnel onboard Nimrod XV230 on 2 September 2006. The MAA will include an independent body to audit and scrutinize air safety activity, and will be in place by 5 April 2010.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: “I am grateful for the detailed proposals the Nimrod Review has made. We have examined these proposals thoroughly for the past seven weeks and we are already taking action to implement them, including the creation of the Military Aviation Authority to provide the leadership needed to deliver the highest safety standards. This is the most radical reform to MOD’s airworthiness procedures since military aviation began”.
The new authority sounds encouraging, and hopefully will take airworthiness considerations out of the sole hands of the services themselves, who are so hamstrung by lack of investment that tragic accidents like this are sadly all too possible. Will it be just another bolted-on authority within the Ministry of Defence, another job for another senior officer with a bloated staff retinue?
The problems go beyond safety itself, but extend to the culture of the Ministry of Defence. The procurement of quality equipment, from boots to warships, is low on the agenda, as is maintenance. All too frequently the forces have had to retire ships or aircraft early that were facing extensive repair bills or expensive upgrades.
The new body is also in line with recent moves to streamline the organisation of assetts across the three services, particularly air assetts. We already have the Joint Force Harrier and the Joint Helicopter Force. As I have already reported recently there are extraordinary politics regarding military aviation, with the RAF protective of its independence and resenting the Fleet Air Arm and the Army Army Air Corps, but unwilling to support the Navy or the Army as much as it could.