We're required to check that participants in the civil aviation system are meeting their regulatory responsibilities. We do this by compliance monitoring and inspection.

Surveillance can only be a sample of the state of an aviation document holder's compliance. It is not intended to substitute a participant's responsibility for self checking of their own compliance with legislative requirements, and their continued safe operation in accordance with the safety standards, practices and conditions attached to their aviation documents.

The amount of surveillance activity is determined by a number of factors including the assessed risk level and the safety performance of document holders both collectively and individually.

Surveillance methods

Staff assigned to inspection and monitoring tasks do the following:

  1. Carry out risk evaluations, audits and inspections on participants in the civil aviation system, identifying and recording risk factors and any safety findings, causal factors and associated corrective actions.
  2. Establish and agree the due date for corrective actions that need to be taken by holders of aviation documents and approvals in order to achieve compliance.
  3. Follow up corrective actions and their implementation by participants within the agreed time scale.
  4. Report observed breaches of the Rules and, where appropriate, take action in accordance with delegated powers and functions to remove a safety hazard.
  5. Enter audit findings and maintain risk evaluations and other information from inspection and monitoring activities on the our database.
  6. Raise safety concerns arising from inspection and monitoring activities and initiate other action, where necessary, in the interests of safety and compliance with the Rules.

Staff performing inspection and monitoring tasks are responsible for accurately assessing the state of compliance of industry participants, for reporting this objectively, and for ensuring the CAA is kept informed of changes in the circumstances of individual participants that might adversely affect compliance and safety.

Staff may also provide support and advice to participants. This is always directed at risk management and compliance with regulatory standards. It is not consultancy. The line between the two is a fine one, and staff must not give any advice that could be interpreted as usurping the participant's internal decision-making processes or responsibilities.

Regulatory tools

The CAA and the Director have a range of regulatory tools available to mitigate safety risk. These are used individually or in combination, and are prescribed by the Civil Aviation Act 1990.

  1. Providing safety education material, including safety education programmes (Functions of the Authority, s. 72B (1)).
  2. Issuing finding notices as a result of CAA surveillance activities that provide a mechanism by which the Director may provide an appropriate grace period, during which the document holder may achieve compliance (Director, s.15).
    Learn more about the application of findings.
  3. Prohibiting or imposing conditions on the operation on an aircraft or class of aircraft, or the use of any aeronautical product or any class of aeronautical products (Power of the Director, s.21).
  4. Imposing conditions in respect of an aviation document (Power of the Director s.17).
  5. Suspending an aviation document (Power of the Director, s.17).
  6. Revoking an aviation document (Power of the Director, s.18).
  7. Detaining an aircraft or any class of aircraft (Power of the Director, s.21).
  8. Seizing an aeronautical product or any class of aeronautical products (Power of the Director, s.21).

Any of these tools may be accompanied by the following:

  1. Fines for infringements or offences (Power of the Director s. 72I(3)(b) and Civil Aviation Offence Regulations 1997).
  2. Prosecution through the courts (Power of the Director, s72I(3)(b) and Part V of the Act.


To be effective, the correct tool / tools must be applied, given the circumstances of each individual case. When deciding what tool to use, the CAA or the Director must consider the circumstances that apply to each particular case and have discretion to take whatever action is considered appropriate.

Criteria for decision making