Regulating Bodies

Aviation is an international business with aircraft crossing national boundaries every few seconds.

UK airlines operate throughout the world and with one of the largest civil aviation industries in the world the UK has considerable impact on civil aviation. Because of this global nature aviation regulation is an international task.

The overarching body for worldwide civil aviation safety regulation is the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This is a United Nations specialized body responsible for setting the minimum safety standards throughout the world. Nations and continents must adhere to these but then also have the option to enhance them if they see fit. ICAO regularly audits countries to ensure they comply with the standards and this provides a level of confidence to other nations. ICAO also oversees various international treaties governing the law of international aviation and consumer protection.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

ICAO was created in 1944 upon the signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

ICAO works with the Convention’s 191 Signatory States and global industry and aviation organizations to develop international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which are then used by States when they develop their legally-binding national civil aviation regulations.
There are currently over 10,000 SARPs reflected in the 19 Annexes to the Chicago Convention which ICAO oversees, and it is through these SARPs and ICAO’s complementary policy, auditing and capacity-building efforts that today’s global air transport network is able to operate over 100,000 daily flights, safely, efficiently and securely in every region of the world.

The CAA (UK)

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 (the air traffic control body NATS was separated from the CAA in the late 1990s and became a public / private partnership organisation in 2001).

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.

What the CAA (UK) do:

The CAA regulates (approximately):

  • Active professional and private pilots (50,000)
  • Licensed aircraft engineers (12,400)
  • Air traffic controllers (2,350)
  • Commercial Air Operators, including airlines (206)
  • Licensed aerodromes (141)
  • Organisations involved in the design, production and maintenance of aircraft (950)
  • ATOL holders (2,400)
  • Aircraft registered in the UK (19,000)

The CAA have two main offices, in London on the Kingsway and the other, close to Gatwick Airport. CAA airspace, consumer policy and ATOL teams are all based in London, with colleagues regulating safety mostly based in Gatwick and a series of smaller regional offices.

Strategic Objectives:

The CAA‘s work is focussed on:

  • Enhancing aviation safety performance by pursuing targeted and continuous improvements in systems, culture, processes and capability.
  • Improving choice and value for aviation consumers now and in the future by promoting competitive markets, contributing to consumers’ ability to make informed decisions and protecting them where appropriate.
  • Improving environmental performance through more efficient use of airspace and make an efficient contribution to reducing the aviation industry’s environmental impacts.
  • Ensuring that the CAA is an efficient and effective organisation which meets Better Regulation principles

International Consultancy:

As a wholly owned subsidiary of the CAA, CAA International (CAAi) is a leading, globally recognised aviation consultancy company that delivers and promotes best practice in aviation governance and education. CAAi provides technical advisory services across a range of aviation related activities, environmental consulting, professional training, aviation examination services and certification against internationally recognised quality management standards. CAAi‘s work contributes to enhancing safety standards worldwide.


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 240 airlines or 84% of total air traffic. IATA support many areas of aviation activity and help formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues.
IATA was founded in Havana, Cuba, in April 1945. It is the prime vehicle for  inter-airline cooperation in promoting safe, reliable, secure and economical  air services – for the benefit of the world’s consumers. The international  scheduled air transport industry is more than 100 times larger than it was in 1945. Few industries can match the dynamism of that growth, which  would have been much less spectacular without the standards, practices and procedures developed within IATA.

At its founding, IATA had 57 members from 31 nations, mostly in Europe and North America. Today it has some 240 members from 118 nations in every part of the globe.

The modern IATA is the successor to the International  Air Traffic Association founded in the Hague in 1919 – the year of the  world’s first international scheduled services.


The European Aviation Safety Agency is the centrepiece of the European Union’s aviation safety system comprised of the Agency, the European Commission and the National Aviation Authorities (NAAs).

A common strategy

Air transport is one of the safest forms of travel. As air traffic continues to grow, a common endeavour is needed at the European level to keep air transport safe and sustainable. The Agency develops common safety and environmental rules. It monitors the implementation of standards through inspections in the Member States and provides the necessary technical expertise and training to the system. The Agency works hand in hand with NAAs, which have their own role to play in the EU system.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of American civil aviation.

The FAA‘s roles include:

  • Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation
  • Regulating air navigation facilities’ geometry and flight inspection standards
  • Encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology
  • Issuing, suspending, or revoking pilot certificates
  • Regulating civil aviation to promote safety, especially through local offices called Flight Standards District Offices
  • Developing and operating a system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft
  • Researching and developing the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics
  • Developing and carrying out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation

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