The UK government and its agencies have never, to put it at its gentlest, embraced the concept of transparency. So it's no surprise that the CAA is refusing to tell anyone - such as passengers for example - why it has pulled the ETOPS approval of leisure airline Flyglobespan. Apparently the first such action in 15 years.
This serves no useful purpose and is positively bad for all concerned. It damages Flyglobespan's credibility, hurts business, insults passengers, and ignores the legitimate interests of other operators.
It's quite serious stuff. Air Transport Intelligence has been chasing this story for a few days now. The CAA won't tell my colleagues what's going on, but they did get very cross when Flyglobespan claimed to us that the suspension was voluntary. A CAA spokesman then told us: “This is not the case. We suspended their ETOPS approval on [12 October] – the approval was not voluntarily suspended by the airline.”
So now, supposing I was so minded, I wouldn't know whether this carrier was safe or not. And if the ETOPS clearance is reinstated I won't have any basis on which to decide whether I then think it's safe. So the black mark will hang over Flyglobespan for ages.
Two things: if the US FAA tried such nonsense then they'd be on the end of assorted Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests very rapidly indeed. And they'd have to explain themselves. And when the famous European blacklist of unsafe carriers gets periodically updated, the authorities have no problem letting everyone know what they don't like about those airlines.
I'm not a CAA-basher. Actually I think the UK safety authorities do a first-rate job - and the superb record of UK carriers is at least partly testimony to that. But sometimes they exhibit the very worst of the UK government's addiction to secrecy.