Sir - The comments made by The Times newspaper of the UK on 17 July, responding to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission inquiry on behalf of the UK Civil Aviation Authority into airports authority BAA, are timely, uncannily accurate, and sum up with commendable clarity the relationship between BAA (a private company) and the CAA (a Government "quango").

To illustrate the frankly questionable interface between these two organisations, one need only to look at BAA's Stansted Airport in Essex, where, on 24 February, a new, £5 million ($7.7 million), air-traffic-control (ATC) tower was opened.

This was not funded by the owner, but by the CAA's wholly owned subsidiary, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), in the form of a Government loan made to the CAA.

The Times is perhaps understating the position: the CAA provides air-traffic services for all three of BAA's London-area airports (Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted) at no cost to BAA (recovering costs directly from the airlines, in accordance with the 1986 Airports Act). Other London-area airports, however, such as London City and London Luton (along with others throughout the UK), provide such services at considerable cost to themselves, either directly, or through commercial contractual arrangements with NATS. The relationship between the CAA and BAA is not simply "-altogether too rosy". In terms of competitive fairness, it is disgraceful.

Source: Flight International