Taking CAA expertise to the world

Published: 29 Jan 2018


Civil Aviation Authority International, an arm of the UK regulator, is a social enterprise helping to improve standards globally. Managing director Maria Rueda argues that its impact is felt far beyond the industry.

What sparked your interest in aviation?

I have loved aviation since I was a little girl. I used to be mesmerised by aircraft and wondered how on earth they could fly, so it is no surprise that I decided to study aeronautical engineering to find out. I have worked in aviation all my career – nearly 25 years – and I am still in love with it. I believe aviation brings people together, drives economies, and reaches places that would be isolated otherwise.

What are your qualifications?

I hold a BSc in aeronautical engineering, an MSc in airport and air navigation systems and a diploma in company direction from the Institute of Directors, London.

Tell us about your career so far?

I trained in Spain as an aeronautical engineer, specialising in airports and air navigation systems. In the early stages of my career, I worked as a project manager in airport-related schemes in an international environment. Later, I worked for Ferrovial, responsible for the identification and analysis of airport privatisations. In 2003, I became business development director at Belfast City airport. Six years later, I had the chance to work for Deloitte’s air transport department, participating in projects with Dublin Airport Authority, Ferrovial and UK air navigation service provider, NATS. I joined the UK Civil Aviation Authority International (CAAi) in 2011, and was appointed managing director in 2015.

What is the role of the CAAi?

It is the technical advisory and training arm of the UK CAA. We work with industry and fellow aviation regulators around the world, helping states improve their regulatory oversight and international compliance in accordance with ICAO and European Aviation Safety Agency standards. As a registered UK social enterprise, a sustainable part of any profit we make is reinvested back into the global aviation community. This allows us to deploy CAA expertise and resource where it is needed most, to help raise the standards of aviation across the globe.

What are your responsibilities as managing director?

I am responsible for directing and driving CAAi to achieve our purpose; raising aviation standards around the world. We do this through partnerships with other national aviation authorities, industry, ICAO and EASA, based on the expertise of the CAA. I have a determined and skilled team of professionals that truly believe in what we do and can see the difference we make and the value we add through our work across the world.

What has CAAi achieved under your leadership?

We have assisted many national aviation authorities since I took post in 2015. Most notably in 2017, we helped Thailand’s department of civil aviation lift the Significant Safety Concern imposed by ICAO two years earlier for providing insufficient safety oversight. This has been a major milestone for Thailand due to its reliance on travel and tourism.

Where do you see its role going forward?

Closer collaboration among ICAO member states is vital. With over 80 countries still below the global average of effective implementation of ICAO standards, everyone – from international organisations, aviation authorities and industry, to agencies, funding and donor bodies – needs to work together to ensure no country is left behind.

What challenges do you face?

One of the main blockers we find working internationally is the lack of support from the local and national governments to aviation, and the inclusion of the aviation sector in their national strategic plans. Without this commitment, our support may not happen or may not be received or maximised to provide future sustainability. There are no doubts about the benefits of aviation and its contribution to the UN sustainable development goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The achievement of this noble purpose drives our efforts and commitment.

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