Operations Manuals – CAA Guidance

RUSTA Pilots Operations Manual

24 June 2015 – Bristol, UK

A robust operations manual is the key to operating safely and consistently while conducting SUAS operations commercially. The operations manual details your organisation, the equipment it uses including its limitations and the procedures you will follow. These procedures cover everything from how you plan operations before you go on site, to the checks you make on the SUAS before, during and after flight. Emergency procedures are also detailed so that it is clear how you will react in the event of an incident occurring to stop the impact of that incident becoming worse.

At RUSTA, we have always taken the view that the creation of an operations manual by the pilot applying for permission for aerial work (PFAW) is a valuable learning experience. If the manual is provided to the pilot by a 3rd party, we have always firmly believed that the pilot is missing out. The process of creating the manual focusses the pilot’s mind on what they are trying to achieve and the operations manual produced therefore reflects accurately the operations that are to be undertaken, the limitations of the SUAS and, as importantly, the pilot understands and can comply easily with the manual contents as they are the one who actually wrote it. This is important, as the operations manual is not another ‘hurdle’ to get over towards the awarding of PFAW by the CAA. The manual dictates how you will operate going forward and you should refer to it in all instances. Indeed, your accountable manager will sign a declaration that the organisation will comply with the contents of the manual and the CAA will issue permission based on you operating that way. If you deviate from that, you are operating outside the boundary of your permissions.

The CAA agree with our thoughts and have recently issued  information to all NQEs on the subject. A short extract is reproduced here for your information:

“The subject of student Operations Manual completion has come up and I would just like to give guidance from us on how far training NQEs should go with assisting students:

We have put our outline template Ops Manual on the website. Students and NQEs can use this, or offer their own incomplete template to help students understand what is needed.

Students may compile their Ops Manual during the course with the assistance of their trainers, but the manual should accurately reflect their individual operation and have significant student input in the key areas (specific aircraft types, site selection and hazards, company procedures etc.) In sum, the student should feel comfortable that they know their own procedures and methods and are able to follow them consistently during the flight assessment.

NQEs should not offer a ‘completion’ service for the Ops Manual with very marginal student input; or offer a fully ‘CAA approved’ Ops Manual for students who think they don’t have the time or feel they don’t have the required knowledge or expertise to complete a comprehensive and suitable Operations Manual. Students are going on the course precisely to get this knowledge and expertise and should learn through doing.”

At RUSTA, we address the operations manual right from day one and students are well prepared to create their operations manual when they finish the classroom based element of the course. How do we know this works? Well, from the feedback we get from students on how well the course prepares them and the quality of the manuals we receive back from students for review, we know!