What are the requirements for managers in commercial air transport?

The air operations regulation requires commercial air transport (CAT) operators to have certain specific management posts to hold an air operators certificate (AOC). First of all, there must be an accountable manager:

The Accountable Manager

The accountable manager has overall responsibility for safety and must have the authority to ensure that all activities “can be financed and carried out in accordance with the applicable requirements”. The accountable manager is usually the Chief Executive of the company (or equivalent). The accountable manager doesn’t need to be an expert in air operations (it’s more important that he/she is a management expert), but he/she will need to have a good understanding of aircraft operations and be reasonably familiar with the applicable requirements. Just as important is that the accountable manager has well-qualified people to manage all of the safety-critical aspects of the operation. These people are the ‘nominated persons’.

Nominated Persons

The regulation requires that commercial air transport operators appoint ‘nominated persons’ (‘NP’) for each of the following four areas of responsibility:

  • Flight operations

  • Crew training

  • Ground operations and

  • Continuing airworthiness.

Under the previous regulation (EU-OPs), these guys were known as ‘nominated post holders’.

In small or non-complex operations, responsibilities can be combined, so one ‘Chief Pilot’ might be responsible for flight operations and crew training. There is minimal scope for the responsibilities to be split. This is only permitted within ground operations.

The air operations regulation doesn’t include qualifications for the NP, but there is ‘guidance material’. Each operator should have the requirements for the different posts documented in the operations manual, and many authorities expect these requirements to follow the guidance material. For all the NP positions, the guidance suggests five years of work experience, management experience in a comparable organisation and a sound knowledge of regulations and the operations manual.


The guidance states that NP Flight Operations should hold, or have held “valid flight crew licence and the associated ratings appropriate to a type of operation conducted under the AOC”. If their ratings are not current, then he/she should have a deputy who has a valid licence and ratings.

NP flight operations needs to have a much deeper knowledge of regulations than most line pilots. He/she will be responsible for setting policy and developing procedures for all aspects of flight operations, including technical requirements such as aircraft performance, airport operating minima, fuel policy, fatigue management, cabin safety, dangerous goods, performance-based navigation etc. In a small operation, the NP Flight Operations needs a broader knowledge than in a larger organisation where he/she may have other technical specialists to provide support. NP Flight Operations will also need non-technical management skills as he/she will be responsible for the performance of pilots and other crew members.


The guidance suggests that NP Crew Training should be a current type-rating instructor (TRI) on a type operated by the AOC or have a deputy who is a TRI. Completing a TRI course will not confer the skills or knowledge to design and oversee training courses or manage the training of individual pilots, but it’s unlikely that someone without this minimum qualification would be equipped to do the job.

This can be difficult for operators who sub-contract all simulator training. One solution is to appoint a competent manager to the NP role, perhaps someone with ‘line training’ experience, and to contract an experienced instructor (TRI) from outside the company to provide support and advice, probably in the role of deputy.

In an operation with cabin crew, NP crew training will also be responsible for cabin crew training.


NP ground operations will typically be responsible for ground handling of aircraft, freight and passengers. He/she may also be responsible for crew rostering, flight planning and flight preparation. In most operators, many of these activities are sub-contracted, but the NP retains responsibility. Managing sub-contracted activities can be more demanding than managing activities provided ‘in-house’.


NP continuing airworthiness needs to have a detailed knowledge of ‘Part-M’. He/she will also need to have a relevant engineering degree or an aircraft maintenance technician qualification.

In most small operators, aircraft maintenance is sub-contracted. The NP position may not be full-time, but the NP can’t be employed by the contracted maintenance organisation unless the competent authority explicitly agrees.

Other mandatory management posts

Apart from the accountable manager and the nominated persons, there are no other management positions mandated in the ‘hard law’. AMC requires a safety manager and a compliance monitoring manager.

Safety Manager

The safety manager is responsible for administering the safety management function but is not accountable for safety (that’s the accountable manager).

There is nothing in either AMC or GM about the qualifications necessary to hold the position of safety manager, but the safety manager will need a good understanding of all the elements of the safety management system, including safety risk management, use of performance indicators to measure safety performance (safety assurance) and ‘safety promotion’.

A good safety manager will be someone who can persuade and influence other managers as he/she needs to encourage the adoption of safety management processes and a ‘just culture’ throughout the organisation without having the authority to direct other managers.

Compliance Monitoring Manager

One of the fundamental management system requirements is a compliance monitoring function. The AMC requires an operator to appoint a compliance monitoring manager (this replaces the ‘quality manager’ required under EU-OPs). The AMC requires that the compliance monitoring manager should not be one of the ‘nominated persons’ and that he/she should have “relevant knowledge background and experience related to the activities of the operator including knowledge and experience in compliance monitoring”.

The compliance monitoring manager will usually conduct at least some internal audits and inspections, so he/she will need to be qualified as an auditor. This typically means having completed relevant audit training and having knowledge and experience of the areas to be audited. External auditors can be used for those topics where the compliance monitoring manager doesn’t have the appropriate expertise and experience.

The role of the competent authority

The previous regulation (EU-OPS) required certain appointments to be approved or accepted by the competent authority. This has been replaced in the air operations regulation by a requirement for operators to have a change management process and for specific changes to be approved in advance by the authority. The appointment of a new accountable manager is a change requiring prior approval.

Operators need to notify the competent authority in advance of any change of a nominated person. Most authorities will ask for the CV of the new nominated person and may conduct an interview.

Some operators may also be required to obtain prior approval for other management appointments, including the compliance monitoring manager and safety manager. Many authorities ask to see the CVs of safety managers and compliance monitoring managers and conduct interviews before their appointments are confirmed.

Flexibility provisions

If some aspect of the regulatory requirements presents a problem for an operator, then there is the possibility of deviating from the published requirements.

If the issue causing a problem is part of the implementing rule, i.e. the ’hard law’, then a deviation would only be possible if the operator were granted an exemption under article 71 of the new basic regulation. This is unlikely to be successful, except perhaps as a short term solution to an unforeseen situation. This applies to the requirements for an accountable manager and for ‘nominated persons’.

If an operator needs to deviate from a published AMC, then an application can be made for an alternative means of compliance (AltMoC). This could apply to the safety manager or compliance monitoring manager positions.

Each operator can decide what qualifications managers should have, bearing in mind the need to demonstrate that all staff are trained and competent to perform their tasks. These requirements should be documented in the Operations Manual. An operator must comply with their Operations Manual or else amend it.

Andrew’s in-depth regulatory knowledge and experience of the European aviation system has proven invaluable for BALPA in advice provided to our members on pilot licensing issues, particularly in the context of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Joji Waites, Head of Flight Safety British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA)