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Ash-cloud crisis: Why is the CAA in charge?

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Our employees have also been turning up at the homes of customers who had pre-booked boiler services and bathroom jobs, only to find no-one at home. A quick call to the customer would confirm they were stuck in some far-flung country, unable to get a flight home.

While unavoidable, it’s another pressure on businesses that are struggling to push their way out of recession.

So should the planes have been allowed back in the air a lot sooner? The airlines would, of course, say yes. They lose bucket loads of cash every time a plane is left grounded.  

You’d hope that the people making these kinds of life-and-death decisions were the most experienced aeronautical boffins on the planet. But it turns out that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the organisation which made the final call, is run by people with little experience in the aviation industry. 

Its chairman, Dame Deirdre Hutton, once described as “the great quango-hopper”, was chairman of the Food Standards Agency until last year. The CAA’s chief executive, Andrew Haines, ran First Great Western trains before taking up his current position.

This is crazy. It’s like me putting a banker in charge of fixing a gas boiler! Surely these organisations should be made up of people who have spent years in that industry rather than being a government-appointed stooge moving from one gravy train carriage to another?

On a much more pleasant note, the other day I heard from the lads and lasses at Long Lane Garden Centre – a Warrington-based plant and vegetable retailer, which provides supported employment and training for adults with learning disabilities, and one of the charities I worked with during Secret Millionaire. Last Christmas, I gave them a barbecue as a gift. In the middle of winter I admit that was a strange present (not to mention hard to come by – honestly, never try to buy a barbecue in December) but my mate Peter Tickle at the centre said one would go down really well. He was right. They fired it up last week and are planning to make Thursdays “barbecue day” from now on.

Peter also tells me things are still booming as a result of all the Secret Millionaire publicity, with lots of new volunteers getting involved. They are also planning a charity golf day later on this summer, so I’ve put a Pimlico team in. They want me to play but golf isn’t really my game. Perhaps the tournament could be held on a Thursday then I could do the barbecue instead?



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