Curious about the aviation and aerospace industry?

9 mins
May 10, 2022
In the first of our series of blogs with the CAA, you’ll hear from Maria Rueda, International Operations & Development Director at the CAA, and Managing Director of CAA International. Maria shares some amazing insight into the varied work the CAA undertakes and provides some great examples of just how exciting and important it really is! Let’s get ready for take-off!

What is the Civil Aviation Authority?

The aviation and aerospace industry is one of the most exciting career areas within the UK, with plenty of different roles to choose from. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the regulator for the industry in the UK, ensures that innovation and safety go hand-in-hand so that the future of aviation continues to look bright. 

To ensure that the industry flourishes, the CAA and Springpod have collaborated to provide an unprecedented virtual work experience and live week. During this time, thousands of young people will have access to leading industry experts, interactive content and invaluable information to find out more about a potential career in the industry. 

Ahead of the virtual work experience and live week, Springpod spent some time with people from different areas of the CAA, to bring you closer than ever to the dedication and innovation within aviation and aerospace. In a series of blogs, we’re going to introduce you to different areas of the CAA, and share some stories from amazing team members along the way. From coordinating how countries approach aviation and aerospace to remotely piloted aircraft systems, there’s plenty on offer! 

In the first of these blogs, you’ll hear from Maria Rueda, International Operations & Development Director at the CAA, and Managing Director of CAA International. Maria shares some amazing insight into the varied work the CAA undertakes and provides some great examples of just how exciting and important it really is! Let’s get ready for take-off! 

Why did you join the Civil Aviation Authority?

I’ve always loved aviation, and I’ve worked in the industry for almost 30 years. I did a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Airports and Airforce Navigation Systems and worked in this area for the first 20 years in the industry. I chose the CAA as it’s great to work in international operations as engagement and aviation standards and improvements are essential.

In what way does the CAA benefit the aerospace and aviation industry?

First and foremost, the CAA is the regulator in the UK - it’s our job to oversee the entire industry to make sure there are safe and secure operations throughout and that the public is protected too. In this industry, safety is crucial - it’s important to make sure we’re all safe getting into an aircraft, but also that the environment is safe from aircraft, too. 

What would a typical day look like in your position at the CAA?

For us, every day is different! Working on the international side of things, we engage with aviation regulators around the world, and a typical day could be just like today - it can include things such as a conference call with Thailand, involving the Director of the Regional Office for ICAO, which is the entity in charge of overseeing the whole of the aviation world. After that, it could include another call with our colleagues in the FAA, which is the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the industry in the US. 

Our days are always full of surprises, it’s very flexible, and it’s so interesting - you can have really different days and gain an incredible insight into the work of global peers and colleagues.

What is the CAA International, and what does this area involve?

The CAA is considered one of the best aviation regulators in the world - based on these standards and experience, CAA International supports other countries to improve global aviation standards. 

This means a few things - we engage with countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, and Pakistan, to support them in different areas of their aviation system. An example of what we do can include improving and developing examination systems for pilots so these countries have a secure way of creating and authorising pilot licences, and ensuring that pilots are properly trained and there are no fake licences, which can obviously lead to a lot of trouble if left unchecked. Alternatively, we can support these countries in certifying airlines, and resolve any significant issues or safety concerns. 

This is an important area of aviation, as it has a direct impact on travel, tourism, and business, and so we want to support these countries in any way possible.

How would a background or appreciation of STEM benefit someone working in CAA International?

Having a background in STEM will give you the opportunity to work in so many roles and can provide a lot of possibilities in aviation - obviously, you could be a regulator, but you could even work with airlines, navigation service providers, engineers, you could design aircraft, the list goes on! There are so many roles, but a background in STEM would give you the means to pursue a career in aviation, and see how exciting this world can really be. 

What do you believe is the biggest misconception that people may have about the CAA?

Some people think that we’re like the police! It’s not like that at all - we’re there to make sure people are safe, to support the industry, and inform passengers. Of course, if we need to, we can and will take action, but that’s because if we don’t it could lead to an accident that could have been avoided and can have serious consequences. 

Aviation is the safest mode of transport for a reason, and as a regulator, we’ve got a duty to make sure that it continues like that! 

The pandemic has had an effect on the whole world - what has it been like working in the aviation and aerospace industry?

It has obviously had a high impact on our industry - in the last two or three years, it’s basically come to a halt. We’ve experienced crises before, but never to this scale - anything that has happened before has always been quick, and we’ve been able to recover quickly. 

However, the industry is recovering, which is fantastic for everyone - vaccinations and new standards and measures created in collaboration with health organisations mean that we’ll resume similar levels of service as quickly but as safely as possible.  Aviation isn’t just something that we use to go on holiday - it links people together, drives economies, connects family. It’s such an important mode of transport, but we have to get it right. 

If you could give advice to anyone keen to pursue a career in aviation and aerospace, or within the CAA, what would it be?

I would say never think that you can’t do something - everything is possible, as long as you have the drive, passion, and curiosity of the industry. Wanting to improve things, or wanting to know how things work will always be a good thing, and can allow you to achieve anything you want. If you’re passionate about aviation and aerospace, there’s no ceiling where you can go - the sky really is the limit. 

What excites you about the future of aviation and aerospace, and what does this mean for the CAA?

It might surprise you, but this is probably the most exciting time to be part of the industry! Often in the past, aircraft was about evolution - you’d have a design, and it was always focused on refining it slightly, and improving gradually. Now - everything is possible through innovation. We have things like drones, electrical innovations for takeoff and landing, hydrogen propulsion, supersonic flight - everything is happening at once, and it all has to live with the current conventional aircraft. It’s an exciting time for everyone working in aviation, and it’s a fantastic time to come on board, help us, and play a real difference in making an impact on everything that’s new or on the way! 

With all this innovation, we’re incredibly conscious of the environmental impact of aviation, and how we can ensure that sustainability is embedded in how we do things. We want to do everything we can to protect the planet - so we want to make sure that the future is as green as it is exciting! 

ICAO is a United Nations (UN) organisation, and the UN has created Sustainability Development Goals to address many issues - poverty, hunger, inequality, and climate change. There are 17 in total, and the aviation and aerospace industry contributes to resolving 15 of these. It’s a big responsibility, but it gives our work a real purpose, and we’re proud to do what we can to change our world. If you want to make a difference and work in an exciting area, I can’t recommend a career with the CAA or in aviation and aerospace enough!

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