Jim McKenna - Director
Jim McKenna




I have been involved in aviation since the age of 14, starting off as a keen spotter looking over the fence at Edinburgh (Turnhouse) at DC-3, Herald and Vanguard aircraft before joining the Air Cadets at 16. I achieved some success in Aircraft Recognition becoming Individual ATC Scottish and National champion two years running, as well as a member of the associated winning teams. Flying opportunities, however, started with ATC gliding and powered flying. Starting my PPL training formally in 1972 I completed it in 1975, having flown seven different aircraft types along the way. I joined BEA as an engineering undergraduate apprentice in 1974 subsequently gaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Air Transport Engineering through City University. My career with BEA, later BA, led to my becoming a licensed engineer, supervisor and then hangar foreman. My first aircraft maintenance was, surprisingly, spar replacements and recovering of a Beagle Terrier and defect diagnosis on a Spitfire before moving on to the heavier metal represented by Viscounts, Vanguards, Tridents, BAC1-11 and L1011 Tristars. I moved to Boeing 747/Tristar maintenance checks before leaving BA in 1984.


In 1984 I joined the CAA as an airworthiness surveyor, based initially at Perth. I subsequently became Surveyor in Charge Aberdeen, Regional Manager Stansted, Head of Engineer Licensing, Chief Surveyor and latterly Head of Airworthiness Policy and Standards. I was able to gain experience on a wide variety of aircraft, from De Havilland Moths to Boeing 747 and a considerable smattering of warbird aircraft as my time at Stansted included supervision of the companies and aircraft at Duxford. I also gained considerable experience on helicopters ranging from Robinson 22 to the Chinook. Although my duties were primarily to monitor aircraft airworthiness and maintenance organisation standards I did assist AAIB in several investigations, including Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie, helicopter ditchings in the North Sea and GA accidents. With all of that, I am indebted to the skill and experience that numerous very knowledgeable engineers and pilots shared with me. As Head of Engineer Licensing I was active in the JAR-65 working group, developing requirements for what was to become the new European Licensing requirements for large aircraft under Part 66. I also assisted in the development of JAR-147 for training schools. This work involved participation in the JAA Maintenance Sectoral Team meetings giving me a wider knowledge and experience of the way that European politics work.


I took a Master of Science degree in Air Transport Management through City University in 2001 and subsequently acted as an external examiner at City University London for their Masters degree courses in Air Transport Management and for Cranfield University on some of their Masters and PhD degree courses. I was also actively involved in both Human Factors and Safety Management Systems work at CAA. My final project was looking into the Regulatory Approach to Recreational Aviation (known as the RA2 report). This report, which suggested a number of changes in the regulatory approach to GA operations, was submitted to and agreed by the CAA Board. I would like to hope that it laid the foundations for the recent establishment of the CAA GA Unit and well as continuing the development of concessions and alleviations for GA operations (e.g. Permit IMC, A8-26, overflight privileges).

My involvement with the PFA/LAA started in 1976 with the West London Strut whilst at BA, finding myself taken by the enthusiasm of the members I met and the PFA Rallies at Cranfield. I got involved for a short time there with a group building a Long Ez before buying the plans myself for a Pazmany PL-4A. Work commenced on building the bits, mainly from flat Alloy sheet, for the Pazmany in 1984 but joining CAA, my posting to Perth and subsequent moves has meant that I have yet to complete building the kit to assemble (Perhaps not the longest build to date but I only wish that ready to buy kits had been around!!) Perhaps one day work will continue. Whilst in Aberdeen I flew and maintained a Piper L18C under the LAA system. As Head of Approvals in CAA I supervised the airworthiness approvals of the LAA and BMAA for a period. Since retiring from the CAA in 2012 I have been appointed as the Chairman of the LAA Safety and Environmental Committee and recently co-opted to the LAA Board. I am a current Licensed Engineer and LAA Inspector as well as a member of the Southern Strut at Shoreham. 

I believe that I have much to offer the LAA and look forward to serving the Association and its members, particularly in respect of helping to guide the implementation of a different approach within LAA to safety in the areas of airworthiness and operations over the next few years.  

August 2014