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Belfast City Airport assured of airfield operator compliance through the National Certificate in Airside Operations

11 Aug 2021
People 1st International

When a group of leading aviation employers came together to collaborate on skills solutions, Belfast City Airport was excited to pioneer a new industry-led certification supported by the UK CAA and Airport Operators Association (AOA) that would assure competence and compliance of airfield operations staff.

Developed in the UK through a collaborative employer-led partnership with 15 UK airports and People 1st International, the National Certificate in Airside Operations (NCAO) acts as an assessment process that provides the accountable manager with evidence of a skilled and safe workforce that is fit for purpose, meeting the increasing levels of regulatory requirements.

With eight airfield operatives in post, Belfast City Airport were keen to use the certification to ensure training is compliant and up to date.

Neal Skelton, Airfield Operations Supervisor / Acting Duty Manager at Belfast City Airport comments:

I was involved from the very beginning in the development of the programme, helping to define what modules would be required to suit all airports. As a trainer I was looking for a program that would be recognised by the aviation Industry and would benefit the operations team.”

Whilst the NCAO primarily operates as an assessment programme, it also provides a syllabus for training and identifies gaps, delivering an accredited and portable certification for all those working in airfield operations.

With UK aerodrome operators having to provide a safety training programme that ensures that personnel involved in the operation, rescue and firefighting, maintenance and management of the aerodrome are trained and competent in order to meet EASA and CAA requirements, NCAO has helped Belfast City Airport demonstrate their competency:

Neal adds:

The NCAO ensures that the training of all our airfield operators is current. It tests employees with theoretical and practical assessments which ensures our team is competent, proficient and skilled for their role.

“Recognised by the CAA, it assists us with aerodrome inspections. All the work is stored and backed up on the NCAO platform and can be reviewed by CAA inspectors if required and in my experience this makes for a good practice.”

With all eight airfield operators from Belfast City Airport having achieved the NCAO, each employee is now starting the revalidation process and the information saved is being used to keep training compliant over the next two years.

We set our employees target dates to hit for each module and by answering questions and uploading evidence on the platform ensures that they keep current with any aviation changes such as new CAPs or AOIs within the Airport. During Covid-19 and periods of furlough it has also kept the operations team from losing some of their knowledge.” says Neal.

As the NCAO is an agreed national standard, the other benefit is that the certificate can be transferred between airports, offering opportunities for a reduction in training cost and greater transferability.”

Over 200 airside operatives have undertaken the NCAO from airports across the UK, including Belfast City Airport, London Oxford Airport, Leeds Bradford Airport, Liverpool John Lennon, London Gatwick Airport, London Heathrow Airport, London Stansted Airport, Doncaster Sheffield Airport and London Luton Airport. These airports continue to work collaboratively to ensure the NCAO remains a fit for purpose certification in line with regulatory requirements.

An international version of the certification – the Airfield Operations Competence Certificate (AOCC) – has also been developed. Benchmarked against UK and European airport certification requirements, the certificate can be tailored to suit local or national requirements and ensures operatives and managers are assessed to a recognised standard.

To find out more about the National Certificate in Airside Operations or the Airfield Operations Competence Certificate, contact

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