Regulatory excellence – Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands

See the CAA in CFR’s Agencies & Authorities

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The aviation industry has played a significant role in our islands’ development and will always be viewed as a major infrastructural component supporting our financial and tourism industries.   These industries have grown significantly in the Cayman Islands since the 1950’s, when the ground-breaking took place for a runway and what is now known as the Owen Roberts International Airport. Before this, the Cayman Islands were virtually unknown throughout most of the world.
Initially, the Cayman Islands Corporation was established in 1951 to oversee the development of the airport, which was superseded by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands in 1987.
From 1987 through to July 2004 the CAACI was the statutory body responsible for the continued development and operations of airports and also the regulation of the aviation industry throughout the Cayman Islands. In 2004, to meet international regulatory mandates of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the CAACI was re-structured into two distinct organisations:- the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) and the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) that separated the aviation regulatory responsibilities from the provision of services and operations of the airports, respectively. As such the CAACI is the regulatory body responsible for all aviation regulation throughout the jurisdiction and for aircraft on the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry. The CAACI is headquartered on Grand Cayman with a subsidiary support office in central London, United Kingdom.
Regulatory obligations for effective safety oversight exercised by the CAACI is based on the Convention on Aviation signed in Chicago in 1944 by member states of ICAO, an agency of the United Nations. The Convention puts in place a commitment to foster the growth and safety of international air transportation through compliance with common Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). The United Kingdom is a signatory to the Convention and the Cayman Islands, as UK Overseas Territory, is obligated to observe this commitment. The “Air Navigation (Overseas Territory) Order” is the statutory instrument provided for the CAACI, which details the legislative provisions for all the UK Overseas Territories. Additionally, the UK drafted the Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements to ensure operational compliance with the ICAO standards and recommended practices.
In-depth look at the CAACI and its regulatory responsibilities
The CAACI is headed by the Director General, P H Richard Smith, who has over 33 years experience in the aviation industry. The director general’s authority comes through a delegation of powers to the Governor by the UK Secretary of State and then to the director general. The director general is responsible for the administrative management of Civil Aviation Authority and to implement regulation in a co-operative and cost-effective manner, but most importantly to ensure that the Cayman Islands are served by a safe and efficient civil aviation industry. The director general reports to a board of directors that is responsible for the adequate administrative functioning of the CAACI. Under his leadership, there are four regulatory divisions that reports directly to him. The CAACI team displays a high productivity level with dedicated staff that ensures the optimisation of safety for the aviation industry. Staff members subscribe to the CAACI’s strategic direction as follows:

  • Vision: Ensuring aviation safety through regulatory excellence.
  • Mission: To provide sustainable regulatory procedures to meet international standards. Through committed partnerships, the CAACI, will ensure the safety of persons & property.

Commercial Affairs, Regulation & Administration (CAR&A) Division: Heading the CAR&A division is Nicoela (Nikki) McCoy. This division is primarily responsible for the economic regulatory oversight of the Cayman Islands air transport industry, which includes the observation of certain international bilateral and multilateral agreements between foreign states for air transport operations. Also included in economic regulatory oversight are tariff monitoring, and the economic regulatory oversight and development of policy for airlines and airports.
In addition, this division is responsible for the Authority’s integrated communications programmes and business development activities (creating public and private sector partnerships and promotional activities) aimed at increasing the awareness of the public and subscribers to the CI Aircraft Registry. While reporting directly to the director general of CAACI, Mrs McCoy is also is responsible for the day-to-day administrative functioning of the Authority.  Mrs McCoy also serves as secretary to the Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA), which is the body responsible for the granting of air transport operating licenses to Cayman Islands’ Air Operator Certificate holders, for instance Cayman Airways Ltd, Cayman Express and Cayman Islands Helicopters.

Finance & Compliance Division: Jane Panton heads the CAACI’s Director of the Finance & Compliance division. Mrs Panton is responsible for ensuring prudent financial management and that best practice compliance and anti-money laundering principles are applied to due diligence processes for the acceptance and retention of reputable clientele. Mrs Panton is responsible for managing the annual budget, financial liaison with the Cayman Islands government and providing advice to the director general, management and board of directors on financial matters that impact the Authority’s mandate.

Air Safety Regulation: David Biehn heads the Air Safety Regulation (ASR) division. His responsibilities include regulatory oversight of all flight operations and airworthiness regimes for all local air operating certificate (AOC) holders and aircraft on the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry. The functions of this department include managing the aircraft registration process with stringent safety and technical standards and rigid airworthiness inspections to ensure compliance with the standards and recommended practices of ICAO. Once the aircraft is accepted onto the registry, highly qualified CAACI staff conduct inspections at the home base of the aircraft or the designated maintenance facility for ease and convenience. The ASR team is also instrumental in effecting mortgages registered in the Cayman Islands for financed aircraft. This technical team of highly qualified experts provide oversight for airworthiness and flight operations to ensure aircraft operators meet and maintain internationally mandated standards.  They have worked numerous years in the relevant air transport industries and with other national regulatory authorities globally.

Air Navigation Services Regulation: Under the direction of Alistair Robertson, this division is responsible for the certification and regulatory safety oversight of Air Navigation Services Systems that include; Aerodrome & Heliport certification, Aeronautical Information Services, Aeronautical Telecommunication, Rescue & Firefighting and Meteorogical Services.

Onward and upward
The Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry

The Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry is the registry of choice for many owners and management companies with corporate aircraft. CAACI proudly maintains a reputation of providing a safe, stable and credible flag for registration of an aircraft. Standards are rigid and specifications exact to qualify, but this has led to the register being highly respected and recognised throughout the aviation industry internationally.  The CAACI works in close partnership with a specialised group of legal firms to ensure that the most comprehensive counsel on every avenue of aviation law, mortgage registration, custom law and insurance is available for aircraft registration in the Cayman Islands. This combined with the opportunity to perfect a security interest (in this jurisdiction) over such an asset, continues to be an increasingly attractive option for foreign individuals and corporations. Currently there are approximately 180 aircrafts registered in the private aircraft category (such as Gulfstream, Boeing Business Jets, Airbus, Embraer, Dassault Falcon, Cessna etc).



For more information on the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry or processes associated therewith; visit our website at  or contact the Civil Aviation Authority at +1(345) 949 7811 or email [email protected]



Group shot Back row: Alistair Robertson – Director of Air Navigation Services Regulation, David Biehn – Director of Air Safety Regulation, Front Row: Jane Panton – Director of Finance & Compliance, Richard Smith – Director General of Civil Aviation, Nikki McCoy – Director of Commerical Affairs Regulation & Administration. Source: Sarah Edgar-Kelly