GA woes

Pilot - - AIRMAIL -

Your cor­re­spon­dent, Michael Arm­field (‘GA forced out of south Lon­don’), is ab­so­lutely right to be con­cerned, if not alarmed, by the fast-dis­ap­pear­ing fa­cil­i­ties for GA — but this is not lim­ited to south Lon­don. GA is un­der un­prece­dented at­tack on many fronts and right across the UK.

The num­ber of air­fields fall­ing vic­tim to hous­ing de­vel­op­ments is at an all-time high and the up­dates on these are so nu­mer­ous that they now war­rant spe­cial sec­tions in most gen­eral avi­a­tion mag­a­zines, in­clud­ing Pi­lot. Else­where we see GA be­ing driven away from air­fields by ex­or­bi­tant land­ing charges and com­pul­sory han­dling fees. Many air­ports pre­vi­ously freely open to ‘drop in’ traf­fic are now PPR, and it is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult to prac­tice in­stru­ment ap­proaches due to the need for book­ings and the charg­ing of high nav­i­ga­tion fees. What in­cen­tive is this to safer in­stru­ment fly­ing?

GA is also hit dis­pro­por­tion­ately se­verely by the im­po­si­tion of 8.33khz ra­dios (some claim to­tally un­nec­es­sar­ily), mode S transpon­ders, and ADS-B yet to come. Airspace grabs also af­fect the pri­vate flyer more than their com­mer­cial brethren. The short­age of fly­ing in­struc­tors, how­ever, im­pacts the whole in­dus­try from GA right up to the air­lines.

The gov­ern­ment sup­pos­edly recog­nises the value of GA in the econ­omy and the CAA ap­par­ently has a plan for GA with Tony Rap­son head­ing up the GA unit, but in truth wouldn’t both the gov­ern­ment and the CAA much pre­fer for the on­slaught on light air­craft fly­ing to con­tinue to the point where it dis­ap­pears al­to­gether and only air­lin­ers are to be seen in the skies over Bri­tain? A strange at­ti­tude for a na­tion which owes its very ex­is­tence to the brav­ery of pi­lots in 1940.

If one were to ex­trap­o­late the curves of GA ex­pul­sions, air­field clo­sures, out­ra­geous fees, ad­vanc­ing con­trolled airspace, com­pul­sory equip­ment up­grades, and the at­tempts at gold plat­ing EASA rules into the fu­ture, then at what point does the fu­ture for GA dis­ap­pear with­out the need for gov­ern­ment con­cern, CAA plan or a head of the GA unit for that mat­ter? Let’s hope there is a change of di­rec­tion and very soon, oth­er­wise Bri­tain’s best-sell­ing GA mag­a­zine, which I thor­oughly en­joy ev­ery month, won’t be! Ge­off Burl­ing by email

To­day I re­ceived my monthly plea­sure, Pi­lot. l read Pat Malone’s ar­ti­cle about Con­corde and it sounds typ­i­cal. Plus the de­grad­ing of fa­cil­i­ties, crafts­men, em­ploy­ment - to name but a few - killed by greed in the form of hous­ing. There is a let­ter about dis­ap­pear­ing GA south of Lon­don. North Weald has been un­der threat of de­vel­op­ment, the only spare long run­way in south-east Eng­land now Manston has gone. When a di­ver­sion is needed where do they send air­lin­ers? Manch­ester!

I just got into Pan­shanger a week or so be­fore its death. Dianna Hamil­ton by email

I am al­ways amazed at how some GA air­fields can be so in­cred­i­bly un­friendly/un­help­ful, if not down­right hos­tile to their cus­tomers - and I’m pretty sure that these must be the same folks who whinge about GA be­ing a tough place to op­er­ate.

I of­fered to fly a friend of mine, do­ing a Land’s End to John O’groats char­ity bike ride, to the start. The Land’s End web­site doesn’t give much in­for­ma­tion on open­ing hours so I thought a quick call to ask for an out-of-hours ex­emp­tion would do the trick. How wrong can you be? The con­ver­sa­tion went some­thing like this: “Hi, can I speak to some­one about get­ting an out-of-hours ex­emp­tion?” (Asks around the of­fice) “No”. “So what would be the chance of land­ing there at 8p.m. on 9 Septem­ber?” “You can’t”. “Oh right. That’s help­ful. Good­bye”. A quick call to Gra­ham at Truro, by con­trast, was ut­terly bril­liant. We quickly es­tab­lished a rap­port and I’ll go there, where I feel most wel­come.

I can un­der­stand why some air­fields are hes­i­tant to of­fer af­ter-hours open­ing to per­haps low-hour pi­lots but I re­ally do feel there needs to be a reg­is­ter of air­fields who do open their arms to the avi­a­tion com­mu­nity dur­ing day­light hours, sim­i­lar to the Strasser scheme. What have they got to lose? In gen­eral the chances are that we’re not go­ing to smash our­selves to smithereen­s on ar­rival so, at our own risk, let us give you some cash in ex­change for no ef­fort at all save a good at­ti­tude.

On the same sub­ject, I have re­cently moved the air­craft I look af­ter to a grass strip, hav­ing been at a vastly over-of­fi­cious, un­friendly li­censed air­field for the last six years. I’ve saved a lot of money and now re­ally en­joy ar­riv­ing at the strip and my whole de­par­ture/ar­rival ex­pe­ri­ence. The field I have left has been los­ing home-based op­er­a­tors at a ter­ri­fy­ing pace over the past ten years and they still can’t work it out… En­joy your fly­ing. I know I will! Ed Len­nox, Worces­ter­shire

PS I dis­cov­ered later that Land’s End is closed on Sun­days but this is not men­tioned on their web­site.

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