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.