I have read the articles and correspondence concerning the gradual erosion of Class G airspace with both interest and growing irritation. I am a pretty basic recreational pilot with a PPL and IMC, so I am not claiming to be an expert.
I fly from (London) Biggin Hill airport. This means if I fly north I encounter (London) City airspace, north-east (London) Southend, nor’-nor’-east (London) Stansted, nor’-nor’-west (London) Luton, north-west (London) Heathrow, and south-west (London) Gatwick. If I fly sou’-sou’-west things change, I find Solent airspace where at last we run out of the prefix (London) – unless Eastleigh is actually (London) Southampton. I think you get the picture. The only way for me to enjoy uncontrolled airspace is to fly through the 10nm ‘collision corridors’ between the controlled airspace, stooge around Kent and Sussex, or do the sensible thing and fly to France where they seem not to put up with tinpot little aerodromes calling the shots. Class D exists in France, but there is no drama if GA wants to enter the airspace in the way I experience in UK. My solution to the growth in Class D is a three point plan: All Class B,C,D,E, Fair space allocations hould be made on the basis that transponder-equipped GA have an entitlement to enter the airspace unless there is a specific safety concern. In the event that a GA aircraft is refused access to the airspace, ATC should be required to submit a written report to CAA and to the owner of the aircraft, explaining why entry was refused. There may be legitimate reasons, ATC handling a Mayday, or just that the pilot of the GA aircraft was a bumbling fool and gave every impression that s/he could cause major problems. In the latter case, a transcript of the radio calls would be required as supporting evidence.
Allocation of Class D status would come with the stipulation that ATC services are provided to meet point 1. This means built in redundancy. An airport operator could not use ‘ATC workload’ as a reason to exclude GA. They should assess peak workload and then add a safety factor to that staffing requirement to ensure they have sufficient controllers. After all, the redundancy concept is built into almost every aspect of aviation for safety.
Now the controversial bit… The CAA should charge the airport operator for every cubic metre of airspace they wish to ‘lease’. This would change the paradigm. The CAA would look at aircraft movements at, say, Farnborough, and based on the 120 or so movements per day may conclude Class D is required for safety reasons, and that a substantial charge would be raised. The airport operator would want to minimise this additional cost. They may look at the performance of the aircraft likely to be using the airport and could propose the smallest possible controlled airspace footprint. The CAA may accept or reject such a proposal, again on safety grounds.
I recognise that landing fees would rise at all these airports to cover the additional costs. Also that there is a risk the CAA would milk this new cash cow dry by imposing a charge on all airfield ATZS. But in my experience when there is a cost business gets innovative. When something is free they get sloppy and complacent.
So, there you are – Class D airspace as small as safety will allow, the CAA gets more cash and so can reduce some other charges to the aviation community (ha ha!) and GA can expect full access to the smaller controlled areas in all but very exceptional circumstances. As I said, I am no expert and perhaps my plan has some flaws, but we need to get creative otherwise SMES like Farnborough are going to steamroller us. Maybe the new All Party Parliamentary Group on GA will consider such ideas?