Mission Aviation Fellowship

APPG General Aviation spreads its wings

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation was established earlier this year as a special-interest parliamentary organisation established to promote the Government’s stated objective of ‘…making the UK the best country in the world for General Aviation.’, The Chair of the APPG GA – Grant Shapps MP – has now written to Ministers calling for urgent and co-ordinated action to support GA.

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Shapps, who was instrumental in driving through the Government ‘Red Tape’ challenge for GA in 2013 and the official General Aviation Strategy in 2015, notes that when the Government published a report into the economic impact of GA in 2015 there were 124 licenced airfields in the UK – the figure now is closer to 100 airfields, with several of those under active threat of closure. The APPG GA has already identified the threat to GA airfields as the most significant facing the UK GA industry and not surprisingly the letter leads on that warning, made particularly acute by the designation of airfields as ‘Brownfield’ sites under existing Planning Policy, something the APPG GA is seeking to reverse.

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The APPG GA has identified five key areas that the Government needs to address to avoid irreparable damage to GA (along with permanent and lasting damage to the economy):

  • Remove airfields from Brownfield status
  • Identify a strategic network of General Aviation airfields
  • Give the CAA a broader safeguarding role
  • Safeguard UK airspace for General Aviation flying
  • Provide a level playing field for taxation of AVGAS and flight training

Several, if not all, of these points have been raised with different Governments over the years, but the aim of the APPG GA is to get a new level of recognition of these risks to GA. As Shapps, himself a private pilot and aircraft owner, told FTN: “The lack of knowledge in Government about how GA works is stunning”. The APPG GA already seems to have some success in getting other areas of the aviation industry to acknowledge the importance of GA, including eliciting a statement from British Airways that: “Small airfields are vital to encouraging people to learn to fly and to providing support for training new pilots for commercial aviation. The UK has always been a leader in world aviation and we should make sure we still have the capability to keep producing great pilots”.

The APPG GA has now launched a dedicated website (www.generalaviationappg.uk) which includes the latest news on the work and campaigns of the APPG GA and minutes of meetings. Also available from the website is an ‘Education Pack’ for MPs which can be downloaded by campaigners and others wishing to bring General Aviation matters to the attention of their MP and others. The APPG GA also has a new twitter feed: @GA_APPG.

The APPG GA now has 40 members from both Houses of Parliament and across the political parties. Welcoming the latest members, Grant Shapps said: “It is fantastic to have so many parliamentarians supporting General Aviation and the aims of the group – to make the UK the best country in the world for General Aviation, and ensuring our network of airfields are protected and enhanced.

It is absolutely vital that the high-tech jobs and growth generated by the sector are not lost, and boosting the voice of General Aviation in Parliament is one of the ways we can ensure this. I look forward to seeing many more MPs and Peers join the cause!

Author: Adrian Mahovics

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