GAAC calls for support from industry

The General Aviation Awareness Council (GAAC) is seeking new stakeholders to take up various roles with the not-for-profit organisation, which provides invaluable assistance to the UK’s

General Aviation airfield network. The GAAC was born out of an initiative from two founding members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA UK).

AOPA UK board members David Ogilvy and Jack Scott recognised the need for an organisation dedicated to providing assistance to airfields under threat of indiscriminate development. Since 2016 it has grown to comprise a team of specialists in Planning Law, Real Estate, Airfield Operations, Safeguarding, Rights of Way, etc, with the association working to support and advise airfields under threat of redevelopment and according to current GAAC Vice Chairman John Gilder, the work is even more important today than it was when the association first started. By way of example, John told FTN that in 2016 it was advising on 19 cases, while to date this year the GAAC caseload has risen to more than 120 cases.

The GAAC is the only organisation in the UK representing the interests of GA airfields to local and national government. The association liaises directly with the Department for Transport on airfield planning issues and, being recognised as experts in their field, they are one of only a very few GA associations that have the ear of government, even if it doesn’t always result in a win.

As Gilder explains, the fundamental issue the GAAC faces is that safeguarding airfields has never been a vote winner. The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUC) has a mandate to build over a million new homes during the current parliament and airfields have always proven an irresistible target for property developers, being flat, open spaces requiring little in the way of clean-up before building can commence.

Having previously been afforded an element of protection from redevelopment, being classed as greenfield sites and therefore not eligible for redevelopment, in 2006 an apparent ‘editing error’ in government planning policy changed GA airfields’ status to brownfield and despite repeated attempts to get this amended it has never happened.

As a result, over subsequent years the GA airfield network has continued to shrink as land has been sold off and redeveloped for housing and without the ongoing efforts of  he GAAC the picture could be even worse than it currently is.

Much of the work that the GAAC provides is voluntary, while those services it is compelled to charge for are well below market rates.

This means the GAAC constantly relies on the generosity of both its team and its benefactors. John Gilder says: “Without the continued contribution of the GAAC’s accumulated knowledge, professional experience and network of contacts the GA industry will revert to being a collection of disconnected entities without access to either its knowledge or professional support and largely dependent on the financial
resources available to a specific airfield, thereby possibly creating a distorted GA airfield network inappropriate for the needs of UK PLC.

“Consideration must be given to future requirements as well as existing. The integration of UAV’s and other developments will affect patterns of travel and demands on infrastructure – GA and Government needs to understand their requirements and plan for them. ARPAS [The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – Ed] already sit on the GAAC and are making a significant contribution not just in terms of numbers but also in assisting in smoothing the integration of new technology.

“Of the 400 or so representative bodies in GA industry the GAAC is probably one of the most important as no form of aviation can take place without airfields or flying sites so the GAAC should be at the top of any list of GA organisations its members plan to support.”

To get involved in the GAAC, or offer financial support, please contact vice chair at the GAAC.

Image accredited to Rob Hall

 

Author: FTN Editor

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