Mission Aviation Fellowship

A million flight training aircraft movements per year?

Each year the UK CAA publishes figures for the UK’s 60 busiest airports. This includes General Aviation (GA) airports as well as commercial airports, and alongside schedule service transport, charter and GA aircraft movements, the CAA also reports on flying club and flight training activity.

FTN has analysed flight training activity at those airports showing more than 1,000 flight training movements per year. There is a significant caveat, however, in that many other GA airfields that don’t make it onto the CAA’s list nonetheless have significant flight training activity that would otherwise put them high up the list reproduced below. Such airfields would include Andrewsfield, Blackbushe, Cranfield, Denham, Earls Colne, Enstone, Halfpenny Green, Headcorn, Goodwood, Lee-on-Solent, Leicester, Popham, Rochester, Sandtoft, Sherburn, Shobdon, Tatenhill, Wellesbourne, Welshpool, White Waltham and Wycombe Air Park, to name just a few airfields that are home to significant amounts of flight training activity.

While this makes the CAA’s flight training figures highly skewed, what is interesting to note is that while the top five airports in the list below have retained their positions over the two years analysed (with the exception of Oxford and Gloucestershire swapping the top spot), many of the airports listed do tend to vary quite significantly in their year-on-year flight training activity.

One significant example would be Bournemouth Airport, which following the closure of its last resident commercial flight training school – BCFT – at the end of 2022, tumbled from 12th spot in 2022 to number 25 in 2023 after losing 80% of its flight training activity. Another would be Dundee, which was home to Tayside Aviation until it went bust in April 2023, reducing the airport’s flight training activity by 76%. Shoreham Airport meanwhile has managed to stay relatively static on flight training movements despite the collapse of commercial flight school FTA Global in May 2023, due to the fact that there are a large number of other schools based at the airfield.

The closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport automatically relegated it to the bottom of the list in 2023 (although would now presumably put Sandtoft Airfield in its place if it was in the CAA’s list as that’s where former Doncaster resident flying school, Yorkshire Aero Club, relocated to), while in the top five, Gloucestershire is currently up for sale (although hopefully being retained as a going concern) and Coventry continues to be under threat of redevelopment into a Gigafactory (see elsewhere in this edition of FTN)

With the 30 airfields below averaging a combined 350,000 movements per year, extrapolating it out to include all airfields with flight training activity, it wouldn’t be a wild assumption to conclude that the UK likely conducts over a million flight training movements per year, especially when factoring in the microlight and sailplane flight training communities.

Author: FTN Editor

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