UK plans closer relationship with general aviation sector

 - September 13, 2006, 7:34 AM

The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) expects to have a more constructive relationship with the UK government following the acceptance by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of new strategic and regulatory reviews of the country’s general aviation industry. According to BBGA chief executive Mark Wilson, the reviews–conducted by joint industry/government teams–have established a true picture of the economic significance of the GA sector and have highlighted the need for a more flexible and pragmatic approach to the way it is governed.

The reviews have not yielded any immediate or specific changes, but the CAA has pledged to work more closely with GA groups and the UK Department of Transport to exercise greater influence over regulatory changes the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is developing. It has also acknowledged that the UK is one of the few European states to see full regulatory cost recovery from the GA sector. “This places an additional cost burden on the GA industry compared with Europe and affects the competitiveness of certain sectors within GA in the UK,” concluded the regulatory review.

The CAA strategic review recommended that “the UK government should consider making a statement on the value of monitoring the network of GA airfields.” The BBGA hopes that this will result in central and local government’s being more inclined to block moves to allow smaller airports to be closed and redeveloped as commercial, industrial and residential sites.

The strategic review reported that GA’s annual contribution to the UK economy is approximately £1.4 billion ($2.6 billion). It employs around 11,000 people (more than any UK airline other than British Airways) and represents 8 percent of the economic contribution of UK commercial aviation. “Many areas of GA are growing strongly and there is no evidence of serious decline, although access to key infrastructure has in some areas become more difficult in recent years,” concluded the review.

The regulatory review also recommended that the CAA report the results of its global navigation satellite system (GNSS) approach trials as soon as practicable, “with a view to expanding approval of GNSS approaches to all appropriate aerodromes used by GA aircraft, if so indicated by the trial results.” The CAA is currently evaluating GNSS approaches and is due to publish its results early next year. The results will allow the authority to decide whether the use of GNSS approaches is ready for approval, and, if so, under what operational circumstances.

The strategic review also recommended that the government more systematically include GA in regulatory discussions. However, it added that the GA community needs to represent itself in a more coordinated and effective way when engaging in dialog with the government.

CAA chairman Sir Roy McNulty instigated the reviews in June last year and they were concluded in late July this year. The CAA has accepted the conclusions.

The regulatory review was supposed to consider possibilities for more cost-effective and devolved regulation that could see the industry regulating itself to a greater extent. It was also expected to assess factors such as how fractional ownership operations should be regulated and possible new regulatory distinctions covering the operation of so-called complex and non-complex aircraft.

However, according to Wilson, it soon became clear that there wouldn’t be time to prepare extensive proposals for regulatory change and that, in any case, this could prove to be redundant given that regulatory authority is quickly shifting from national governments to EASA. The review also deferred discussion of fractional ownership operations.

Wilson told AIN that BBGA is beginning to prepare proposals on how the governments will regulate operations by very light jets (VLJs), adding that Europe’s regulators do not appear to be actively preparing for next year’s arrival of VLJs.

On November 21 the CAA will host a conference in London to allow further discussion of the proposals. The strategic and regulatory reviews can be viewed in full at the “What’s New” link at www.caa.co.uk/ga.