Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
#1783889
I should start by offering a disclaimer: I'm a relatively newly qualified PPL holder but not only that, I'm pretty new to GA as a whole. In short, I probably have no idea what I'm talking about and I'm happy to be corrected on any/all of the below as I'm also here to learn. With that said, here is my two cents...

I guess the point has already been made in a few different ways in some of the responses, but it seems the root issue that needs addressing isn't so much the protection of airfields, rather the fact that they're becoming more and more underused and less and less profitable. Unless supplemented with commercial revenue streams, the business case just doesn't stack up for owners/investors, I would imagine. However, that in itself is a delicate balance between "selling out" and staying grass roots. So, if we're talking about business investors, what are they investing in exactly? Where is the return? If we're talking about investors from the pilot community, is that even practical and scalable given the size of the problem?

As a few folks have pointed out, the cost of learning to fly is prohibitive but the cost of continuing to fly is more so, I would argue. Without the bank of Mum and Dad, not many youngsters can really afford to get into it, so it becomes one of those things that, for many, only happens later on in life (10-15 years missed revenue for airfields) or never at all. I'm not telling anyone anything they don't already know, of course.

The other point that became apparent to me very early on in my journey towards my PPL is the difference between UK airfields and US airfields or perhaps UK GA vs. US GA in general. I don't know this for sure - this is purely my perception based on personal reading, videos etc. - but the biggest difference seems to be that in the US local airfields are very much seen as part of the community, local business and generally part of the local infrastructure. They seem to benefit from funding and resources from local business and municipalities, which doesn't seem to be replicated over here. In the UK, unless you're an aviation fan, they're viewed as a nuisance and one that local residents would rather stamp out with a new housing development so they can turn their attention to complaining about the increase in local traffic.

So, we have one issue that essentially leads to another: not enough people are getting into aviation due to the expense which results in underused airfields that don't appear to offer much to the local community and cannot afford to justify their place as a profitable business to the owners/investors.

I don't think Government intervention in ownership solves the second problem in light of the first, and even if it did that solution would be temporary (i.e. until another Government comes along and decides it has different priorities). From a personal point of view, I think Government intervention is needed but at a grass roots training level instead via subsidies either direct to students/groups or via the flying schools.

Make the entry point to GA cheaper and a national interest and the result is likely to be more pilots using more airfields. More pilots using more airfields results in those airfields receiving the investment and capital they need to stand on their own two feet as viable businesses for owners and investors, be those private or group community owners. Last but not least, I don't think the community aspect of it can be forgotten and we shouldn't underestimate the role that local businesses can play in the wellbeing of airfields.
Crash one, scd975 liked this
#1783917
vdh_19 wrote:
Make the entry point to GA cheaper......


A simple way of doing this, is to come up with a way of progressing NPPL licenses onto EASA or whatever post -brexit UK ICAO licenses will be called.

If you could start at NPPL(M), and then progress to SSEA and then on to... ultimately ATPL or whatever, you would have your cheaper entry route, without a fixed cap on what you can fly in the future.
terryws, Crash one, JAFO liked this
#1783931
When retirement approached I wanted to have a place to fly from close to my house. I looked for a suitable parcel of land, with careful consideration to noise, local housing, possible planning issues, drainage etc.
I then approached the farmer, who saw it as a potential source of income and we did a deal at normal agricultural rates. The farmer also agreed to cut the grass until we became self sufficient.
A build it yourself hangar was purchased and erected
A small group gave a presentation to the local parish council, who were very supportive
Four years later we have a first class grass airfield, with a 20m x 12m hangar. We operate 2 gliders, 1 Robin DR400, 1 Minicab, 1 Taylor Monoplane and a Dimona Motorglider. We have full planning permission. We have no noise complainers
New group members are "By Invitation Only"
Costs are less than we would be paying for commercial hangarage at the various local facilities.
We are not a business, just a group of enthusiastic pilots. It would not work as a business as the returns would be low
It CAN be done if you have the will. This kind of solution is in your own hands
Pilot Pete, Rich V, nallen and 13 others liked this
#1783944
terryws wrote:When retirement approached I wanted to have a place to fly from close to my house. I looked for a suitable parcel of land, with careful consideration to noise, local housing, possible planning issues, drainage etc.
I then approached the farmer, who saw it as a potential source of income and we did a deal at normal agricultural rates. The farmer also agreed to cut the grass until we became self sufficient.
A build it yourself hangar was purchased and erected
A small group gave a presentation to the local parish council, who were very supportive
Four years later we have a first class grass airfield, with a 20m x 12m hangar. We operate 2 gliders, 1 Robin DR400, 1 Minicab, 1 Taylor Monoplane and a Dimona Motorglider. We have full planning permission. We have no noise complainers
New group members are "By Invitation Only"
Costs are less than we would be paying for commercial hangarage at the various local facilities.
We are not a business, just a group of enthusiastic pilots. It would not work as a business as the returns would be low
It CAN be done if you have the will. This kind of solution is in your own hands


I think this is terrific, commendable and something I would absolutely get involved with but I'm not sure that it solves the issue, or at least it only addresses it in part.

Ultimately it depends what you're looking for I guess. For me personally, it's about more than just having a place to take off and land from. It's the social aspect of going down to the airfield, meeting new pilots of varying experience, chatting with people, having a bite to eat etc. but perhaps that "craving" is more to do with my relative newness to aviation and not having an established social circle of flying buddies (not to sound like too much of a loser! :wink: ).

An invitation-only airfield doesn't do much to help with that, in fact I'd suggest it goes against it altogether. That is in no way intended as a criticism of you - frankly I think what you have done is outstanding - I'm merely saying the solution to the wider issue is likely a blend of different options to cater for all.

Your route certainly addresses the primary topic of discussion, which was around addressing the issue of the dwindling number of available airfields but if the overall aim is to make GA more open, accessible and available to all then some alternative, scalable solutions are required.
#1783984
Sooty25 wrote:
vdh_19 wrote:
Make the entry point to GA cheaper......


A simple way of doing this, is to come up with a way of progressing NPPL licenses onto EASA or whatever post -brexit UK ICAO licenses will be called.

If you could start at NPPL(M), and then progress to SSEA and then on to... ultimately ATPL or whatever, you would have your cheaper entry route, without a fixed cap on what you can fly in the future.


I did something similar. Gliding then NPPL on a motor glider, then NPPL (SSEA), towing rating and convert the lot to a LAPL. I've no need to go further but it seems to be possible.

With the NPPL the SSEA rating only needs a logbook signature.
#1783995
vdh_19 wrote:I guess the point has already been made in a few different ways in some of the responses, but it seems the root issue that needs addressing isn't so much the protection of airfields, rather the fact that they're becoming more and more underused and less and less profitable. Unless supplemented with commercial revenue streams, the business case just doesn't stack up for owners/investors, I would imagine. However, that in itself is a delicate balance between "selling out" and staying grass roots. So, if we're talking about business investors, what are they investing in exactly? Where is the return? If we're talking about investors from the pilot community, is that even practical and scalable given the size of the problem?


Profitability is very important. I assume that profitable airfields in the UK currently exist, since they aren't all closing up. The concern is that as some airfields disappear, the value and thus profitability of the remaining ones go down. So then it becomes an issue of finding opportunities to arrest the decline, rather than finding money where there isn't any.

We complain about the lack of "joined up" airspace and the costs to us not having that. I claim that the lack of "joined up" airfields is also a problem and is contributing to our decline. Fixing that is an opportunity. If airfields consolidate ownership, then their profitability will increase. I wish for this to be enough.

Another area is regulatory - for example in planning so that airfields can tarmac up so they don't have to closed due to waterlogging, open until later, and in aviation regulation so they can get GNSS approaches without the red tape and gold plating. A consolidated entity would have reduced costs in lobbying for change in these areas. Improvements here would result in a big improvement to reliability, making light aviation more appealing across the board - including to a different demographic that currently isn't involved at all because it's too much effort for an unreliable reward.

One thing I won't do is claim that this will be cheaper for pilots. The economics of that could never work. Pilots would have to expect to pay, but they would get value in return. I do claim that such prospective pilots are out there - just that currently the reward isn't worth the trouble. Consider the US: the network does exist, GA is much easier to perform, and as such I'm sure there are pilots there who had they been in the UK environment would never have bothered.
#1784013
ChrisRowland wrote:With the NPPL the SSEA rating only needs a logbook signature.


Are you entirely sure about that? I was under the impression that one had to take the test and have a rating issued.

On the original point of saving GA - could electric flight be part of the answer? With no fuel training costs could be lower and there is less noise so there should be fewer complaints.

Of course, that doesn't help with land being gobbled up by housing but it might become part of the answer to the future of GA as the technology advances.
Last edited by JAFO on Fri Jul 17, 2020 5:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
#1784183
JAFO wrote:
ChrisRowland wrote:
Sooty25 wrote:With the NPPL the SSEA rating only needs a logbook signature.


Are you entirely sure about that? I was under the impression that one had to take the test and have a rating issued.

On the original point of saving GA - could electric flight be part of the answer? With no fuel training costs could be lower and there is less noise so there should be fewer complaints.

Of course, that doesn't help with land being gobbled up by housing but it might become part of the answer to the future of GA as the technology advances.


Just for clarity, I didn't write that, Chris did!

And I think you are right, there is more to it than just a signature.
JAFO liked this
#1784573
So, just so I've got some real world figures to put into my "fantasy airfield" spreadsheet, whats the going rate for hangarage and airfield access in Norfolk/Suffolk? My self maintained pole barn on a mates private strip figures are probably not a good guide!
#1784609
Hi Sooty

I pay rent for the land at agricultural rates (on a 5 year rolling lease) which is currently £ 3640.00 Insurance (3rd party liability) is currently around £2300.00. The Skydemon plate gives a good idea of the site size.

Our hangarage fees are confidential but you can work out how much we would have to charge to break even on the above figures. Do not forget site maintenance (grass cutting)

Terry
#1784626
I've often wondered I something like an airpark could work. A bit like the set up at Lasham, where lots of the club members have second homes on site.
Gliding is a more sociable activity than powered flying, so it might need to be a little different.
Problem is that with any airfield up for sale you're going to be competing with developers who want to put 4,000, breeding boxes on the site. They have much deeper pockets.

The real way to safeguard is to have the "mistaken" classification of airfields as brownfield sites corrected.
Otherwise the future is probably something like the Hinderclay Meadows model, not a bad thing in itself.
#1784629
@terryws I think what you've achieved is absolutely amazing. The only issue in my mind being long term. I'd hate to see hassle from new arriving nimbys resulting in the farmer pulling the lease.

Thanks for the numbers, sorry I missed the fly in, but will try to get down before the summer dies.