1 MARCH 2021
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Marc Bailey, CEO of The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA), marked 10 years with the organisation last December. The UK’s national trade body, and voice of business and general aviation in the UK, BBGA members span all facets of the sector including airports, fixed-base operators (FBO), corporate flight departments, operators, aviation services organisations and aircraft manufacturers. Marc is also chair of Europe's national business aviation associations and sits on the Board of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA).
Rewind to 5 March 2020, the grand setting of The Mansion House at Luton Hoo and 150 delegates = normality.
When the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) head of licensing David Kendrick came to speak he was bleary-eyed from late night talks following news that the UK’s largest regional airline had filed for bankruptcy. Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade had to cancel his attendance and various Flybe supplier members scrambled to enact whatever rescue they could.
Our annual conference and AGM was also noteworthy as the last sizeable UK gathering before the pandemic took hold. Our session with MedAire provided invaluable insight helping membership prepare for the most out of control, unprecedented tumultuous time for aviation and humanity. Before Covid-19, post-Brexit life was top of our agenda, followed swiftly, days after our conference, by the Government announcing we were leaving the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). In the fast-moving world aviation, challenges come thick and fast.
So here we are in our new lockdown normality readying for our first annual ‘virtual conference’ on Thursday 4 March.
We are looking forward to some healthy debate and networking, playing out on the comprehensive Air Meet platform which allows face to face networking too at ‘sponsored’ booths. We are especially pleased to have UK aviation minister Robert Courts MP and Sir Stephen Hillier, UK CAA chair, both relatively new in post, join us for a live briefing, plus Q and A.
To say it has been an exceptionally busy time for us at BBGA – and all other aviation associations – is an understatement – as we grapple an industry rocked to its core. What we have seen is that the pandemic and Brexit has really amplified the value of having a collective voice that pro-actively works for you. BBGA takes its responsibility as the ‘voice’ of general and business aviation very seriously and in 2020 we welcomed 22 new members, based in the UK or with UK bases, bolstering our membership to over 180. UK members automatically join Europe’s EBAA too.
Our road to recovery is far more complex than the aftermath of the financial crash of 2007 so associations and businesses pulling together will only emerge stronger by pulling together in every area possible.
Communicating with a single voice in partnership with the Government can only benefit aviation. BBGA is working closely with the British Helicopter Association, The Air Operators and Pilots Association and ARPAS, the drone association, to focus attention on the commercial end of general (non-scheduled) aviation under the banner ‘Business 4 GA’. Our goal is to make the UK a valued centre for aviation and to encourage global partners, now we find ourselves as a sovereign trading state.
We have sadly seen the pandemic take out far too many aviation jobs and good people from the industry. Older people have been forced to retire early taking out excellent mentors to the next generation. Accordingly, we are proud to have helped initiate the Aviation Skills Retention Platform (ASRP) which we will be discussing at conference, now that it has won Government backing.
Business aviation is not immune from job losses, but we believe our sector has the resilience to bounce back first. We hope to redeploy redundant staff to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in business aviation via the platform and if we are lucky, perhaps 15-20% of jobs may be directed to SMEs through this channel. The new ASRP will help all of those in aviation – not just pilots, cabin crew and flight engineers, but individuals working in airports, air traffic, handling and FBO, ground operations, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and airworthiness.
An ongoing priority, also airing at conference, is working through the Freedoms of the Skies, as we (just like our commercial airline counterparts) push for reciprocity. Permit approvals are now delegated by the European Union (EU) to each of the 27 member states.
In January we established a small taskforce with the principals in the Department for Transport (DfT) and CAA negotiating team, which controls every discussion with each member state. We canvassed market priorities with our membership to help the Government team set their programme of negotiations, identifying optimum results. Having set priorities with them we agreed to support all the communications, highlighting problems and successes from our membership. We have been speaking weekly for 14 weeks now.
We are seeing that operating permits can take more than 48 hours to approve, which is just not conducive to ‘business’ aviation. In some instances operators have been asked to pay €4,000 to undertake a flight, forcing them to sub-contract with an EU operator. All behaviour is noted and some unhelpful member states will be scrutinised when the UK relaxes its own flexible entry policy to our airports on 28 March.
BBGA has benefited during lockdown with much wider engagement from our Board and working groups (covering Flight Operations, Communications, FBO, Training). We have upped communication with our Board members whose day-to-day jobs span every sector of aviation. Communications have stepped up immeasurably as we have embraced agile working on Teams. This co-operative model is one we will be taking forward on a permanent basis.
It is very positive that our Prime Minister last week outlined our roadmap for recovery, but the truth of the matter is that businesses, in the foreseeable feature, will be thinking twice about the ‘value’ of flying for an overseas meeting. The value business aviation brings and the role we play.
Business aviation is not just point to point, A to B trips. Private charter by business Jet enables users to take in multi cities, within Europe, all on one itinerary. In our negotiations with individual EU States the goal is reciprocity. We have to fight for that. And make it simple".
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