24 NOVEMBER 2014

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Article from BTNews 24 NOVEMBER 2014

COMMENT: General Aviation moves on

It might be the less glamorous part of the flying business but light aviation, generally called ‘general aviation’ (GA) is in fact the heart that powers the rest of the industry.  Without pilot training, a fundamental part of GA, there would be no airline industry.

Fortunately the current government has recognised this with Grant Shapps, Minister without Portfolio, an enthusiastic private pilot, prepared to talk to the industry.

Under his aegis it has now responded to the voluntary unpaid panel that reported in June on the necessity to strip away unnecessary bureaucracy in this sector by holding a question and answer session with members of the panel.  He was supported by Robert Goodwill, Aviation Minister and Andrew Haines, CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Mr Shapps straight away mentioned that the Government had a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the policy on GA right.  

The panel was particularly aggravated by a taxation policy where flying training is the only part of the education spectrum subject to VAT.  It was hopeful that the Government commissioned economic research into the value of GA would show up the adverse impact of this taxation where a lower rate will increase the level of training activity, increasing volume, more than compensating in any loss of revenue.  With 500,000 pilots required worldwide over the next 30 years the UK could gain a fair share of this business (See BTN 20 October) and thereby itself help underwrite UK GA renaissance.  British pilots are being trained abroad essentially because it is cheaper.  VAT is just another addition to already high costs.

He recognised the key findings of the panel, the Government appreciating GA’s contribution to the UK economy, employment and supporting our vital air transport and aerospace sectors.
 
Comments were also made about the panel’s call for securing the network of airfields, with two closed since its final report was published in June.  Blackpool has been saved.  (See in this issue).  General and Business aviation provide greater connectivity and access by air than scheduled air services through business aviation, air taxis and self-fly GA and is particularly relevant to remote regions where rail and road are not an option.  The availability of strategically located airfields served by GA can help maintain vital connectivity.
 
Mr Shapps said that there was a lack of cohesion and approach collectively by GA on key issues of Government policy.  He mentioned too many groups and issues.  It was one of the reasons the panel suggested appointing what it called a GA Champion to cut across the industry to identify the real priorities.  He recognised that the nature of GA means that funding such representation and associated research is a challenge.

Mr Shapps promised a detailed Government report on GA, its value and contribution following the panel recommendations and building on the work of the CAA by Spring 2015, before the next election.  He is chairing a Ministerial Star Chamber on the sector.

Progress is being made.  Slowly.

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