Biggin75, London Biggin Hill Airport - Image © Paul Johnson/Flightline UK

Biggin75, London Biggin Hill Airport – Image © Paul Johnson/Flightline UK

The Civil Aviation Authority is currently consulting on proposed amendments to air display charges contained within the CAA general aviation scheme of charges. You can see the consultation at The Consulatation period closed on the 29th February and we now await the results.

The consultation proposes significant increases in displays charges for both organisers and pilots. The CAA justify the increased costs by citing the increased regulations all future air displays will require and that in the past, they have not recovered the full costs of granted licences and permissions.

However, not only have the CAA chosen to increase the current costs for both pilots and display organisers, they have also added a new “post event” cost which for many shows will have have a much greater impact on their event budgets.

Such news could not really come at a worse time for the UK Air Display Industry which finds itself in a new world of tighter regulation. While many were expecting cost rises of some sort, the scale and also the method they are calculated is a shock to all.

Reviews by the British Air Display Association (BADA) highlight airshows as one of the top spectator events in the UK and perhaps second only to Football in terms of attendance. They contribute greatly to the UK tourism economy throughout each summer. In many seaside resorts, their annual airshow is the highlight of their summer season and seen as essential to the prosperity of local businesses like hotels, restaurants and many other supporting companies. The dramatic rise in charges for both events and participating could jeopardise the future of many events around the country.

What do the charges pay for?

At UK Pre-season Air Display Conference held between the 10th-11th February, Tony Rapson from the Civil Aviation breifed the assembled delegates on the new regulations and the new scheme of charges. The charges stem from a requirement for extra resources required to support new regulations. These include an additional Administrator for the CAA GA Unit, two additional Flight Standards Officers ( 1 x Permanent Contract, 1 x 1 Year Fixed Term) and an additional Airworthiness Officer.

Air Display Community Response, Media Coverage and CAA Statements

BADA has called on all its members and other interested parties to individually respond to the consultation to highlight the many different aspects the CAA Charges will impact upon.

A petition has also been launched to highlight the issues to the UK Government. The wording of the petition may not be perfect, but it will bring the issues to the attention of Government. The petition passed 10,000 signatories on the 9th February which has prompted a reponse from the Government which will be published in due course. At 100,000 signatures, the Government will consider a House of Commons debate on the issue.   If you live in the UK, you can sign the petition here.

Media Coverage of the charges has also started to appear on both local and national levels. Comment has started come in from events large and small. Please see the following links for the various articles:-

Thanks to the efforts of Carol Vorderman MBE and other high profile supporters of airshows, the issue has been picked up on a national level appearing in an article in The Times and also by BBC Radio Five Live

These public responses both via the petition and media prompted the CAA to respond publically on the 11th February,

“Our current charges consultation for air displays is based on two factors; firstly, that the regulation of air shows has historically been subsidised by other aviation industry charge payers and ultimately their passengers. Secondly, the charges reflect the increased costs of implementing the additional safety activities outlined in the recent air display action report.  Safety is our first priority and we believe these additional measures are necessary to further improve the safety of air displays. 

“We are not funded by the tax-payer and are required by law to recover our costs from the aviation industry. Each year we consult on our proposed charges, providing an opportunity for interested parties to outline their views.

“Our research shows that the proposed fees to cover the cost of our regulatory and safety work would mean an increase of just a few pence per ticket for some small air display events and less than 20 pence for one of the largest based on the most recent attendance figures.  The current cost of entry to these shows for the general public can be in the region of £20 to £50 per day.”

Government Response to the Online Petition

On the 24th February, the UK Goverment issued the following reponse to the Online Petition after it gained over 10,000 signatories

The Government expects the Civil Aviation Authority to review its draft air display & low flying permission charges after its current consultation, in which we encourage those interested to take part.

The law requires the Civil Aviation Authority to consult first those affected by a charging scheme, and then the Secretary of State, before introducing the scheme. The CAA is currently consulting on proposed changes to air display charges and this consultation ends on 29 February 2016. The Civil Aviation Authority will review its scheme in the light of the consultation responses. The Secretary of State will consider any charging scheme as submitted to him following that consultation and review.

Responding to the Consultation

The Consultation ended on the 29th February. However, a number of organisations did respond including the British Air Display Association, the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Honouralble Company of Air Pilots Response

Click Here to view the response from the Honourable Company of Air Pilots

Royal Aeronautical Society Response

Click Here to view the letter sent to the CAA by RAeS

Flightline UK’s Response to the Consultation

Flightline UK has submitted it’s own response to the Consultation which is copied in part below. This was recorded as response 0354. :-

It is appreciated that the Civil Aviation Authority had started to review the structure of its charges ahead of the tragic events of 2015. I also recognise that the CAA has had a short time to react to the need to assure safety of Air Displays and other aerial events ahead of the 2016 season following the events of last August.

However the speed and scale of proposed increases in charges in support of further regulation will have damaging consequences for Event Organisers and Displays pilots that will comprise safety of Air Displays if they are enforced on the 1st April 2016.

It is important that the CAA considers the wider consequences when increasing the scheme of charges to ensure air displays continue and are run to the highest possible standards.

I would urge the CAA to reassess the proposed increases to the scheme of charges and how they are implemented in order to keep them affordable to event organisers and display crews so they do not compromise air display safety.

I would ask the CAA Board to consider the following points:-

  1. Many organisers start planning their events well in advance of their event date and in most cases at least 12 months ahead. This will mean almost all major aerial events planned for the 2016 display season will have already established their budgets well in advance of this consultation. Many will have also committed to funding various essential infrastructure for their events that often has to be booked now to ensure its availability for the event. This means that the budgets have limited scope for the sudden shock of the charges being imposed as per the consultation.

  2. Following the tragic events of 2015, many events will be investigating measures to further enhance the safety of airshow spectators, airshow staff/volunteers, the participating aircrew and those in the immediate vicinity of an event. This may include enhancing show signage, better infrastructure/facilities plus additional security staff and security measures. Organisers should be given the freedom to introduce sensible measures over and above the minimum required. The scale of the increased charges may mean that several organisers maybe discouraged from enhancing safety and will be forced to only do the minimum possible to obtain permissions.

  3. In subsequent statements, the CAA has highlighted that ticketed events could increase their ticket charges to cover the additional costs of the increased CAA charges. This is clearly not an option for seaside events where is it impossible to charge. For the ticketed events, increasing ticketing costs may deter spectators from paying to enter the event and exacerbate issues of people gathering in higher-risk areas near display lines.

  4. As well as increasing costs for Event Organisers, the CAA is also proposing to double costs for display crews to gain their Display Authorisations. While not as dramatic as the rises faced by major airshows, they will make the process of preparing for display flying more expensive. The may reduce the budget display crews have for practicing and honing their display skills and maintaining their aircraft. Such impacts were highlighted at the 2014 EASA General Aviation (GA) Conference which identified expensive regulation across GA as a risk to flight safety.