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GA Airports around London

PPL/IR had a talk yesterday from the Business Manager at a big GA airfield near London; one of Biggin, Cambridge, Cranfield, Farnborough, Oxford and Southend. He said that the message would be the same from all of them, they are all in the same position.

His, fairly strongly expressed, view was:

  1. Airports are now businesses, not infrastructure. If you don’t like that, vote differently in 2010, but don’t whine about it now.
  2. Businesses have a duty to maximise shareholder value.
  3. One of the biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining ATCOs, and ATCOs resign in a domino if mixed traffic results in dangerous situations.
  4. The value of light GA to these airfields hovers between zero and negative, depending on how much fuss they make and resource they occupy.
  5. If they make too much fuss, or make life, particularly ATCOs lives, difficult, then they will be invited to take their business elsewhere.
  6. The airfield would like to keep a light GA presence, as it is good for the country and the future of aviation, but not for financial reasons and not at the expense of the aspects of the business that make money.

He didn’t use the expression FIFO (Fit in or F**k off) but that was the tenor of his message.

We can rail, whine and complain about this fairly bald exposition of the situation, but it is unlikely to change.

Personally, my advice is to Fit in, and that will be best for the community as a whole. We hold no cards whatsoever.

Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.

EGKB Biggin Hill

Sounds like Biggin Hill. Cambridge is packing up soon and Farnborough has not had light GA for decades AFAIK.

vote differently in 2010

I am not sure anything relevant to this was happening in 2010. What was this guy referring to?

If they make too much fuss, or make life, particularly ATCOs lives, difficult, then they will be invited to take their business elsewhere

I am sure many will recognise this, but it is really a comment on the standard of UK PPL training, plus the general tendency of UK GA to sponge off the next person up the food chain, for as long as possible (see the ritual slagging-off of any place charging more than £10, ritually posted on the UK GA chat sites)

We hold no cards whatsoever.

I am sure the primary factor by far is that bizjets are by far the lowest hanging fruit and they pay way more than light GA. One can dress this up in other ways to make it easier to swallow but it is basically quite simple. This is nothing to do with airport economics or management. An orangutan would do the same. Bizjet clients are easily milked because they are used to paying huge landing and handling fees; the system caters for people who happily pay 5k-10k to be flown from Biggin to Cannes and to whom that money is almost completely irrelevant. They spend 30k on a Patek Phillipe watch without a thought. A bizjet is like a ripe avocado 1m above the ground to the orangutan. This caricature of bizjet clients is not universal but it applies to the great majority and certainly to those using the charter services.

Farnborough (which is 100% bizjets) recently revealed, embarrasingly, that its average passenger count is 1.8

This was spelt out on various occassions by the well known former manager of Gloucester EGBJ. He was GA-friendly and also clever in the way he promoted his airport on the UK sites, but he made it absolutely clear that he makes way more out of bizjet activity than out of piston GA activity, and one large jet landing made more money than all piston GA activity for the whole day.

We cannot battle with this, obviously. Farnborough has formalised this into an absolute religion and Biggin is heading the same way.

The only solution is to create new GA airfields but…. that requires GA to stick its hands in its pockets for some £££ and work together, which has never been seen in the UK (or most other places actually, but they still get various taxpayer support, though probably not for much longer in some cases) and this is unlikely to change. Most people just don’t have sufficient “investment” in flying.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

It doesn’t matter fit in or not light GA will always generate less revenue that pretty well anything else. Its doomed so if its not being pushed out to make way for business jets the airfields will go for building. Simple as.

Peter wrote:

Sounds like Biggin Hill.

It sounds like a number of them

EGKB Biggin Hill

Apparently, regardless of where the majority of his money comes, this fellow has never learned that more money is almost always better than less money.

To me, the hidden message here is that the image of no light aircraft apparently increases the marketability of his airport to snobbish biz jet owners of the type that operate in the UK. That I would believe. I also know from regular based experience in everything from a non-electric 65 HP airplane to an eight passenger biz jet that both can operate and cooperate without issue from a airport having 600 operations per day, mixed IFR and VFR, maybe half of which are students who travel from places like (you guessed it) UK.

The problem is in their weak little minds and attitudes, making life worse to preserve image as a priority over money.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 19 May 18:23

Well the airfield that spoke is listed on the public website Timothy so I don’t see much point concealing it.

As to their points, they are absurd. It isn’t run like a business or infrastructure it is a hopelessly run public sector department. All it has is light GA, corporate aviation has completely abandoned it. If it loses light GA, all it will have is drones.

To me, the hidden message here is that the image of no light aircraft apparently increases the marketability of his airport to snobbish biz jet owners of the type that operate in the UK.

No, none of them use it.

Last Edited by JasonC at 19 May 18:24
EGTK Oxford

Where is it?

this fellow has never learned that more money is almost always better than less money

Or that fixed costs are, ahem, fixed

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

FIFO? It’s very disappointing and sad but also nothing new here though.

As far as I understand, UK light GA from the 1970s-1990s didn’t get involved enough with politics, unlike our American cousins who are well funded and well organised to lobby at a political level.

Therefore there would only ever be one result here, and it is not good unless some things fundamentally change. Sadly I think GA also has itself to blame in this, mainly by community apathy. That said there has been a lot of good things achieved by various people over the years.

Perhaps it’s time to say enough is enough to lining the pockets of certain investors and poor customer service, and properly get involved in politics.

Or else there will be nowhere else to FO to eventually.

While we can debate the merits and pitfalls of various Business Manager’s views, merely just being a keyboard warrior on a forum (myself included here) will not be good enough.

Last Edited by James_Chan at 19 May 21:51

James, your ridiculously naive views ignore the fact that in the UK the battle is lost. It is no good focussing on the USA. The FAA protects GA and pays for infrastructure. That will never happen here. As a result, there is only downside risk for GA.

EGTK Oxford

The FAA (or any other US body) would not have hatched protection and funding for GA infrastructure out of the blue. Someone at some point in the past would have had to make a case for it, and made all the right relationships with people in the right places for it to happen.

your ridiculously naive views ignore the fact that in the UK the battle is lost.

Never in my opinion should that mean complete surrender to an unreasonable dictatorship of business owners/managers with grandiose ideas, stemming from a poor political environment and lack of appropriate regulation.

I don’t know about you, but I have another 40 more years or so where I’d like to keep flying and encourage others to do so.

The battle goes on.

Last Edited by James_Chan at 19 May 22:06
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