Menu Sign In Contact FAQ
Welcome to our forums

General Aviation in Europe is Fantastic these days! (the counterpoint)

I have read all the threads and discussions on the decline of GA in Europe and how things are getting worse. And I have full respect for those of you who have been living through the evolution firsthand, but this is not how I feel and I wanted to share a different perspective from a new comer to the GA scene in Europe, one of those new “tourer” of the last few years. So with this I am moving from avid reader of the forum to first post.

I started flying again and in europe two years ago. I got my license in the 90s when I was living and flying in the US, but life, kids, moving abroad got in the way and led to a break from flying that lasted almost two decades.

So my perspective on before vs now is a bit different from a lot of you:

Flying GA in Europe with modern technology is absolutely AMAZING!

Glass cockpit, flight planning with Foreflight or Autorouter, GPS and moving map: you always know where you are! FMS, in-flight weather updates, iPad cockpit connectivity, autopilot (!!!), ADS-B traffic, fantastic online communities and learning resources, full automated debrief of every details of every flights with services like Flysto, very comprehensive weather planning tools (gramet, windy), noise cancelling headphone, …

Compare that to my experiences with the 1970s 172 and 182 I used to fly, when you had to file your flight plan by phone, everything was planned on paper maps that needed frequent updating, each flight required tedious organization of your maps and approach plates. You had to constantly fly manually while multitasking paper tracking and planning in the middle of intense environments (I used to fly around New York), or constantly worrying about being lost or finding the airport (used to fly in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona). There was limited redundancy in your vacuum instruments and VOR or even NDB were your only navigational aid.

Yes, flying in Europe comes with its quirks: slots, PPR, immigration PN, handling or landing fees surprises, AVGas availability and so on, but most of it is accessible and manageable online, via an email, or a call. I personally start planning my flights weeks in advance anyway, as it is part of the fun for me. And the additional immigration stop? An extra landing or approach practice. :)

While flying in the US is undeniably easier and less bureaucratic, Europe add an undeniable charm to flying. Huge diversity of landscapes, cultures, cities are easily accessible to piston aircraft thanks for shorter distances: from Scotland to France, Spain to Switzerland, nordic countries to eastern countries. It’s all within reach. And ATC is constantly friendly, with each country adding their unique characters and entertaining personalities: from the rigor and strict consistency in the UK “Pass your message, Remain OCAS, squawk Conspicuity” to the french casual informality: “Hey Jean-Pierre, c’est toi? Ca fait longtemps” :)

And last but not least, communities like this website, where you can get huge amount of information, inspiration to new destinations, help on making your flying in Europe even better!

EGTF, United Kingdom

Thank you @roznet I felt a bit like I was the only one here enjoying the freedom that pan-European freedom of movement and novel technology gave us…

Last year in Mali Losinj I listened to a couple who came by car, and the guy was complaining that this year it took them more than 20 hours from southern Germany. And that wasn’t a caravan. For us it’s a hop.

Last Edited by UdoR at 19 May 09:44

Another point to consider is that much of the doom and gloom relates to airports which have priced GA out of the market.

But I think airports go through a cycle.

1. Someone opens a farm strip for their own personal use and a few others.
2. A club forms and traffic increases.
3. The area starts to get a bit built up, brining in new locals.
4. It gets a bit more traffic so can afford a hard runway.
5. It gets more built up around and gets more investment and becomes a big GA airfield.
6. More development and it manages to get an airline flight a few times per week.
7. Eventually it manages to get a serious amount of airline traffic and the (now formalised) management team start to think 90% of our revenue is coming from 1% of our traffic, so they concentrate on the 1% of the traffic generating 90% of the revenue.
8. This works for awhile until management get fed up and push GA aside with various measures.

The doom and gloom comes from step 8.
But steps 1 to 5 are very positive for GA, and they are continuously happening.

In Ireland, there are more GA fields assessable to me now, than when I started flying, even though some fields have become less assessable and some smaller fields have disappeared.

Of course what we usually see is fields close to big towns & cities pricing us out, while the new ones tend to be far from cities. But that’s the just natural cycle of airports. Eventually some of those farm strips, far from anywhere, become the city airports pricing future pilots out of them.

EIWT Weston, Ireland

Eventually some of those farm strips, far from anywhere, become the city airports pricing future pilots out of them.

Do they move?

Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany

No they get built around as towns and cities expand.

My local airport (EIWT) was very much in the countryside 50 years ago, surrounded by farms.

Now it’s prime development land in the city suburbs.

Last Edited by dublinpilot at 19 May 11:06
EIWT Weston, Ireland

I think airports go through a cycle

I think people give up quiker than that cycle

In UK, where most small airfields are private, you get another form of cycle: flying father passed away and sons are into “real estate development” or “saving the manatees”, the flying owners husband & wife retired and went to Croatia…in the other hand, you have other created, usually “strict private” under the radar for decades…the trend is typically down,

Remember, UK (and surrounding) got all these big airfields because of 2nd war, the 3rd war won’t need that many

Only, UL airfields have a viable future

Last Edited by Ibra at 19 May 11:16
Paris/Essex, France/UK, United Kingdom

Ibra wrote:

the 3rd war won’t need that many

Don’t be to sure. A third war will in all likelihood require tons of smaller airfields due to millions of drones. There’s a danger the drones will turn against us of course

The elephant is the circulation

I agree with the general positivity, and this also coming from a US transplant. There’s never been better tech for small aircraft, which makes managing the complexity really pretty straightforward. In the old days I would spend days planning a long x-c flight, whereas now it can literally be done in minutes to a few hours under more difficult conditions. And I agree that traveling by car in Europe is often a PITA, making GA a much more convenient alternative for many trips. There are so many interesting little places to discover that you’d otherwise never see.

Of course there are always negatives and hassles, and it’s important that we do things like advocate to keep airports accessible and so on. But I’m an optimist by choice, because I don’t want to spend my fun time complaining. The best thing we can do for the future of GA is to evangelize it with others. I try to expose as many people as I can, and I’ve mentored a number of new pilots.

I do think it also matters where in Europe you live, with post-brexit UK suffering the most hassle.

EHRD, Netherlands

Ibra wrote:

I think people give up quiker than that cycle

My point wasn’t the people can outlive the cycle Rather the point was that for every large airport that we lose, we are gaining more smaller airfields. Sure they are further away and initially they only handle very light traffic, but they grow too over time. Each step in the cycle as new airports coming into it. Only one of the steps is really bad for GA.

EIWT Weston, Ireland

I felt a bit like I was the only one here enjoying the freedom that pan-European freedom of movement and novel technology gave us…

Count me in. The biggest improvement and hassle reduction for GA in Europe is thanks to the EU and Schengen.

always learning
LO__, Austria
46 Posts
Sign in to add your message

Back to Top