As a lot of you may be aware, the CAA has published a draft consultation that will from this year see air display costs rise by 100% It is a massive blow for smaller airshows and could see a lot of shows drastically reduced, or cancelled. Shows that used to pay £2000 could end up paying up to £20,000 depending on the number of displays
Many Pilots and Air Shows have already voiced major concerns about this, and an official petition to the UK Government has been set up. It would be great if you could take a few minutes to sign it as this will have effects on all shows going forward. Shows may have little choice but to reduce or cancel their shows.
Note – this is not being posted on behalf of any one airshow. We are posting it to highlight this massive change in CAA pricing and policy that needs urgent reviewing/
CAA Airshow Charges Consultation 2016: Cause & effect in overview
Following the publication of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)’s airshow charges consultation, we look at the cause and effects of the proposals, and explain what you can do to make your voice heard before the consultation period ends on 29 February 2016.
On 1 February 2016, the CAA published its Proposed air display and low flying permission charges consultation document (hereafter referred to as the ‘Consultation Document’) proposing revisions to the statutory Flying Display, Display Authorisations for pilots and Low Flying Permissions fees within the CAA General Aviation Scheme of Charges. If approved, these proposals will come into effect from 1 April 2016 and will affect all UK airshows held from that date, regardless of size. Civilian display pilots will also face additional financial burdens.
We are in the process of collating comments and insight from UK airshow industry professionals with the aim of publishing a separate in-depth article highlighting the harmful effects these proposals could have. In the meantime, this article will hopefully serve to clarify the background to the Consultation Document, while touching on some of the immediate ramifications the proposals could have. There are an awful lot of discussion points related to this, some of which we’ll no doubt touch upon in our future article, and we’d gladly speak to anyone who wishes to discuss this further.
Before delving into the potential repercussions of this newfound financial burden, it’s important to understand the rationale behind the proposed changes.
The root cause of the CAA’s actions was the crash of Hawker Hunter T7 G-BXFI at the RAFA Shoreham Airshow 2015. As you will undoubtedly know, the crash claimed the lives of 11 members of the public outside the airfield.
In the wake of the crash, the CAA launched a wide-reaching inquiry into UK airshow safety, exploring myriad aspects of the air display scene – from events to pilots, all areas have come under the spotlight. As of early February 2016, this is on-going but the CAA released an interim report on 26 January 2016 titledUK Civil Air Display Review: Actions that impact on UK civil air displays 2016 (the ‘Preliminary Report’).
The Preliminary Report introduced a raft of changes that will require implementation by civil airshows and pilots, including “increased risk assessments, greater auditing and oversight of air displays, and an enhanced authorisation system for display pilots and evaluators”.
The Consultation Document makes specific reference to the safety enhancements put forward in the Preliminary Report and the associated financial cost. The CAA estimates that the operational cost of implementing said enhancements will amount to £250,000. The CAA is a self-funded body and in order to recover funds to adequately cover the cost of the increased regulatory work associated with these changes, it is passing these costs back on to airshows and air display pilots.
Consequently, airshow organisers and their participants may be required to pay increased fees based on a sliding scale system dependent on the duration and size of the event. Note that there has been no indication of these increases fees applying temporarily until such costs have been recovered – quite the opposite, in fact, with a further charges review scheduled for 2017. The assumption we take from this is that the fees will remain permanent as a means of funding the CAA indefinitely.
£200,000 will be borne by costs recovered from airshows themselves. A fixed fee is currently payable to the CAA by all civilian airshows, with the amount varying depending on the scale of the event – under the new charge regime, fees for single shows could range from £374 for very small events with 1-3 display items to £5,390 for 31 or more display items. To give it a little perspective, this is a 100% increase on the current fees.
Likely more damaging to the longer term viability of UK airshows is the new flying display post event charge. Following an airshow, event organisers may now be required to submit a declaration to the CAA within 10 working days of the event specifying the number of display items that flew at the show. The event organiser will then need to pay a considerable charge to the CAA, with fees ranging from £500 for events with 7-12 items and an eye-watering £15,000 for events with 31 or more items. Quite how a display ‘item’ is defined is not yet clear. In any case, it’s easy to see how an increase from the region of £2,000 to upwards of £20,000 could have far reaching implications for some larger UK airshows.
In essence, airshows may be required to make payments based i) on the proposed number of participants and ii) on the actual number of participants.
For charity airshows, this will likely reduce or nullify the important annual contribution made to their nominated charities. The long-term safety and viability of many events would surely be in doubt if these charges are introduced; ramifications which would render this entire exercise, conducted by the ostensibly nonprofit public body responsible for airshow safety no less, rather pointless.
Airshows will already have budgeted carefully to ensure that they are on a comfortable (if not firm) financial footing for 2016. The immediate ramifications of the proposed fee hike could range from airshows being cancelled outright to increases in ticket prices. That in turn could very easily be counterproductive from a safety perspective, one major issue being the potential for more expensive events to drive spectators away from the public zones (which are governed by CAP 403 and other safety legislation) and into the private fields and roads in the surrounding area.
On 3 February 2016, tickets for the IWM Duxford Air Shows 2016 went on sale online, now bolstered by a new parking charge of £5 per car (NB – this will not apply at the Flying Legends airshow). Whether this has been introduced in anticipation of the CAA’s charges, as a method of persuading visitors to utilise the park-and-ride services (thus reducing traffic flow into Duxford on airshow days) or whether it in fact serves a dual purpose is unclear. Regardless, it is a likely indication of things to come.
The remainder of the £250,000 claw back will fall on the shoulders of the UK’s many civilian air display pilots.
The first such charge comes by way of a 100% increase in Low Flying Permissions, a necessity for those piloting civilian aeroplanes in the airshow environment. For display pilots, the fees for obtaining a Display Authorisation are also facing a 100% increase, whereby a single DA application will now cost the pilot £298 (with variations to an existing DA pricing in at £130).
One extremely experienced Display Authorisation Examiner has indicated to GAR that he is considering retiring from his position in the wake of newfound administrative and financial burdens. The ramifications of losing such knowledge and expertise would have an inexorable impact on airshow flying, particularly on the younger generation of display pilots who look so eagerly to the ‘old guard’ for advice and guidance. We have a rich, vibrant civilian airshow scene in the UK which is coming under threat. Should aviators be forced to hang up their airshow boots, and operators be pushed to sell their aeroplanes through lack of options (a “worst case scenario”, but one which has been touted already), a great disservice would be done to aviation in this country.
There’s a vicious cycle that could easily be cast into motion here – airshows suffer the hit of mandatory CAA charges and a reduction in participation from those pilots and operators who can no longer bear the considerable excess year on year. This in turn diminishes crowd numbers – higher prices and fewer acts logically meaning a smaller turnout on the day – which equally affects the local community with the businesses that would otherwise enjoy an influx of visitors suffering by extension.
Responses can be submitted by e-mail to email@example.com or using the online submission form. We urge any readers wishing to submit to the consultation to provide professional, measured and meaningful responses.
The deadline for the consultation is 29 February 2016.
Further advice and instructions regarding submissions to the consultation are likely to be published following the British Air Displays Association Pre-Season Air Display Conference on 10-11 February, and we will advise accordingly.