The predicament at Fairoaks is not solely a local issue.  It is also of national significance and is part of a wider issue for General Aviation in the UK.

General Aviation airfields are under threat.  The national housing shortage and the pressure on local councils to deliver their Local Plans by March 2018 place severe pressure on airfields to justify their value, both to their owners and to local authorities, who are eyeing many of them as ideal sites for much-needed housing.  In contrast, nationally, the Government has a vision for the UK as “the best place in the world for GA as a flourishing, wealth generating and job producing sector of the economy” - Department for Transport’s General Aviation Strategy, 2015.

 

aviation sector graphicThe General Aviation sector contributes more than £3 billion per year to the UK economy and supports 38,000 jobs in the UK.  Through the training of new pilots at flight schools at GA airfields, it supports the larger Commercial Aviation Sector, which contributes £60 billion per year to the UK economy and 961,000 jobs.

Airfields require a significant acreage of land and, as land is in high demand, there have been no new GA airfields built since the Second World War.

This means that every time a GA airfield is closed and re-developed, there are fewer airfields at which to land.  This is a particular issue in the case of an emergency - an emergency landing at an airfield greatly increases the survival rate of both the pilot and the plane and is greatly preferable to an emergency landing in a field, or worse in a built-up area.  Therefore, a Minimum Viable Strategic Network of GA airfields is essential from a safety critical standpoint.