Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is General Aviation?
A. Broadly, together with what is known as aerial work, it covers all flying other than that carried out by the armed services or scheduled air carriers.
Q. What is the purpose of general aviation?
A. Most GA activity fulfils an essential role in the interests of the community. This includes police work; air ambulances; pollution patrols and fishery protection; medical evacuation flights; organ transport; business flying; air taxi services; civil search and rescue; traffic survey and control to ease road congestion; power line and other inspection services; carriage of newspapers and mail; flying for personal travel and for pleasure/vacation; and, of course, pilot training.
Q. Who participates in General Aviation?
A. General Aviation attracts people from all walks of life. From professional pilots to enthusiasts from all backgrounds.
Q. Yet surely most of the people learning to fly are doing so for fun?
A. Many people who learn to do so become professional pilots and many start by flying for pleasure, but decide later to become professional pilots. 43% of all entrants to the profession qualified by the club and private flying route (increasingly specialist flying organisations provide for airline pilot training but they still need airfields and airspace). Without these people, who trained largely at their own expense, the airlines and charter operations would be unable to ‘crew’ their aircraft for you to have your holiday flights to the sun, or go on your business trips.
Q. What about the flying for fun?
A. Of course many people fly for sporting and recreational purposes. Some fly competitively, where the UK has established a high place in world ranking in international aerobatics, gliding and other aviation activities. Others do fly purely for personal pleasure, just as others drive cars, ride motorcycles or go about in motor boats. Flying is a relaxing pastime and can bring a useful therapeutic benefit to busy people. Some build their own aircraft – to proven designs and under strict supervision, of course.
Q. Aircraft are noisy; can’t this be controlled?
A. Anything mechanical must make a noise, including your lawnmower and the lorries that deliver your goods, but considerable efforts continue to be made to reduce the levels of noise being emitted by aircraft. Originally microlights, for example, earned a bad reputation for making unacceptable sounds, but modern power units have dramatically reduced emitted sound levels. The first electric aircraft are starting to come in to the fleet and these are very quiet, and of course clean (especially if the electricity to charge them is generated using sustainable means such as solar or wind power).
Q. Why do light aircraft go round and round airfields?
A. Pilots must carry out circuits and landings as one of the most important parts of the training syllabus, the more they practice, the more competent they become and therefore the safer they are. Therefore circuit flying is essential. Airfields have strict rules as to what paths they must take and heights they must keep to minimise disturbance to the local community.
Q. Why, though, do they fly over my house?
A. The pilots/students are not interested in your house or garden, but fly a circuit of standard shape and size in relation to the aerodrome; so, in set wind conditions, the same path and turning points will tend to be used. By flying over the same places each time, a pilot is flying accurately and therefore competently. Noise abatement is taken seriously, so if you have an issue please contact your local airfield. The airfields do their best to design circuit patterns that minimise noise impact, even if they have to take ‘non-standard’ shapes.
Q. Why is there a need for an aerodrome near me?
A. The UK aerodrome network is regarded by Government as an important part of the national transport infrastructure, with genuine economic and employment value. Airfields provide vital connectivity for travellers and amenities for sport flying, therefore every centre of population, commerce or industry should recognise the value of a local aerodrome, just as it needs road and rail transport facilities. Many also have historic significance and have been in existence before most local houses were built.
Q. Aren’t there too many –
A. No, In the United Kingdom we have only 140 licensed airports and aerodromes compared with around 600 similar aerodromes in France, where in many cases these are owned or operated by the local Chambers of Commerce. Unfortunately, for short-
Q. What about private airstrips. Why are they needed?
A. Small localised private airstrips enable people to fly conveniently without the need for long road journeys. Also, they spread the aircraft activities thinly over a wider area, reducing both air and road congestion. Most airstrips handle very few movements and they remain as green as they were when they were used as sheep grazing fields, which many of them continue to be. It is noteworthy that many airfields are recognised as important “open green spaces” and there is increasing evidence of their importance as a low-insecticide, low-herbicide sanctuary for plants, insects and wildlife. Biodiversity is increasingly being embraced by airfield owners and operators (e.g. Bodmin in Cornwall).
Q. I accept the need for the airports and larger aerodromes used by the commercial airlines. This is beneficial to the economy, but why must I tolerate the small aircraft?
A. You may be surprised to know that more than 80% of filled seats on airliners are occupied by people on ‘fun flights’ to and from their holidays in the sun, whereas more than 70% of all flights by the smaller general aviation aircraft are for some form of business, safety or environmental beneficial reason. Each aviation sector is interdependent, so we need airports, aerodromes and airstrips, which beyond them offer social and economic benefits to the whole community – of which you are a part!
Q. How can I support the work of GAAC?
A. GAAC fulfils a vital role representing the UK’s GA sector and its various associations to Government, especially relating to protecting our national Network of Airfields. it also works hard advising airfield owners when they face difficult issues. This work is generally carried out by volunteers but we also need paid advice and assistance (e.g. specialist planners and lawyers), and have expenses. Gradually, our funds have been depleting so we have set the goal of raising £10,000 a year from our various supporters. If you wish to become a supporter donating a single sum or regular donation, please contact us.