Transport Secretary announces UK’s first ever General Aviation Champion at All-Party Group’s Christmas Reception
The Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, has announced that Byron Davies will be the Government’s first ever General Aviation Champion. Mr Grayling made the announcement at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation Christmas Reception on the Terrace of the House of Commons.
The Reception was well-attended by over 80 members of the General Aviation community as well as Members of Parliament and Lords, and rounded off an extraordinarily successful year for the all-party group since it was established in February.
The Secretary of State’s announcement at the Reception was hugely welcomed as a sign that Government is at last giving General Aviation and the serious issues facing the sector the attention they deserve. Byron Davies was the first Chair of the all-party group prior to the June 2017 General Election, following which Grant Shapps MP took over as Chair. Since then, the group’s membership has expanded to an impressive 112 parliamentarians, including 9 former Cabinet ministers, 3 former Transport ministers, 15 privy councillors and one current party leader.
Mr Grayling said: “I believe that General Aviation has a significant contribution to make to the UK economy, and I am determined that we do not lose these benefits. I am delighted to announce that Byron will be coming into the Department for Transport as the General Aviation Champion, to lead our work on defining a strategic network of airfields and what protective measures would best secure this network.”
Grant Shapps MP, Chair of the All-Party Group, said: “General Aviation is the glue that binds the entire aviation sector together. And for the very first time, we are being listened to in Government. I’m delighted that the Department for Transport not only understands that it is the sponsoring department for General Aviation, but is doing something practical to help with the appointment of Byron Davies as the first ever General Aviation Champion.
“The all-party group looks forward to working closely with Byron over the coming months to protect our General Aviation airfields for future generations to enjoy.”
You can read Grant Shapps’ full speech at the Reception below.
With the country celebrating the RAF’s centenary; with the UK’s largest manufacturing firm BAE Systems celebrating their £6bn Typhon sale to Qatar; and with UK airports such as Luton and Heathrow celebrating record passenger numbers…
That’s military, defence and commercial aviation in rude health.
Yet, as we gather here today for the first ever APPG on General Aviation Christmas Reception, we know that none of this would be possible without General Aviation.
From balloons to microlights, helicopters to business aviation, hobbyist to professional…
GA is the glue that binds the entire aviation sector together.
It is the grass roots, the undercarriage, without which there can be no aviation industry in this country.
Imagine what will happen if we turn our backs on GA. So that no future youngster would have the opportunity to train as an air cadet, and one day join the RAF; no future engineer could learn about aviation as an apprentice at their local flying school, gaining the experience to later work for BAE on, perhaps, the Typhoon’s successor; no future commercial pilots could learn to fly by obtaining their Private Licence at their local airfield, before going on to traverse the earth from booming UK airports.
But this is precisely the challenge we now face. And it’s a national challenge that we simply must win.
Let me be blunt. Unless we persuade the government to change its policies in order to protect airfields; unless we can convince ministers to create a fairer system of taxation on pilot training and on aviation gas; and unless we can organise our airspace so that all aviators can prosper…
Then the game is up. And the future of aviation – whether military, defence or commercial – is all put at serious risk.
You know, virtually all our airfields were constructed during two world wars. And new airfields are literally never created.
If ministers were ever in any doubt about this, then they should consider how many years of reports, enquiries and planning hearings are required to add a single runway to South East airport capacity.
No, when a UK airfield is closed, that is it. It is gone. Forever!
Airfields are a scarce national asset, being diminished by the year. Figures suggest we are down to around 100 licenced airfields which are available to General Aviation. For example, there are 4 licenced airfields in Surrey. But all 4 are under threat of closure. There is only one licenced airfield left in Hertfordshire, and there are 22 counties in the UK with no licenced airfields whatsoever.
Of those that do remain, too many are under threat of closure. And without urgent action from the Government we will no longer have critical mass. That is a sufficient network of airfields required to sustain GA in this country.
So the situation is urgent, but it is not yet too late. For one thing Parliament has finally woken up to the threat.
When my colleague and friend Byron Davies one day suggested we should establish an All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation, it would have been difficult to imagine that we would gain 112 parliamentary members during our first year. That is 112 MPs and Lords from every political party represented in Parliament today.
And they’re an influential bunch too. 9 members are former cabinet ministers. 13 are privy councillors. And 3 are actually former Transport Ministers (including a Secretary of State). With the odd exception in the Lords and just one that I know of in the Commons, our parliamentary members are not aviators themselves. But they are concerned lawmakers who recognise that 38,000 high-tech STEM jobs come from General Aviation, that the sector directly contributes £3bn to the UK economy, and that this in turn supports the wider £53bn aviation sector.
So finally, Parliament has woken up to the importance of General Aviation, something that would never have happened without the foresight of Byron Davies proposing this APPG in the first place; or the tenacity of Sir Gerald Howarth keeping the General Aviation flame glowing before that; or for that matter, each and every one of you in this room.
You see, you are the individuals… and you represent the organisations who have been fighting for General Aviation each and every day of the week: tirelessly creating, promoting and building General Aviation in all the many forms represented here today. And doing so without great fanfare, often with little or no recognition and almost certainly with absolutely no Government support.
Unlike the railways or the roads, General Aviation doesn’t receive subsidy from the taxpayer. Unlike when you pay your tax on petrol and receive some of it back through the road infrastructure being maintained, when it comes to paying your tax on AvGas, you don’t get a penny back in improving anything for aviation.
So we are a self-reliant sector, making few demands on government. just getting on with it and supporting aviation more widely.
But now we do need ministerial help. We need the airfield network protected. We need airspace properly thought through. And we need to a level playing field, or perhaps a level runway, when it comes to tax and regulation.
And, for the very first time, we are being listened to within Government. Some departments are gripping it faster than others. But I’m delighted to say that for the first time, the Department for Transport (DfT) has begun to not only understand that it is the sponsoring department for General Aviation, but is also doing something practical to help.
Today, the DfT makes a major announcement which will help General Aviation for years to come, in appointing Byron Davies as the UK’s first ever General Aviation Champion.