Airshows are going to look very different from this year due to CAA over reaction & possible opportunism. It is all very sad but we had a brilliant Airshow safety record until last year, then sadly we had two fatal and tragic accidents. There may well need to be changes but I think they need to grasp statistical probabilities a little more as quite simply you get no accidents for a long time then two come at once, it doesn’t mean you then have to effectively shut down Airshows because of it! Rather it should mean that the suspected or possible causes are dealt with by implementing temporary measures until the completion of the investigation whereby the temporary measures can be lifted an any permanent measures recommended by the accident report can be put into place.
At the centre of issue is the sudden increase in mandatory CAA fees for the organisation of Airshows. According to the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight: “in 2015 if you had between 18 & 24 display items you paid £1,497 for the CAA permission. In 2016 for 18 to 24 display items you will pay £6,994 and forget a big public show ever happening again for 31 items you will be asked to pay £20,390.” It is this that has sparked a recent Government Petition and the fee changes are currently in consultation so you can also send your views in the the CAA directly as well.
The future of ex military aircraft operated by civilians is also bleak indeed, the red tape has increased with many new rules and requirements of air show organisers with the CAA clamping down on ex Military Civillian Operated Swept Wing Jets. These changes are outlined in an Action Report from the ongoing Air Display Review.
This triple whammy is going to hit down hard in practice, many smaller Airshows have been cancelled in the last decade because of cost alone, normally due to insurance costs which are going to shoot up this year anyway after last years tragedy! Already one Airshow has been cancelled due to these changes with organisers stating, “timescale to allow the implementation of all the new rules was too short.” It is all very sad indeed and people can’t help but think that the CAA are reducing the risk of Airshow accidents by stopping the Airshows from taking place at all. The excellent UK Airshow safety record prior to 2015 seems to be all but forgotten by the CAA who seem to be taking action that would be very similar to the Department of Transport banning the use of cars in order to reduce the number of car accidents. The aviation industry globally have an excellent reputation for safety and implementing targeted and specific actions as a result of Air Accident Investigations has meant flying is safer now than it has ever been, without the need to decrease the amount of air travel, let’s hope this logic can be applied in the case of UK Airshows!
Update 09/02/16: Sywell Airshow becomes the latest to cancel.
Update 12/02/16: Little Gransden warn they could be next.
For further reading I would suggest:
This Aviation Highlights Article
The increased charges part of the issue is currently in consultation and you can send your comments in directly to the CAA until Monday 29th February here.
The Government Petition is here. (Remembering the target is 100,000 signatures to be considered for parliamentary debate)
AAIB investigation to Hawker Hunter T7. G-BXFI – Special Bulletin S4/2015
AAIB investigation to Hawker Hunter T7, G-BXF – Special Bulletin S3/2015