Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by General Aviation Manufacturers and Traders Association Ltd (IT 97)


  GAMTA is the national trade body representing the General Aviation sector, including business aviation operators, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft maintenance companies, professional pilot training schools and other supporting companies.

  Our contribution to the Select Committee's Inquiry is made under three headings:

    —  Business Aviation

    —  Minor Aerodromes

    —  The Environment


  In preparing this evidence, we have been advised and supported by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), our representative body in Europe.

  Business Aviation is a key asset to the British economy. An integral part of the air transport system, this essential business tool provides a fast, reliable and flexible means of transportation for its users. Business Aviation offers the privacy and security essential to the conveyance of decision makers and high value goods.

  GAMTA and EBAA were heartened to see that the Integrated Transport White Paper takes seriously the issue of aviation as part of the integrated transport mix and in particular mentions Business Aviation in the proposals for an airport policy.

  Business is potentially facing a crisis in the way it operates because of growing pressure to limit airport access in south east England. That is why we have taken this opportunity to contribute to the Select Committee Inquiry.

  Notwithstanding the above, we would give encouragement to the DETR's initiative in conducting a study into Business Aviation, which, as mentioned below, we understand is ongoing and will contribute to the forthcoming airport policy.

  Our response in respect of Business Aviation is:


Paragraph 3.178

  It is encouraging to see that the government is planning to undertake research on the air freight industry—a sector, like business aviation, which is often overlooked in planning airport facilities. Indeed, it may be relevant for the Committee to note that the Department is currently undertaking research into the position of business aviation in the south east. One of business aviation's services is to provide secure transportation of high value lightweight freight including carrying human body parts for transplant. Any failure to allow business aviation access to the airports with the best and most developed surface links might impede this potentially life-saving role, as well as have an adverse impact on national and local economies.


Paragraphs 3.189 and 3.190

  We are pleased that the government is planning to develop a long-term UK airports policy and look forward to being involved in the consultation in its preparation. This is particularly the case because there is a real concern about the existence of business aviation arising from the changes to the running of Heathrow Airport; this threatens the ability of executive jets to continue to use and be based at the airport (more detail on this below). Similar problems exist at Gatwick and elsewhere, without suitable alternatives yet having become available (e.g., Northolt, Farnborough).

Paragraph 3.191

  Our members well understand the importance of sustainable development in today's age. Indeed modern Business Aircraft are among the cleanest and quietest aeroplanes operating today. All currently manufactured business jets more than meet ICAO Annex 16 requirements. Even most Chapter 2 business aircraft are quieter than later Chapter 3 airliners. We therefore welcome the government aims to tackle the environmental effects of aircraft noise and emissions, ensuring that the polluter is the one to meet the costs.

  We would be pleased to see this working alongside positive incentives for those who are cleaner and quieter.


Paragraphs 3.193 to 3.198, 3.200 to 3.208

  The main rationale for business aviation is its ability to provide the shortest possible door-to-door journey time as this is the means to maximise the value and productivity of senior executives (or high value freight). Office to airport journey time, any delay in waiting for slot and the ability to make railway or scheduled air service connections are all vital components of a highly sensitive travel plan.

  Ease of access to airports is a fundamental consideration of business location and the government needs to consider the messages which its infrastructure development sends to business, and how it strikes the balance between future economic growth and quality of life.

  The White Paper acknowledges the importance of the potential role of the currently less congested airports and how they can take the pressure off Heathrow and Gatwick. We wholeheartedly support this approach. In the South East, six airports currently exist which have the potential to form a useful multi-airport network. Biggin Hill; Farnborough; Luton; Northolt; Stansted; and London City. Others may fulfil a role after suitable development. But the Committee and the Department need to understand the current position:

    —  Farnborough's and Northolt's futures remain uncertain.

    —  Only Northolt can approach the convenience of Heathrow for Central London because of its proximity. Even with Northolt, interlining remains an issue.

    —  In a number of cases surface access is poor. If, and only if, adequate surface links are developed, can other airports serve as feasible alternatives for business aviation to Heathrow and Gatwick.

    —  Airfields need to be available not merely for landing, parking and take-off but also for basing and maintenance.

  Thus, as of today, the practical alternatives to Heathrow are limited, although Farnborough and Northolt are considered for limited development. New facilities will clearly take time and money to create. In the meantime, business aircraft must be able to integrate operations with scheduled flights and to deliver good surface links. It is, therefore, essential that business aviation can continue to use all major airports at least until what is available at other South East airports is improved.


Paragraphs 3.199, 4.40 to 4.44

  These paragraphs cover airspace capacity issues and runway slot allocation. Outlining the particular slot allocation problem currently facing business aviation may help the Committee towards an understanding of the issues at stake.

  Business Aviation has operated successfully from Heathrow airport for almost 50 years. Heathrow occupies a key position for business aviation within South-east England with regard to security, facilities and essential integrated technical and support services. The superb location allows high value business executives to interlink with scheduled international flights and to take advantage of the constantly improving surface access to central London and elsewhere.

  Until recently, business aircraft primarily used opportunity slots arising as a result of the ebb of flow of scheduled airlines. Pressure for more slots from scheduled and charter airlines has led Heathrow Airports Ltd (HAL) to introduce a new system, reducing the number of slots available to business aircraft, despite their having an insignificant impact on scheduled operations. There were also significant slot pressures at Gatwick.

  It is vital that BAA maintains open access for business aircraft at these airports until:

    —  The EU policy context, currently under revision, it is clear.

    —  Other airport options for business aviation are evaluated and developed.


Paragraph 4.155

  The government has stated that it will continue to press for the removal of the exemption from tax on aviation fuel. Encouraging the introduction of new technology through regulation will help to drive out old fashioned, polluting and noisy aircraft. However, we have concerns that imposing additional taxes could be counter-productive. Aviation as an industry is already well-focused on improving efficiency. And not only does aviation contribute a relatively small part of emissions, but it plays a hugely influential role in global and national economies. We would propose a carrot rather than a stick with regard to fuel taxation.

  Ease of access and transport infrastructure have fast become vital aspects of business location. Business aviation has been shown to be both an important contributor to corporate profitability and the third most important factor in attracting inward investment. It must be remembered that, in terms of business location and investment, south east England now competes with north east France, Benelux and the Rhineland. We therefore hope that any new developments in airport policy will help to secure not only the future of business aviation but also our continued contribution to the British economy—both directly and indirectly.


  Minor aerodromes are not specifically mentioned in the Paper. Minor aerodromes are often associated with leisure aviation but this is not always so. Light air taxi and corporate operations use minor aerodromes, which are often bases for the aircraft themselves and their maintenance organisations.

  Minor aerodromes are often the home for professional pilot training organisations, an industry which is a net contributor to the UK economy.

  Such aerodromes are often threatened with closure from a wide range of pressures, despite the obvious contribution which they make. We would propose to the Committee that consideration is given to the need for a Public Inquiry if the future of an aerodrome is threatened. Once an aerodrome is closed, it is often lost for ever.


  GAMTA is very conscious of environmental impact of aviation, especially in respect of noise. In addition to the comments made above about Business aircraft, we would draw the committee's attention to two initiatives taken by industry and consumers of aviation.

  Firstly, the General Aviation Awareness Council's widely distributed "Considerate Flying" leaflet has brought to the attention of thousands of pilots the need to fly in a manner which reduces the noise impact of General Aviation.

  Secondly, the introduction of new technology for light propeller driven aircraft will further reduce noise both in terms of propeller tip noise and engine noise. GAMTA's "New Generation General Aviation Engines" Report, sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry, highlights the new technology that is just over the horizon.

  We trust that the information provided above is useful to the Committee in examining the issues raised by the White Paper.

24 September 1998

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