After Wednesday’s informal reception at CAA House in London, we were left with the impression that the Authority really has been moved into action by the Government’s General Aviation Red Tape Challenge.
It wasn’t just the fine words from the politicians – Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, Challenge instigator Grant Shapps (very much fired up) and Gerald Howarth (also a keen private pilot) – but the declaration of intention made by CAA boss Andrew Haines. When Haines promises change, it has a way of happening – and this should apply to his idea of a new, stand-alone GA department aimed at addressing the criticism that flowed from the Challenge.
We can certainly expect more appropriate regulation – or even deregulation – and will no doubt see further responsibility derogated to the likes of the Light Aircraft Association. However, therein may lie one or two new problems: for example, the LAA is not famed for the speed at which it processes applications for modifications and some adjustment/improvement might be due before even this very pro-GA body might be deemed fully fit to take on further responsibility. Nevertheless, the prospect of light aviation being run more and more by people who really know and understand it is a welcome one.
One great elephant lurking the room remains: as the Ministers conceded, there is no current prospect of the Treasury easing the tax burden riding GA’s shoulders. VAT charges may have driven integrated Commercial pilot training offshore, but HMG’s bean-counters remain unmoved. While GA is at last being treated as a serious business worth nurturing by Parliament, it is a long way from enjoying the special tax concessions granted to the film industry. But that’s another story….