The pilot of Jodel G-ASXU, who made the safety decision to land at the former Plymouth Airport when faced with bad weather, has been told by the landowner that he will not be allowed to fly out.
The owner of the land, Sutton Harbour Holdings, a proporty developing company that specialises in waterfront regeneration, has put a concrete block in front of the aircraft to prevent it from being moved off the site. Its representatives of the company say that the Jodel must be removed by road because the airfield no longer has the facilities to manage aircraft.
The pilot, who was en route from Cornwall to Kent when worsening weather conditions forced him to make the decision to land on the airfield, which still has serviceable runways four years after its closure, was initially told by security guards that he could return to continue his journey once the weather had improved. However, he was subsequently told that he would not be allowed to leave unless it was by road, which could incur considerable expense as the aircraft would have to be dismantled, moved by low loader and then reassembled.
Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, who is the chair of the Parliamentary Aviation Group, has tried to mediate in the issue. He says: “I think the owner of the airfield needs to recognise that the guy did the right thing in the circumstances. If the aircraft is serviceable, and the insurance company says they will cover the risk, the obvious thing is to let him take off. There is a risk other pilots confronted with the same decision to make, whether to put down or plough on in bad weather, could carry on and kill themselves.”
In a statement on its website, Sutton Harbour Holdings said: “Our position is quite clear in that as a responsible company we have to be satisfied that any decision we make ensures that this aircraft leaves safely. The former airport site, which has been closed for almost four years, is in a built-up area and has none of the facilities to safely manage the movement of aircraft. During its operations no aircraft movements took place at the former airport without the approval of air traffic control which is of course no longer in place.
“We have increased security at the site to ensure the aircraft is secure and access has always been available by prior arrangement.
“We are continuing to work with the pilot’s representatives/insurers and other third parties over the arrangements to enable the aircraft to leave the site safely and as quickly as possible providing that the appropriate and necessary indemnities are in place. In the meantime the pilot and his insurance company have been informed that if he wishes to provide temporary weather protection for the aircraft he is able to do so by prior arrangement.”