ABOVE: It is hoped the Strategic Aerodrome Network will help strengthen the position of many UK GA airfields 

The Airfield Operators Group (AOG) and the UK VFR Flight Guide are working to establish a Strategic Aerodrome Network, gathering information about GA airfields (including physical infrastructure, activities and characteristics).

The concept of a Strategic Aerodrome Network has been discussed for many years and was mentioned by Lord Byron Davies in his report that accompanied the Green Paper, Aviation 2050: The Future of UK Aviation (published in December 2018).

Despite describing this task as “particularly challenging, given the diversity of the sector,” Lord Byron noted that “if the government really wants to preserve the many benefits of GA and ensure appropriate and proportionate protection for significant parts of the network… it will use the strategic network to inform decisions on aviation and planning policy”. He added that “those airfields included in the network could benefit from fundamental changes in the way the sector is considered by planning authorities and planning inspectors”.

The report also recommended that the government “considers publishing criteria that would enable an airfield to identify itself as being part of the strategic network,” or alternatively, produce “a list of airfields that comprise the network”.

The AOG and the UK VFR Flight Guide now intend to gather information (using SurveyMonkey) to compile a database; preparing a list of aerodromes ‘which consider themselves to be strategically important for aeronautical, community or other reasons’. Generalised information will also be used to promote the ‘breadth and depth of the GA sector to government and regulatory bodies,’ with this data available to individual airfields ‘if and when they may be under some threat or wish to promote their site’.

Simon Tilling, CEO of the LAA, said that respondents’ questionnaires will “provide important data to help us protect and preserve our airfields,” while Rob Hughes, CEO of the BMAA, also urged aerodrome management to help “recognise the paramount importance of airfields to our activities”. Sir John Allison, President of the General Aviation Alliance, concluded that the initiative was “a very good move”.

Aerodromes are being sent details of the survey and will be invited to respond by 31 January 2024.