Like most journalists, my life revolves around deadlines. Rarely deadlines set by me – more usually by the publication I’m writing for at the time. So, when a week pops up with just one deadline, a weekly newsletter I write for an aviation magazine, it’s time to get out and about in my industry.
Last week was one of those weeks, and my ‘spare’ days filled up pretty rapidly. First, on Monday, there was a briefing at Portcullis House, Westminster from the All Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation, the APPG GA. The title may waffle on a bit but the APPG is doing pretty good and important work.
Its main remit is to ensure we have a future for General Aviation in the UK and that means airfields and access to airspace, both of which are threatened at the moment. The APPG has produced the astonishing statistic that there are just 100 licensed airfields left. Of course, some have voluntarily reduced their status to ‘unlicensed’ but that’s a sad state in itself. Being unlicensed may reduce costs and the complexity of regulation but it also restricts the kind of air operations that can take place.
The battle for airfields will run and run, probably on an individual airfield basis. Many are being touted as sites for new ‘garden villages’ – Fairoaks, Chalgrove, Redhill are just three but there are many more. Sure, we need more houses but we also need airfields and and once the airfield is lost, it’s gone forever.
The briefing from APPG was about its plan to make four amendments to the proposed National Planning Policy Framework, simple textual changes which will help protect airfieds. More here
On to Wednesday and an altogether more enjoyable day. Up to Enstone Airfield in Oxfordshire for the launch (scramble!) of the AceSquadron. Paul Fowler is the quietly determined owner of Enstone Flying Club and he’s putting together teams of people to own a share, build and fly a squadron of 11 Supermarine Spitfire Mk26B aircraft. Note, they’re not replicas because they’re not copies of an existing Spitfire. Rather, they’re the next generation.
Paul feels that Joe Smith, the man who took the original RJ Mitchell Spitfire design and made it a production success with multiple models over the war years, would have approved. Supermarine is the name of the Australian company that produces the kits for the Mk26B, and it’s an incredibly realistic 90% scale take on the original Spitfire. Controls, big prop, stance on the ground – and when it flies overhead, the sound is remarkably close to a Merlin-engined Spitfire.
The Mk26B is a lot less expensive to buy and operate than a full-size WW2 Spitfire but, even so, each one costs in the region of £200,000 so sharing it makes sense. Interested? More here
Years ago, I used to fly from Enstone, and it was good to see the club not just surviving but thriving. It’s moved across the runway and to the west of the airfield from its original location but it’s for the better with a smart new clubhouse, new hangar and plenty of aircraft parking. It’s also well away from the frankly untidy industrial estate at the east end of the airfield.