Potential effects of CAA CAP1373b – The end of the UK airshow?

caa_featuredLast Monday, 1st February, the Civil Aviation Authority released a consultation document – CAP1373b ‘Statutory air display and low flying permission charges – Consultation on proposed amendments to charges for 2016-17‘ which could potentially spell the end of many UK airshows and flying displays, particularly the smaller ones, and curtail others.

The document outlines proposals to hugely increase charges relating to air displays, partly  as a result of the ongoing Air Display Review and partly in “mitigation of existing under-recovery of costs”. While the tragedy at Shoreham last year clearly invites tougher safety regulation in some areas, which would inevitably result in an increase in costs to the CAA, the proposal to increase charges almost to breaking point seems an unnecessary and unwarranted blow to an already highly regulated and costly area.

To illustrate the sort of increase we are talking about – if in 2015 an airshow had between 25-30 display items they paid £2,020 for the CAA permission. For the same display in 2016 they will pay £14,040 (including an entirely new Flying Display Post-event Charge). The CAA needs to break down and justify for the public, aircraft operators and airshow organisers this 595% increase in charges (in our example – the new charges work on a sliding scale). In our opinion this level of increase is unreasonable.

From the CAA website:

“This consultation contains the proposed amendments to air display charges contained within the CAA General Aviation Scheme of Charges.  

To accommodate the timetable for the 2016 air display season, these proposals are planned to be effective as from 1 April 2016.  

The proposals consider cost recovery of the planned increase in resources, following the actions required from the Air Display Review and potential recommendations from the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s report, and partial mitigation of existing under-recovery of costs.  

Consequently, the air display charges are proposed to increase significantly for the larger events on a sliding scale pending a full review of the changing regulatory requirements and effect on charges in time for industry consultation for the 2017-18 Scheme.”

While we strongly support and encourage the CAA’s aim to continually review airshow safety, we feel that the proposals to increase the charges related to airshows, by the figures suggested, is a step too far, and will have limited direct safety benefits. They will however have a huge effect on the organisations and individuals involved within the airshow community. And the general public will not be unaffected. Airshow entrance charges will inevitably rise if organisers are forced to pay more, thereby making what is hardly a cheap day out as it is, even more inaccessible to a greater number of people.

Apart from the spectating public, the list of people and organisations potentially affected, both financially and otherwise (e.g. in terms of charities: public awareness), by the CAA proposals contained in CAP 1373b is depressingly long and varied. Here are a few for starters:

Service and civilian charities, and this will include some airshow organisers (it’s not clear whether charitable income from airshows has ever been assessed, but it is fairly safe to say that it will be a very significant amount. This is certainly true for TPM); specialist engineering companies; aircraft restoration firms; fabric suppliers and fitters; individual pilots; flying schools; flying clubs; formation flying teams; airfields; veterans’ organisations; military and aviation museums, aviation support services – fuel suppliers etc; independent traders – and if you’ve been to an airshow you will know this includes: fast-food outlets; drinks suppliers; ice-cream vans; retailers: clothing; model aircraft; aviation art; books; toys etc., etc..

And then of course, there is the potential impact on the local business community – so: hotels; restaurants; pubs; shops; petrol stations; bus companies; the rail networks – the list goes on.

Then there is the likely contraction/loss to the aviation media sector, with specialist magazines like FlyPast and the Aeroplane being badly hit. Added to that the sale of specialist DVDs and other media would take a pounding. ‘Planes TV’ and other web-based channels such as GAR and Xtended must also not be forgotten, they will have a greatly reduced content source, nor the many talented aviation photographers and artists.

All of the above rely on airshows as a significant part of the income stream – whether for profit or not, as in our case. These companies and organisations also employ many individuals who will be personally affected if the CAA’s proposals are implemented.

But the damage wouldn’t stop there. Another possible consequence – and nightmare scenario to many of us – could be an out-flowing of historic aircraft from the UK. If owners find their economic base being threatened then they will go to France or Germany or Switzerland or even the US – or just get out of the business entirely. Prices of historic aircraft would plummet, making the restoration sector even more fragile – to say nothing of the major auction houses being hit.


An example of the impact an airshow can have on a region comes from the experience of one of our own team members – Ross Sharp – who was for some time during the 1990’s heavily involved with the display events at, what was then, RAF Finningley. With the help of local businesses, he worked out the financial impact of the main event weekend was a staggering £6.3 million. Hotels for a 30 mile radius were fully booked, petrol stations had to order in extra fuel, local supermarkets had to work hard to keep the shelves stocked and British Rail (as was) sold more than 12 times the usual number of tickets. Even the local newspaper tripled its run. When the show was moved to Waddington, the loss of income in the area was felt by many.

At the last Finningley Air Show, the organisers handed over a cheque to the RAFBF for no less than £250,000! (in 1993 terms). This represented a significant annual contribution to their funds. Given the fact that Service men and women need support now more than ever, a major reduction in the amount generated for Service charities is unacceptable. (Not forgetting many civilian good causes that benefit from airshows, either).

An increase of this scale in the fees associated with running an airshow is not a viable proposition. It is very likely to see the end of many of the smaller shows – and potentially some of the larger ones too. The smaller events, such as East Kirkby, Shuttleworth etc., would surely be particularly vulnerable due to the smaller audiences they can cater for, as would the many free seaside shows – e.g. Eastbourne, Dawlish, Southport etc. – that have limited funding but are so popular with the public.

Lastly we mustn’t forget the small child whose first sight, like that of many of us, of an aircraft flying at an airshow sparked an interest that lasted a lifetime. How many pilots and aviators have you heard of who were inspired to fly or otherwise find a niche in the aviation world by what they saw as a child visiting an airshow for the first time?

So we ask for your support to keep alive this important sector – one that not only contributes millions of pounds to the economy, but is enormously popular with the public  – second only to football as a spectator event – and an important starting point for many an aviation career.

The closing date of the consultation is 29th February and you can add your voice by completing the submission form on the CAA’s website, here. You can also sign the petition which has been launched here. It would also be a good idea to write to your MP. Details on how to do this are on the petition site.

Let’s not stand by and watch the Great British airshow be consigned to history. It would be such an enormous loss.

The People’s Mosquito

41 thoughts on “Potential effects of CAA CAP1373b – The end of the UK airshow?

  1. I am a vulcan follower over the years & was surprised at the number of people that turned out for its final flight. i was at Manchester Airport which was packed, then found out that the same was at its BIRTHPLACE (WOODFORD) I have been to shows allover the country & have only heard of very few accidents. I have friends that have stands at shows & they say they will loose up to 35% of their revenue.

    • Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. Sadly, it looks like that will be a common experience. Many organisations will lose out due to the reduction in the number and size of airshows as a whole.

  2. It is after 29 February, but I have signed the petition and contacted my MP.

    I have lost count of how many times I have heard that defence budget cuts will mean the disbanding of The Red Arrows, they won’t, but the prospect of it is so appalling that the budget cuts are revised. This proposal could mean that The Red Arrows continue, but you have to go abroad to see their display! Is this an attempt by the CAA to make everyone see a 100% increase as “reasonable”?

  3. If it helps anyone, here’s my submission to the CAA. Adapt as you see fit.

    I write as a member of the public regularly attending airshows in the UK.

    Due in large part to the work of the CAA the safety record of shows has been exemplary as evidenced by 0 spectator fatalities from 1952 until 2015.

    Tragic as Shoreham was it should not be the catalyst for what now appears to be a knee-jerk overreaction from the CAA.

    The proposed changes to your compliance and charging structure for UK airshows are excessive and are not satisfactorily justified (I have read the Action Report).

    Further, the introduction of these changes to compliance and the consequent increase in charges at such short notice must have very serious consequences for a large number of events already planned and promoted for 2016.

    I urge you to reconsider your proposals, justify more adequately the reasons why change is required, and if it is still deemed necessary introduce those changes in a measured fashion over an extended period of time.

    As matters stand you are threatening the continued existence of a hugely popular and thriving public leisure activity and the sectors of the aviation industry that create and present these events – which, as time has shown, are inherently safe for members of the public under the existing regulations and safety regime.

  4. Just one observation, as a fan of airshows & air displays… I’m not sure that ‘You can’t charge us more money, the loss of income if we shut up shop will be huge’ is a winning coherent argument.

    It _would_ be interesting to understand how they calculate the costs that they say they need to cover, though. If it really does cost them umpty thousand pounds to do whatever the CAA do at a small airshow, then who are you suggesting should subsidise that work and what’s in it for them? If the CAA is throwing all sorts of fixed costs and other factors into its calculations and lumbering the airshow organisers with paying more than their fair share to bolster their budget, then that’s different, but I’m not sure I am in a position to know one way or the other…

    • So, the CAA has suddenly realised that they are under-recovering by such a large percentage? Not sure about the validity of that train of thought.

    • Sorry, we can’t really do that. It’s up to individuals to respond, we just want to raise awareness of the situation. Have you tried UKAR, they may be able to help.

      • Hi there,

        We have templates for letters to Councillors, MPs and the UKAR on our website http://www.keepairshowsairborne.site as well as examples of response, and a handy document that encompasses the CAA’s CAP1371b, Annex A and peoples views, responses, calculations all in one place. You can link to the online response form and petition from the site too.


  5. UKAR have just tweeted that only 75 letters have been received by the CAA. Everyone must contact them

  6. I dont know what it would take but a peaceful protest outside the CAA HQ in London might throw some weight in our favour. There could be potential for thousands of us that feel passionately about our air shows to turn up on their doorstep. Just a thought.

    • Interesting idea Tony. Have you suggested it on FB or Twitter. There are a lot do passionate people out there.

      • Yes I have mentioned the idea of a protest outside their HQ on FB but I don’t think it was brazen enough. Tally Ho going in again.

      • Obviously the CAA are more concerned about feathering their own nest, they have failed to see the bigger picture. UK air show’s are a multi million or dare I say billion pound global industry, which helps fuel our economy , if we lose any of our air shows its another nail in the UK’s high ranking place in the world of aviation. The CAA has seen a chance to take advantage of a tragic accident to raise income and profits in the name of safety. How low and disrespectful can they get. They need to be investigated and be held accountable. Price hiking never makes anything safer , except the CAA bank balance.

  7. It would be interesting to know what the CAA actually spend the money on and how they can justify this massive price increase which will. In effect, do nothing to improve safety.

  8. Thank you for a well researched article which deserves the widest possible audience. Including those at the CAA responsible for this fiasco.

    • Thanks Barry, very good of you to say so. Let’s hope it does some good. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

  9. Hi there, I just left a comment on Facebook, but thought I’d visit here as well.
    Any chance somebody from TPM could write a short template letter we could use to get in touch with our MP’s? It could ensure that we all get the important details across and speak with one voice.

    Thank you!


    • Hi Dan, thanks for your suggestion. We were rather hoping that our article would help spark a reaction among the public to what the CAA is proposing (which it seems to be doing) and help the CAA see the benefits of not going ahead with them. Really it is for individuals to take the case further. But let us mull your idea over among the team here.

      • Hi guys,

        Great article. I noted the comment asking for a template letter. If you head over to the UK Airshow Review forums you’ll find a template letter to send to your MP’s.

        Hope that helps.


      • Interestingly if you look on twitter theres already a letter thats been drafted which can be sent to your local MP which I myself will be using but if you go to the CAA’s website theres a weblink that can be used to air your objection I’ve already used mine,use this first. Hope this helps?we need to get organised on this subject otherwise should this be passed we’ll NEVER get this freedom back & airshows will cost & look vastly different than they do now. If you need a link to this letter DM me @robertthomas on twitter I will send you a link. We need to act NOW!!!Cheers folks we need to stop this now & we need your help…

    • We have been informed that a template like you suggest is available on the UKAR website. I have asked for a link.

  10. This is just appalling, if Shoreham and the Vulcan not flying were bad enough, the CAA then compound matters with this. I’ve been going to airshows most of my life, if we lose our aviation heritage via the CAA then that will be rubbing the salt in. Can you not start a petition that we can can sign up to? I’ll try to be your first signatory, if I can get there first. Well said by the way an excellent article and one I’m proud to share.

  11. Apart from the huge financial losses that everyone involved will suffer…why does our government not support our
    British heritage. ..We have more engineers and inventers than any other country…and we do it so well….why should we lose that…I feel that there is something far more sinister going on here …If we no longer inspire and educate the young into this field where will that leave us as a nation…

  12. “Lastly we mustn’t forget the small child whose first sight, like that of many of us, of an aircraft flying at an airshow sparked an interest that lasted a lifetime.”

    Yes, I was thinking that too. This is all part of a general trend by our increasingly hapless and politically correct governments to hinder and strangle citizens in any expression of patriotism or interest in defence of the realm. Air and military shows are a valuable PR interface with citizens, the scheming doves know it and are trying to stop it. But any lives saved by removing the statistically infinitesimal risk of air show crashes will be far outweighed by lives lost due to an underfunded and undermanned military.

  13. Very well said. As I’ve already said on the Facebook page of the ‘Keep Airshows Airborne ‘, if we have fewer warbirds displaying, we will lose the educational element. The younger generation must be taught about the sacrifices that were made for them. Heaven forbid if we fail to remember.

    • Thanks for your comment Julie. You are spot on where education is concerned and it’s something I erroneously missed from the post. It’s is an important element for us as you can see from our motto: to fly, to educate, to remember. Thanks again. (Nick Horrox – author of the post)

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