A Piper Warrior had to pay £1047.36, for making an Emergency landing at London Luton Airport.
On the 19th January 2016 an instructor and a student set of from Elstree aerodrome, in a Piper Warrior151 (weight 2,325lbs.), on a night flight for his night rating course.
On the take-off run a loud thump was heard. The controller at Elstree said the lighting was poor for a low pass for an undercarriage inspection and a decision was made to fly to Northolt instead. They were unable to accept them and recommended an Emergency be declared and to divert to Luton. This they did. A couple of low approaches were made for the fire crew to have a look at the undercarriage. They reported that it looked to be down and the instructor decided to go back to Elstree.
However the Luton controller suggested that a landing should be made “just to make sure everything was OK and then take off again shortly afterwards”. They accepted this, as it was sound safety advice, landed without incident and taxied to the Handling Agent. They inspected the undercarriage and all looked normal. They asked if they could use the washroom facilities before departing and were taken to the reception. As the pilot had declared an emergency, he claimed that under the “Strasser Scheme” landing fees should be waived.
Although 207 UK airports have joined and participate in the “Strasser Scheme”, unfortunately London Luton is one of the remaining 4 airports, who have so far declined several attempts to get them to do so.
As an AOPA member, the pilot enlisted the help of Charles Strasser, the originator and still administrator of the “Strasser Scheme”, to try and get at least a partial refund of the billed amount of £1,047.36.
Although Luton airport is not a “Strasser Scheme” participant, an article in “Today’s Pilot” published in 2010 listed the then non participants as Cardiff, Biggin Hill, Belfast International, Carlisle, Leeds/Bradford, Bristol Filton and London Luton. All except London Luton have since joined. However their then MD, Glyn Jones, is on record as saying “that London Luton would do its utmost to assist any pilot in distress and would never disadvantage a GA pilot financially”.
Charles Strasser’s several attempts to communicate with the CEO of London Luton, Nick Barton, to get the charges refunded finally resulted in a refusal. On the other hand the charges levied by the Handling Agent have been refunded in full.
It is the fear of such monstrous charges being levied for genuine emergency landings by GA aircraft which prompted the CAA to publish potentially life saving CAP667 9.2(c) which clearly states “that all aerodrome owners be persuaded to adopt a policy that there should be no charges for emergency landings or diversions by general aviation aircraft.”