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AOPA Responds to The Times article "Anger as Grant Shapps flies the flag for hobbyist pilots"

On 11 January 2020 The Times published an article claiming that there is "Anger as Grant Shapps flies the flag for hobbyist pilots" and which was less than complimentary towards General Aviation. The article can be seen online here.

Martin Robinson, CEO AOPA UK, has responded to the article:

Dear Mr Paton

RE: Your Article “ anger as Shapps flies

Let me begin by declaring an interest  as I am a private pilot as well as being the CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of the UK for many years. 

I have had the privilege of working with a number of Transport Ministers over the  years and I can honestly say that Grant Shapps is the first Secretary of State for Transport  that has more than a working level of knowledge of  aviation, and especially General Aviation (GA) which , inter alia , is more than just recreational fliers. He understands the relationship between the provision of aviation professionals ( pilots/engineers and much more) which comes through the grassroots of the industry. He understands that behind all of this are 11,000 direct jobs and hundreds of small businesses supplying the goods and services to the industry and beyond, “people serving people”.

Without pilots you don’t have commercial air transport. All basic flying training is undertaken on single engine aircraft from small aerodromes. In fact all the STEM jobs in the £60bn plus UK Aviation Industry starts within GA.

If we compare the GA activity in the UK to the British Film Institute we can see the amount of Government support that goes into that Business whereas GA gets none, yet the aviation GDP value is much higher than that of the BFI.  In 2016, taken together the tax relief supported screen sectors delivered a total of £7.91 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) for the UK economy. The wider benefits alongside the economic benefits were that the tax reliefs deliver substantial talent and intellectual property (IP) benefits. The key findings of the analysis of the economic impact of the screen sector tax relief examines their contribution to: Production investment, Jobs and employment, Productivity and Innovation, The UK economy , UK infrastructure and facilities. Other benefits such as creation of talent and intellectual property, exports, merchandising, tourism and UK brand promotion. (Source: screen business report 8/10/2018).

Clearly the Governments policy since 2007 is to make the UK the best place in the world for film production, which we applaud. Aviation deserves the same recognition.

As  people get enjoyment from films they also get enjoyment from aviation, airshows are the second largest spectator event in the UK after football. The UK has a proud aviation heritage and each year the public get to see all kinds of aircraft flying, many of which are privately owned but are displayed so that public can enjoy the sights and sounds. This is really a case of “the few’ for “the many”. 

The point is that the entire aviation sector is connected and Grant Shapps, unlike previous Transport Ministers understands this and therefore his improved directions to the CAA shows good leadership and hopefully this means that the sector will have a sustainable future,  one which future generations can also enjoy.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Robinson


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