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NEWS Last modified on January 28, 2015

Government committee discusses importance of smaller UK airports

The UK Government's Transport Committee last week heard evidence from the aviation industry on the importance of regional aviation and how it supports transport infrastructure and the development of regional economies.

The committee enquiry was attended by representatives from smaller UK airports, the Regional & Business Airports Group (RABA) the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the British Air Transport Association, and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

John Spooner, chairman of RABA told the committee of the vital importance of regional gateways and the role they play in local economies, and emphasized the need to support key aviation activities, creating jobs and describing the fiscal and regulatory regimes which add significant costs where small airports don't have the economies of scale to absorb the costs and also called for a more flexible and supportive policy framework around planning.

Newquay Cornwall Airport plays a vital role in RABA as many of its objectives are aligned with the airport's own challenges, and managing director, Al Titterington, who gave evidence to the committee, says: "It is critical that the select committee hears the views of smaller regional airports like Newquay and understand the challenges which we face, it has called for the evidence and we have produced our compelling arguments.

“The level of political interest in regional aviation has really grown over the last 12 months, the closure at Dawlish last year highlighted how important air connectivity is for regions particularly Cornwall.

“I am hopeful that the views expressed and the committee’s wider understanding of the impact of regional aviation will be built into its recommendations to government, which I hope will lead to a future regional aviation policy but also fed into the government's consideration of the Davies Commission Report.”


The committee was asked to help secure access from the regions to the London airport system and any new runway capacity proposed by Heathrow and Gatwick.

The Cornwall Airport Limited (CAL) says it was particularly encouraging that the committee appeared to recognise the multitude of social and economic roles performed by the UK's smaller regional airports - not just connecting the regions to the capital, and to themselves, but also enabling air ambulance, helicopter search and rescue and oil and gas field support services, aircrew, flight and engineering training, aircraft maintenance and a whole host of other activities - providing valuable skilled and unskilled employment opportunities.

The committee was also interested to explore why airports such as Plymouth, Manston, Coventry, Blackpool and others had faced enormous challenges during the economic recession and what could be done to ensure that their future – and that of airlines, could be made sustainable in the future.

RABA also told the committee it was essential that the next runway to be developed in the London area served the UK’s regions – and that runway slots must be safeguarded at the right times and at an affordable price for use by flight serving the UKs regions, and discussed how the costs of air passenger duty (APD) and complying with UK regulatory requirements were particularly damaging to UK regional aviation.

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