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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-recreational-general-aviation/coronavirus-covid-19-recreational-general-aviation
Recreational flying in England
Updated government coronavirus advice means that recreational GA flying is now allowed:
- from English airfields or flying sites
- if social distancing measures are strictly observed
In practice this means that only solo flights, or flights where everyone is from the same household, are permitted. This is because it’s not generally possible to observe social distancing during a GA flight.
Recreational flying in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
This guidance addresses the changes to lockdown requirements announced by the government 11 May, and therefore only applies in England.
For information relating to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales please consult the website of the relevant devolved administration.
Information relating to sport and leisure in Northern Ireland can be found on page 11 of this guidance document.
Limits on GA flying in England
Since 13 May some sports, in which it is possible to observe social distancing, are permitted. The government takes the view that recreational general aviation is a permissible recreational sport.
This excludes most training flights, as social distancing measures require people not in the same household to maintain 2 metres of separation. While these flights are a key source of income for many aerodromes, they cannot presently be undertaken in a way that reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission to an acceptable level.
Whilst noting that online training and socially-distanced training on the ground can take place, the inability to undertake training flights will mean that some pilots will not be able to resume flying until further easing of restrictions is possible. We advise those affected in this way to monitor this page and wider government guidance for further updates.
Reopening of aerodromes in England
Updated government advice encourages people to go to work where it is not possible to work from home. This advice applies to aerodrome operators, with guidance for transport operators having been published on 11 May.
See also guidance on safer workplaces.
The question of whether any individual aerodrome should open (or reopen) is a business decision for aerodrome operators. Aerodrome operators are best placed to decide whether opening is in their best interest, either from a commercial or health and safety standpoint, including their ability to maintain safe socially-distancing consistent with current PHE guidance.
It is also to be expected that some airfields will require time to implement guidance on making their sites Covid-secure, and that there may therefore be delays to reopening.
GA maintenance check flights
The CAA has published advice on maintenance flights - under the heading ‘GA maintenance check flights’.
Workshops which carry out essential maintenance are entitled to continue (in line with guidance regarding car workshops) provided government guidance is followed:
Communications for aerodromes in England
Aerodrome operators and others involved in GA are encouraged to enter into a dialogue with local communities. This is to ensure that the easing of restrictions on GA activity is understood not just by the GA community, but also by the general public – particularly those living near to airfields. This is to avoid people becoming concerned by the gradual increase in airfield activity.
The onus is also on pilots to act responsibly, for example by avoiding noise-sensitive and built-up areas.
Both the CAA and stakeholder organisations within the GA community are valuable sources of information about managing the challenges of flying in the current environment, and members of the community are encouraged to consult both for more detailed advice and guidance where applicable.
Other forms of General Aviation
Search and rescue operations and some GA activity, for instance where it absolutely necessary to fly to or for work, are exempted from the above conditions on shared cockpit operations. In all of these activities, we expect pilots and operators to be socially responsible in the decisions they make, and to apply social distancing guidelines as far as possible.
Air traffic management
Pilots resuming recreational GA activity are asked to be mindful that air traffic services are still limited, with NATS trying to reduce non-essential activities, including services to GA. This is to ensure the resilience of the critical air traffic management services while complying with current guidance by not having more people on site than necessary.
While most GA activity occurs outside of controlled airspace, and therefore does not involve NATS, pilots should therefore be mindful of the strain their activity places on other essential services.
Lower airspace radar services are also offered on a when possible basis, so could be turned off if necessary. Similarly, access to Class D could also be simply refused by the relevant air navigation service provider if it has to prioritise other airspace users.
Return to business as usual
The general aviation sector is an important contributor to skills, jobs and growth. This government is committed to helping this important STEM sector back on its feet after restrictions are lifted.
The GA team in the Department for Transport is well aware of the structural threat this period poses to recreational GA, including with regards to flight training (given that training flights are not currently possible due to directions on social distancing). We are therefore working closely with the sector to mitigate any long term negative consequences. Similarly, we are taking steps to ensure that when it is safe to do so, we will continue to fully support the GA sector.