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Abolish UK requirement for VFR Flight Plans

Comment 8th July 2010

General Aviation pilots flying light aircraft to destinations inside the common travel area under visual flight Rules (VFR) are required to file Flight Plans (FPL) for many destinations including the Channel Islands. I consider that this requirement could be abolished with no impact on safety for the reasons given below.

It should be noted that the process for filing a VFR flight plan in the UK has recently become vastly more complex and hazardous for the average private pilot with a move to an unsatisfactory software application known as AFPEX. At the same time traditional telephone and fax methods of FPL filing have been dicontinued. AFPEX continues to exceed the skill levels of typical private pilots and IT professional alike and requires a 24Hr helpdesk to deal with the numerous problems that it creates. My proposal is to abolish AFPEX, the support infrastructure that goes with it, and the regulatory requirement for VFR flight plans at the same time.

Pilots who require an FPL service (for instance for flight to country requiring it) can easily obtain facilities from 3rd party providers or the country concerned.

The traditional justifications for requiring VFR FPL's are no longer valid. The issue of terrorism has already been dealt with in the "Remove the need for a GAR " proposal on this site. In any case any pilot seeking to carry out illegal activities will probably omit the step of filing a flight plan.

The safety case for VFR FPL's has already been eliminated by UK policy that now requires a pilot to make his own arrangements with a 'responsible person' to raise the alarm in case he goes missing, unlike the case in most countries where the FPL is the alerting tool.  Ludicrously, there is now no requirement to close a VFR flight plan in UK, meaning that the authorities cannot know if a flight has arrived or not.

This means that the FPL has no safety value whatever because in the event that he goes missing enroute to a destination without air traffic services (the case where FPL should be of most value) he will not be noticed.

Why does this matter?

The UK aviation regulatory industry has become bloated with numerous uneccesary and costly 'rules', of which the above is just an example.  The industry appears to believe that it can always justify such rulemaking and it's own gold-plated status by playing either or both the 'safety card' or the 'terrorism card' as it sees fit.

This uniquely UK enthusiasm for rulemaking has become hugely burdensome to UK General Aviation, most of which is carried on for business purposes and not for the benefit of 'rich playboys' as is sometimes supposed. The effect of this has been to force up the cost of operating light aircraft for no benefit in security or safety.

It should be noted that an effect of spiralling operating costs is that typical private pilots fly less often and are likely to be less current than otherwise. It is my conviction that, in the wider view, the huge regulatory cost imposed on UK General Aviation materially reduces safety in comparison with an environment where there is little or no regulation.

My idea to abolish the requirement for VFR flight plans, AFPEX and all the associated costs is important because the new government needs urgently to demonstrate to the aviation regulatory industry that it will not tolerate unneccesary rulemaking, even when spurious 'safety' and 'security' justifications are made.

If any further justification were needed, the Governemt could simply look at the recent 'volcanic dust' fiasco and the enormous economic cost resulting from giving very expensive, hugely under-employed psuedo-technical bureacrats free reign to interfere in commercial or private activities. AFPEX would be a good place to start in putting the balance right.

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