Aerodrome Licensing - Background Information

Information related to the licensing process

Definitions of the term ‘Aerodrome’

Definition of 'Aerodrome' in Annex 14 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944):

A defined area on land or water (including any buildings, installations, and equipment) intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure and surface movement of aircraft.

Definition of 'Aerodrome' at section 105 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982:

Means any area of land or water designed, equipped, set apart or commonly used for affording facilities for the landing and departure of aircraft and includes any area or space, whether on the ground, on the roof of a building or elsewhere, which is designed, equipped or set apart for affording facilities for the landing and departure of aircraft capable of descending or climbing vertically.

Definition of 'Airport' at section 82 of the Airports Act 1986:

Means the aggregate of the land, buildings and works comprised in an aerodrome within the meaning of the 1982 Act.

Legal Requirement for an Aerodrome to be Licensed

The requirements for an aerodrome to be licensed are described in Article 208 of the Air Navigation Order, but may be summarised as applying to those aerodromes where flights for the purpose of the commercial air transport of passengers or the public transport of passengers, and/or flying training in aircraft above specified maximum total weights authorised take place.

You may find helpful the information contained in document Training at Unlicensed Aerodromes – Questions and Answers, one of the documents associated with the Light Aviation Airports Study Group (LAASG) consultation.

For aerodrome licensing purposes, public transport includes any flight where passengers are carried for a fare, but does not include flights where passengers agree to share the cost of fuel.

Flying training operations include any activity connected with acquiring or altering a Pilots licence.  It does not include any pleasure flights where a passenger, who is a permanent or temporary member of a flying club, may briefly take the controls of an aircraft, for example a glider.

It is the responsibility of the CAA to ensure that the holders of an aerodrome licence are competent and suitable persons to exercise the privileges of that licence.  The CAA uses CAP 168 in support of the granting of an aerodrome licence in accordance with Article 211 of the ANO.  CAP 168 implements the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) applicable to aerodromes.  Where a SARP is not implemented in CAP 168, ICAO Annex 14 will apply.

Types of Aerodrome Licence

Public Use Licence:  The hours of availability of the aerodrome must be notified in the UK Aeronautical Information Publication (CAP 32) and the aerodrome must be available to all persons (users) permitted to use it on equal terms and conditions.

Ordinary Licence:  Relates only to use of the aerodrome by the holder of the licence and persons specifically authorised by him.  The holder of an Ordinary Licence is not obliged to notify the hours of availability in the UK AIP but, if he does so, the aerodrome must remain open throughout the notified hours irrespective of traffic requirements.  If the hours are not notified, the availability of the aerodrome and its facilities can be shown in the UK AIP as ‘by arrangement’, but if this is the case then the protection of an Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ) may not be provided.

Permanent Licence:  A permanent aerodrome licence is issued without an expiry date, and will remain in force until it is varied, suspended or revoked.

Temporary and Seasonal Licences: These are detailed in CAP 168, Chapter 1, paragraph 4.4.  A temporary aerodrome licence is issued for a period not exceeding 12 consecutive days, and a seasonal aerodrome licence is issued for a period exceeding 12 days but not exceeding 12 months.

The class of licence granted will not affect either the safety requirements to be met or the types of flight that may take place at the aerodrome (CAP 168, ANO Articles 207, 208, 209 and Article 211).

A new applicant may apply for and be granted either class of licence, although the CAA normally would expect major airports open to international air traffic to hold a Public Use licence.

Legal Responsibilities and Obligations of an Aerodrome Licence Holder

An applicant for an aerodrome licence must demonstrate to the CAA that he is competent to conduct aerodrome operations safely.  Once a licence is granted, a licence holder must continue to satisfy the competency criteria whilst the licence remains in force.

Overall responsibility for securing the safe operation of an aerodrome rests with the aerodrome licence holder who should act in accordance with the arrangements he provides or makes (for example, aerodrome manual procedures) to ensure that aircraft using the aerodrome can operate safely.

The licence holder is responsible for complying with the provisions of ANO Article 211, the licence conditions and aerodrome manual procedures.  Contravention of a licence condition by a licence holder will not automatically invalidate the licence (ANO Article 211 (4)) but the CAA may decide to take licensing action or prosecute. The licence holder of an aerodrome licensed for public use may be required by the Secretary of State to provide details of charges established for use of the aerodrome (ANO Article 213).

The charges at aerodromes where the annual turnover exceeds £1million Sterling may be subject to economic regulation by the CAA (Part IV Airports Act 1986).  These charges are regulated by the Economic Regulation Group of the CAA.

The licence holder may appoint other persons to manage the operational aspects of his aerodrome, but is required to satisfy the CAA that such delegation of operational responsibility satisfies the requirements of ANO Article 211.

The licence holder has a legal duty of care to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the aerodrome and its airspace are at all times safe for use by aircraft.  This will include periods of ‘out of hours’ use permitted by the licence holder (ANO Article 211 (5)).

The licence holder must produce an aerodrome manual that is acceptable to the CAA, keep it up to date, notify the CAA of changes, amend it if required to do so by the CAA, and ensure that aerodrome operating staff have access to a copy and are aware of those parts of the manual relevant to their duties (ANO Article 211).

The licence holder must provide information concerning the terms of the licence to any person who requests such details (ANO Article 211 (3)).

Environmental issues associated with aerodrome licensing

The CAA has no direct legal duty to consider environmental issues in the licensing process, nor direct powers to impose environmental restrictions on aerodrome licences.

The Secretary of State has powers under section 5 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 to specify aerodromes for the purposes of that section.  Such specification would impose a duty on the CAA to have regard to adverse effects on the environment and disturbance to the public in exercising its aerodrome licensing function. To date, no such specification has been made. 

Unlicensed Aerodromes

Although many aerodromes do not need a licence to carry out flying activities, the CAA is still responsible for all matters affecting the safety of aircraft at aerodromes through its regulation of aircraft operations and maintenance.  CAP 793 Safe Operating Practices at Unlicensed Aerodromes provides guidance and advice on setting up and operating an unlicensed aerodrome, including helicopter landing sites.

The Air Navigation Order referred to here is the ANO 2009, and any reference to the Order or to any Article of the Order shall, if that Order be amended or replaced, be taken to be a reference to the ANO for the time being in force or the corresponding Article of the Order.