CAA Assistant Communications Director Jonathan Nicholson looks at our role relating to recreational flying 


In the past few years we've made a radical change to the way we oversee recreational aviation. A government red tape challenge into the area, together with our own acknowledgement that the level of regulation we were using was disproportionate, has led to a new system aimed at encouraging a vibrant general aviation (GA) sector in the UK. 

Our regulation now aims to be much more proportionate and seeks opportunities to deregulate or devolve our work wherever possible. But, with the caveat that we will absolutely continue to seek to protect third parties that might be affected by GA. 

Part of the change has seen the set up of a dedicated GA Unit, specifically charged with overseeing the sector and applying the new principles. This has been tied to an extensive programme of work looking at how we can remove or reduce regulation to make it more appropriate. Key achievements so far include de-regulating small single seat microlights, allowing paid flights in ex military aircraft, relaxing some pilot licensing rules and generally allowing pilots more input and  freedom to make their own choices over how they fly. 

All the work has been undertaken in conjunction with the government and the GA representative bodies, who have been very supportive of our new approach. 

There is still a lot of work to complete, with over 140 projects currently underway or planned. We're also working closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency to influence their regulations as although we change change UK regulations many of the overarching requirements and rules for GA come from Europe. 

So, while the past few years have seen some significant achievements there is still much work to do. 

To learn more about General Aviation, you can read the GA Unit's first annual report.



Trevor Bowen 3 years ago / Reply

How can you work to reduce Regulation where you have general public opposition to the unacceptable volume and duration of microlight and hang glider activity over people's houses ? I wish to object and draw your attention to, Button Bridge Airfield , Button Oak, near Bewdley, Worcs. We have constant drones of approaching microlights, far worse than motorbikes, only this Sunday morning, 24th July , 5 or 6 microlights flew low over my house from 7.30am to approx 8.00 am. This is totally unacceptable and much more than a noise nuisance. We, the people who choose to live in the country for its peace and quiet, should not have to , and I will not, put up with this. Our local council say they have no power over low flying aircraft noise, a reply which I find astonishing, so I am complaining in the strongest possible terms to you, among others. I am only presuming these aircraft come from Button Bridge, they have yet to reply to me so I would be grateful for your help. Regards, Trevor Bo

Jonathan Nicholson 3 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Our regulation of microlights and private flying in general concentrates on their safety rather than their noise impact. For local noise issues you are correct in approaching your local authority and airfields in your vicinity.

Donald J Smith 4 years ago / Reply

I hope in 2016 the UK CAA will focus much more on deregulating amateur helicopter flying and than has hitherto been the case. I refer mainly to the Rotorway helicopter but also note that many European countries have a deregulated helicopter class which as far as I am aware is not available in the UK. I believe it is disproportionate that the current Talon Rotorway still not approved to fly and or build in the UK. This aircraft has been available since at least 2009 and is approved for flying in the United States, France, Norway and Sweden. It may be available for use in Germany and Spain too. The point I'm making is that these aircraft are flying have been flying successfully and safely in large numbers all round the world. It therefore seems to me that it is disproportionate to require extensive certification procedures primarily for UK use. After all the Rotorway is a home build, permit machine with limitations on overflying congested areas etc. Regards Donald Smith

Jonathan Nicholson 3 years ago

Thanks for your comment Donald. We actively keep all our regulations under review and you will have seen initiatives such as the new experimental category that eases the development of new types. We will continue to work with organisations such as the LAA to explore possibilities to de-regulate or delegate, while ensuring we continue to protect third parties.

Scotslady 4 years ago / Reply

You endeavour to protect third parties that might be affected by GA. Nowhere have I seen any concern regarding the privacy of those of us on the ground. I was recently outraged by what was a total invasion of my privacy by a paraglider in Guernsey, flying low over my home, surrounding garden and 10 acres of private property just back from the South coast cliffs. We strictly regulate access to our property by foot and by car, but these paragliders appear to be able to ogle us voyeuristically from the air without regulation. I know most of them have video cameras as well. One paraglider even landed on our private property. I complained to the Guernsey Paragliding Club [...] replied justifying paragliders rights and entitlements. What about respecting my privacy on my own property? What about the harassment I endured? I felt very threatened by this complete stranger hanging above my home, having a good look at me and my property. Please close this legal loophole asap!

Jazmin (CAA) 4 years ago

Thank you for your comments. Our prime role in protecting third parties is for their safety, which we do through our oversight and regulation. There are no UK privacy laws covering aircraft flying over property. All aircraft do have to comply with safety regulations which state they must not come within 500ft of any person or structure unless landing. If you have evidence that this rule may have been breached then you can contact us. Details at

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