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A new independent review commissioned and funded by the Department for Transport, to assess the current level of risk to private pilots, their passengers and third parties has concluded that the current safety performance of recreational General Aviation (GA) in the UK is acceptable.

In reaching this decision it compared GA to other recreational activities that people voluntarily take part in and the non-commercial aviation safety performance in other states. Recreational flying, part of the GA sector, is defined as non-commercial or private flying in non-complex aircraft.

The review, which has been published today www.caa.co.uk/cap1886, consulted widely with the GA community. It found that most recreational flying accidents are the result of human factors; and the most effective approach in reducing those accidents is more likely to be through continuous pilot training and improvement, rather than further regulation.

Pilots should be encouraged and there should be an expectation that pilots will undertake periodic training throughout their flying careers. Both through voluntary attendance at refresher or further development training sessions and through the current initiative to bring about, through guidance, a more structured approach to the requirement to fly every two years with an instructor.

The review states the CAA should continue to monitor safety trends and take appropriate action if the trend or risk significantly increases, including the option of setting a compulsory requirement for further development training.

It also points out that safety can never be regarded as a 'job done'. Reinforcement and revision of safety messages has to be continuously adopted by the GA community. The report recognises the importance of the safety promotion work carried out by all the GA associations.

The independent Chair of the review, Geoffrey Podger said: “The main risks of recreational general aviation are borne by those who undertake it on a voluntary basis. Our study shows that the level of risk is comparable to that found in other higher risk sporting activities and that further regulatory restrictions would not be justified. There is however a strong message to the recreational community of the need to revise and update their skills which is the key to reducing the tragic accidents which still occur.”

UK Approach to Recreational General Aviation Safety: An Independent Review has been published via the CAA Website and is available at www.caa.co.uk/cap1886. Comments on the review or its conclusions, should be sent to GASafety@caa.co.uk by 24th April 2020.

You can hear an interview with the report's authors on the CAA's On Air podcast.

Co-author Tony Rapson has also written a blog about the review's findings.

Notes to Editors:

The Department for Transport committed to this review in their Green Paper “Aviation 2050: The Future of Aviation.”

The Independent Chair of the Review, Geoffrey Podger CB is Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Risk Management at King's College, London. He is currently Head of the UK Delegation to the Intergovernmental Commission on the Channel Tunnel and Chair of National Compliance and Risk Qualifications as well as holding other non-executive and advisory roles in the public, private and voluntary sectors. He previously led four UK and overseas regulatory related agencies including as Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive from 2005 to 2013. Geoffrey chaired the Civil Aviation Authority Challenge Panel on Air Display Safety in 2015/6.

Geoffrey was provided technical support by the CAA led by Tony Rapson who set up the CAA's General Aviation Unit to deliver a more proportionate, effective, regulatory regime that supports and encourages a dynamic general aviation sector. He stepped down as Head of the GA Unit in May 2019 and has been working on this safety study since then.