Ian Seager

Squawks

With Ian Seager

Opinion

Stop inventing hurdles

All you need is love… Except, when it comes to flying, your devotion can be well and truly challenged…

God, I love flying. I love the way it messes with your head when you have breakfast in one country, lunch in another and dinner in a third.

I love the way it frees you from the tedium of the whole big airport / commercial passenger flying thing, and I love the freedom you get from (sort of) making things work on your own timetable rather than anyone else’s.

But sometimes that love gets tested, and I don’t mean by the avgas prices, even if they are pretty painful right now…

Having recently done a bunch of European flying, I’m happy to say that the advantages of private flying are still there in spades, but there are times when the perpetual army of rule makers and jobsworths do a great job of making it just a little less enjoyable.

I know it’s a first world problem, and I know that individually these things aren’t too difficult to deal with, but the hassle is cumulative.

Every little bit of pain moves people just that little bit further away from their ideal, and a little bit closer to their tipping point.

I should probably kick off with a rant about PPR for airfields and airports, but that’s a wall I’ve banged my head against a few times now.

Rather than rinse and repeat old arguments, I’ll just point out that an increasing number of online PPR systems (all of which are different) offer nothing in the way of benefit to the pilot, and while I’m all for making everyone’s life easier, I don’t think that should be at the expense of making someone else’s life materially more difficult.

“An increasing number of online PPR systems (all of which are different) offer nothing in the way of benefit to the pilot”

A good example would be a coastal airport in Northern France. The vast majority of airfields in France don’t require any kind of PPR, but this one now asks for 24-hours notice.

Yes, it’s only an email, but having to set arrival times, even if they are an estimate, a day before you intend to fly, kind of fixes your schedule and removes the flexibility you would have previously enjoyed.

In a similar, but perhaps more serious vein, is the whole Prior Notice Required (PNR) thing for customs in France. Although there are a couple where two hours will suffice – take a bow Calais and Le Touquet – many have moved to 12 or 24 hour PNR (or even more if you want to land on a Monday).

Again, this fixes your schedule ahead without you knowing the exact weather. That’s going to make life very difficult if you encounter any kind of significant delay, hardly unheard of.

Some airfields, in the name of something or other, can make getting in or out a bit tricky, or at least a bit of a chore for those who are unfamiliar.

Locals or regular visitors may know that you need to find a certain gate before ringing the third bell down on the left to be let airside, but if it’s your first visit it can be tricky.

Similarly, paying landing fees can present a bit of a challenge.

Over the last couple of months I’ve paid once in advance online, another by scanning a QR code and then paying via a website, another by calling someone to give them my email address so that they could send me an invoice, one by old-fashioned cash, and not paid another because the airfield decided that it cost more to collect than was raised, so got rid of landing fees altogether!

I realise that I might be sounding like a curmudgeonly old bloke sat in the corner of a flying club bar mumbling to anyone who’ll listen, but my serious point is that the wonder of travel by General Aviation can so easily be tainted by the cumulative effect of a hundred small bumps.

Make it simple, make it easy – and make it so that people want to fly more, not less.

 

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