News Special

FLYER’s Twenty Most Read articles of 2023

One of the benefits of being an online publication is that we have access to a whole bunch of analytics showing us how many people read a specific article, how long they spend reading it, where they are in the world and what sort of device they read it on (smartphone, tablet or desktop computer).

It’s the sort of data print magazines dream of. Here, we know what subjects really interest our readers. The three As – Airfields, Aircraft and Airspace – are hot topics. As is anything to do with the Spitfire. It’s amazing to see how the iconic WWII warbird still stirs the soul of all pilots.

However, even with all these insights, there are always a few surprises and in our list below of the Twenty Most Read articles of 2023, there are some that we really did not expect.

1 ‘Severe and negative’ impact if Northumbria Danger Area goes ahead

Are drones really a solution for the NHS?

Are drones really a solution for the NHS?

The single Most Read article of 2023 was one about a proposed drone trial around Newcastle, published in August. The sheer clumsiness of the planned trial annoyed the heck out of a lot of people and led to us starting Drone Watch – and introduced a new phrase into reporting: ‘Grant Harvesting’.

UPDATE There was a huge response from pilots, industry and flying associations which led to major changes in how the proposed Apian Northumbria NHS drone trial will be implemented.

The response was so effective that drone company Apian has revised the timeline of its Airspace Change Proposal. The formal ACP submission has been pushed back from October 2023 by four months to February 2024. Apian’s revised plan is to start the trials on 14 May 2024 for six months.

2 How much for a PPL(A) these days?

How much does it cost to get a Private Pilot’s Licence? This was the first article in a series of four, written by Yayeri van Baarsen. The series examined the process and costs associated with learning to fly in four types of powered flight: aeroplanes, helicopters, microlights and gyrocopters. Part 1: The PPL(A).

3 How did Van’s Aircraft get into this mess?

Dick VanGrunsven founder of Van's Aircraft

Dick VanGrunsven, founder of Van’s Aircraft

Van’s Aircraft, the world leader in producing in kit aircraft with over 50 years of experience in the  industry, announced on 27 October that it was facing “serious cash flow issues.” There’s no question things were serious –  the message was delivered personally by company president Dick VanGrunsven.

So how did a company with such a successful range of products and enormous order book end up here? Well there were a few factors which Ed Hicks, a Van’s aircraft builder and pilot, highlights.

UPDATE Van’s has not shied away from discussing its problems, preferring to involve and inform its customers – and the world – of how it’s tackling its financial black hole.

The kitplane maker has been systematically working through the factors mentioned in the above story, and coming up with solutions. Company founder Dick VanGrunsven has put in a huge amount of his own money and there have also been some difficult but probably overdue price rises.

4 What are the UK’s Top FIVE airfields?

We know that airfield articles are important to FLYER readers. Such articles regularly feature high in our website traffic stats. So it’s not entirely a surprise that this article, based on data released by navigation app SkyDemon, is popular. 

What IS a surprise is that it only went live on 18 December and here it is just three weeks later at number 4. It’s too early for an update but it has given us some ideas for future articles.

5 Thousands of Spitfires to be mass produced in UK

Spitfire goes back into production! Well, OK, the Airfix kit

Spitfire goes back into production! Well, OK, the Airfix kit

Now this was a surprise! This news story was actually first published in November 2022 but even counting just the page views it had in 2023, it still clocks in at number 5. What did we say about the Spitfire stirring the soul…

Yes, the headline is a little cheeky. Sorry (not sorry). The story is actually about Airfix producing a new plastic model kit of the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.1Xc in the UK for the first time in many years.

6 Kittyhawk Aerodrome for sale – guess how much?

Kittyhawk Aerodrome

Kittyhawk Aerodrome in East Sussex

KittyHawk Aerodrome in East Sussex is a gorgeous grass strip in a stunning location and when it came up for sale last summer, including an architect designed house, there was huge interest. You could practically hear FLYER readers saying, “When my Lottery numbers come up…” 

7 City of Doncaster determined to reopen airport

Was it really a shock when property developers Peel Group decided in 2022 to close Doncaster Sheffield Airport and build on the site? That’s what property developers do isn’t it? Never mind that the impact on the local area, people and businesses would be awful.

Fortunately, the local councils and especially the City of Doncaster, are refusing to take this lying down. Back in May 2023 we reported that the city council was determined to reopen the airport:  Mayor Ros Jones said that a Compulsory Purchase Order is possible “if all other avenues are exhausted”.

UPDATE A number of companies have responded to a tender issued in September for an operator to take on running the airport. A decision is imminent in 2024.

8 Rotax announces not-so secret 916isc engine

Official European launch of the 160hp Rotax 916iS engine at AERO

Official European launch of the 160hp Rotax 916iS engine at AERO

Just before the April AERO show at Friedrichshafen, Germany, the Austrian engine maker Rotax officially unveiled a new engine, the 160hp 916iS/c.

The 916iSc is aimed at four-seater aircraft and high performance two-seaters – such as the CubCrafters Carbon Cub UL which was the launch aircraft. The 916iSc weighs 85.8 kilograms and with a claimed max power of 160hp, it has an ‘unprecedented power-to-weight ratio in the light aircraft segment’. 

9 British Airways opens sponsored pilot training at new Speedbird Pilot Academy 

 It was the announcement thousands of would-be airline pilots dreamed of: British Airways would sponsor 60 cadets (the name given to student pilots) through their training for an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). Applications opened in September 2023 and BA quickly upped the total to 100 cadets.

UPDATE The 100 successful candidates received an offer during December and will start their training with one of two flight schools, FTEJerez in Spain and Skyborne at Gloucester Airport. Will BA’s offer be repeated in 2024? Stay tuned to FLYER’s Pilot Careers pages.

10 Spitfire pilot Carolyn Grace killed in car accident 

Carolyn Grace

Carolyn Grace

In December 2022, the daughter of former Spitfire display pilot Carolyn Grace announced that her mother died in a car accident in Australia. It was a terrible twist of fate. Carolyn took up display flying the Spitfire only after her husband, Nick, had been killed in a car accident…

11 Shoreham’s FTA flight school closes with students owed money

Disaster in May for cadet pilots at one of the UK’s top Approved Training Organisations (ATOs) when FTA went bust taking money paid up front by student pilots with it. The closure started a noisy conversation about flight training and the risks of students’ money… but precious little has come of it so far.

 12 Yeovil – home of British helicopters

Who'd have thought the Somerset town of Yeovil is the home of British helicopters? But it is

Who’d have thought the Somerset town of Yeovil is the home of British helicopters?

In April, Rachel Ramsay wrote, “For more than a century, as the home of Westland, the Somerset town [Yeovil] has given life to icon after icon. The Lysander. The Scout and Wasp. The Lynx. The Sea King. And now its newest ‘multirole battlefield platform’, the AW149.”

It’s a fascinating story of one of the few places in the UK where aircraft manufacturing is still taking place.

13 Scampton Airfield to stay operational when sold

When the RAF was about to leave Scampton in March 2023, the local council announced a £300m plan to regenerate the 800 acre site while retaining it as an operational airfield and keeping its glorious heritage intact.

But it turned out that the UK government and Home Office had other ideas and a week later they announced a centre for asylum seekers was to be based there.

UPDATE The story has gone on and on, with the council taking the Home Office to court. However, in early December, the High Court ruled the Home Office had acted legally. Where now? The council says it will fight on. 

Fenland Airfield

Fenland Airfield, a great grass airfield

14 Fenland Airfield for sale

Another surprise in the traffic stats! This article first appeared in 2021 but continues to rack up page views.

UPDATE No news of change of ownership but the airfield is still open and operating and it’s staged many successful events including fly-ins and aerobatic competitions. 

15 Robin Aircraft placed in liquidation by French court

Robin DR401 aircraft

End of the runway for Robin Aircraft?

It’s been a difficult year for Robin Aircraft after a manufacturing fault resulted in an Emergency Airworthiness Directive by EASA in December 2022. That was soon amended but it hit Robin’s finances and in November, the Dijon Commercial Court put the company into liquidation.

UPDATE On 27 December, CEAPR, the company associated with Robin and CAP and holder of the type certificates, announced it had restarted production of the aircraft. 

16 Swansea Airport licence suspended by CAA

 The decline of Swansea Airport over many years has left pilots and others in despair and in February the CAA agreed, suspending the airport’s licence citing ‘safety management issues’. Despite this, Swansea Council which owns the airport, renewed the lease of the current operator on the advice of council officials.

UPDATE Finally, in September, Swansea Council had the guts to admit it had made a mistake and issued a legal bid to end the operator’s lease.

17 How much does a helicopter PPL cost?

The magic of flying a helicopter! This could be you flying this two-seat Robinson R22

The magic of flying a helicopter! This could be you flying this two-seat Robinson R22

Another in our popular series on how much it costs to train for a private pilot’s licence. This time: the PPL(H). 

18 Three men arrested following Bagby air crash

A crash at Bagby Airfield in July 2023 stunned many people when it was announced that the pilot had died in the accident. He was 21-year-old Harvey Dunmore, a popular pilot who had always wanted to fly.

The AAIB attended and is still working on its investigation. In September, three men were arrested by North Yorkshire Police on suspicion of manslaughter.

19 First flight for world’s only airworthy Hawker Tempest

First flight for the WWII Hawker Tempest. Photo: Sywell Aviation Museum

First flight for the WWII Hawker Tempest. Photo: Sywell Aviation Museum

The patience and dedication of warbird restorers is legendary and none more so than the team behind this Hawker Tempest who spent 34 years bringing it back to life. 

20 Bose A30 review

Ian, right, wearing the latest Bose A30. Ed Hicks, left, has the Bose A20

Ian, right, wearing the latest Bose A30. Ed Hicks, left, has the Bose A20

“Thirteen years ago Bose launched the A20. It started its life at the top of the tree, and it’s from that envious position that it can now look forward to its well earned retirement. There’s a new kid in the cockpit, and it’s the Bose A30,” wrote Ian Seager in March. Clearly he’s a fan and here you can read why, and watch a video of the A30 being used in flight.

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