Airfields in Norfolk back possible changes to air display costs in wake of Shoreham disaster

Some of the many fantastic planes on display at The Old Buckenham Airshow.

Some of the many fantastic planes on display at The Old Buckenham Airshow. - Credit: citizenside.com

Airfields in Norfolk have backed the likely introduction of hefty costs to hold air displays in the wake of the Shoreham disaster, saying 'safety comes first'.

Some of the many fantastic planes on display at The Old Buckenham Airshow.

Some of the many fantastic planes on display at The Old Buckenham Airshow. - Credit: citizenside.com

Investigations were quickly launched last August after 11 people died and 16 were injured when a vintage jet crashed onto a busy road during Shoreham Airshow.

Initial findings suggest that greater risk assessment and management of displays is needed - regulations the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) believe could spiral up to £250,000.

Last week, substantial changes to its Scheme of Charges were announced that, in some cases, could see airfields pay more than £15,000 per show to cover the costs.

The main changes, which are part of an ongoing consultation, include a new post-event fee and the doubling of initial charges to hold a display.

While some have accused the CAA of ringing the death knell for airshows, one of East Anglia's largest airfields has backed the changes.

Matt Wilkins, Old Buckenham airfield manager, said the increase in costs would be worthwhile if the industry is made safer.

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'Safety is the number one priority and everyone needs to remember that,' he said. 'I think the cost is not even worth mentioning when we are talking about 11 people dying at an airshow.

'We fully back the CAA. If we were talking about increasing the costs by five or six times, it might be different - but compared to the aims here, it seems very reasonable. Safety comes first.'

The airshow welcomes 12 acts during its displays, which means their additional costs are not likely to exceed £1,500.

Those at Seething Airfield, which also has 12 acts at its annual charity air day, also supported the changes, although admitted regulations put in place after Shoreham could mean the shows are 'less exciting'.

They include limiting ex-military jets flying over land to fly-pasts, rather than aerobatic displays.

A CAA spokesperson said: 'Safety is always our first priority and we are committed to continuously enhancing the safety of all civil aviation. We are a full cost-recovery regulator and are not funded by the taxpayer, but instead by the 'user pays' principle, with the industry we regulate paying the costs of our regulation.

'Each year we consult on the proposed charges that will apply, covering all aspects of our regulatory work. This provides an opportunity for interested parties to provide their views.

'The charges for air displays are set out separately and are based purely on the amount it costs us to deliver this activity.

'Our current air display charges consultation is based on the under recovery of costs prior to the 2015/2016 financial year.

'The charges consultation also reflects the costs of implementing the additional safety activities outlined in the recent air display action report.'

The Duxford Airshow, in Cambridgeshire, is likely to be hit hardest. With about 50 aircraft flying per show, their costs are set to rise significantly if the changes are approved.

A spokesperson for the Imperial War Museum Duxford said they could not comment on the changes until the consultation period ends on February 29.

To have your say, email infoservices@caa.co.uk

What do you think of the news? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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