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What creates a healthy GA scene in some countries

Moved out from the off topic thread

I can’t say I understand this debate and cannot contribute but I would like to ask a question. It is a serious question amd not a wind up. Le Sving writes about all these freedoms that makes Norway, Germany and of course the USA such successful flying communities. I know of one or two, like the ability to do pilot maintenance on certified aircraft and no landing fees at big airports, but is there a list somewhere of the other differences. Here, there are at the last AGM’s some 40, 000 ppl members of the FFA 30, 000 members of the ULM community FFPULM and then there are other organisations and owner pilots. If we are missing out on something it would be good to know what it is and maybe mobilise this community to try and do something about it. The French are good at mobilizing:)


There are two distinct operating regimes: certified and uncertified. The certified regime allows pilot maintenance privileges (basically the 50hr service) and everything above that has to be done by an authorised person or company. The uncertified regime allows much more pilot maintenance, and in some cases, depending on the country of registry, the owner can do everything, with or without any external inspection, but you don’t have the automatic international flying privileges which certified aircraft have. ULMs are somewhere between the two, in terms of both owner maintenance and flying privileges. And there are many other factors e.g. licensing and medicals, which make the uncertified scene attractive despite the international limitations.

Germany has a healthy GA scene because e.g.

  • it has a long aviation history, with the benefit of the WW2-driven airfield numbers (so has the UK actually)
  • it has a large GA community (biggest in Europe)
  • the pilots don’t mind spending money (unlike e.g. the Brits)
  • it has reasonably good weather

The USA has various other benefits in addition – too many to list…

  • one huge country with uniform procedures and everything else, and negligible need to travel outside it
  • FAA channels taxpayer money into airports as an infrastructure policy
  • many historical benefits e.g. free or very low airport fees
  • a huge “ecosystem” of parts suppliers, maintenance companies, etc
  • a coherent community (in Europe, gliders, powered GA, ULs, etc, mostly avoid talking to each other)
  • an Experimental regime with almost no limitations on use
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Well, I’ll try to continue that then.

Switzerland has a healthy scene because of similar reasons.

  • long history and large number of airfields.
  • most airflields have customs procedures allowing direct flights to Schengen countries.
  • a number of GA accessible airports/airfields also allow direct flights outside Schengen (Airports of Entry)
  • there is a fairly large number of airplanes in ownership as well as many rental planes available.
  • there is good maintenance infrastructure and almost all airfields have fuel.
  • English language RT is accepted and actually the norm at all airfields and the whole infrastructure.

gallois wrote:

If we are missing out on something it would be good to know what it is and maybe mobilise this community to try and do something about it. The French are good at mobilizing:)

Personally I always liked France to fly in, you have a great infrastructure and beautiful landscape. The rest you mentioned yourself. What can France improve?

  • Get rid of the FR only restrictions, accept English language RT universally parallel to French. (same way it’s done in Switzerland)
  • Implement a system of customs militia (customs / immigration on request) on all larger aerodromes (as it used to be). Empower the local Gendarmerie to offer this service and implement a system like the UK GAR or Swiss / German / elsewhere 1-2 hour PPR customs.
  • Clean up the airspace system to something a human being without mastey of knitting patterns can easily understand and deal with.
LSZH, Switzerland

For me, France is great for GA flying. Lots of airports which are open 24/7. Low landing/parking fees on most of them. Lots of great places to visit. Great ATC staff.

EDLE, Netherlands

Italy is great for GA flying … err … because the food is good at most airfields.

Happy only when flying
Sabaudia airstrip

I would try to separate legacy, causes and consequences here.
WW airfields for example, are closing one after another in the UK, and not in the US.
FR only restrictions come from our DGAC freaking out which comes partly because nobody (they would listen to) took this fight.

To me the main root causes of success or failure of GA are :
- the level of organization and concord between all aviation stakeholders (from the aircraft makers, business aviation users, high-end GA, to the UL members). Take Oshkosh for example : a popular event that became a perfect mix of business and pleasure, managed mostly by EAA volunteers. When Fedex grounds a Boeing a whole week there just to allow kids to walk into it, imagine how much it cost them ! Imagine Air France putting an Airbus at the RSA/FFPLUM show, or even Lufthansa at AERO ! There, even Cirrus doesn’t talk to you if you don’t look rich enough !
- the flexibility of the local administation and their view of GA : they can more or less kill their local GA if they want too. See Greece or Italy. In the US, the FAA itself fights against excessive fees (last reference to the US, promise )

The second argument depends on the first, but I thought about the case of a country where GA is relatively new/small, like Eastern Europe.

That’s only my humble opinion !


I spoke to a guy who owns a busy airfield with 83 aeroplanes based in the south of England this week. He said “I’ve done a survey William and the average age of the pilots here is 61 so in 15 years time will I have any customers left flying?”

Says a lot to me.

Buying, Selling, Flying
EIBR, Ireland

Lots of good observations here, but to me the single biggest factor is airspace design, specifically airspace design simple and unobtrusive enough to make ATC optional for most trips. Second would be airports that do not require interaction with airport staff to use.

The decline of GA over the last 40 years correlates with more and more control over aircraft operations, and less flexibility. What was once marketed successfully to normal people now recruits disproportionately from IT people, in other words people who more naturally align communication with productivity. There aren’t a lot of those people, and the average person is not attracted to leisure time activities that mandate pre-flight approvals or real time control and communication. Where that’s not mandatory GA does better, e.g. Italian UL or similar activity and conventional US-based GA.

Good food doesn’t hurt either The route to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 02 Aug 00:08

Well, I would say that Sweden is more successful in many ways. Sweden has a more evolved GA community as a whole with more and better typical “GA airfields”. A living aviation industry also helps. On the other hand, in Norway we have a network of public airports all along the entire coast, mainly used for airlines. They are open for all of GA, free parking, pay a small(ish) yearly take off fee, use as much as you want. Cheaper fuel (but AVGAS is not everywhere).

We maintain all our club aircraft in Sweden for instance, since that’s where the closest facilities are where I live. It’s probably more correct to look at the Scandinavian peninsula as one continuous place for GA flying, with the core of GA airfields in the middle/south east (flat and relatively stable weather), and a bunch of public airports and cool flying along the coast of Norway (scenic, and cool, but with lots of weather). You could also include Denmark and Finland into this to some extent, and probably also Germany (at least that is what the Germans do. In the summer months there are almost as many Germans planes hanging around as Norwegian/Swedish).

My bullet points :

  • A coherent community. No difference flying an experimental or a certified (nothing at all). No difference flying a UL or certified. Everybody use the same airfields. ATC treats everyone the same. It’s all mixed up, and people usually are involved with several “categories”.
  • A community that (in most part) focus on having a great time, relaxed and easy going. A very pronounced “flying is for everyone” attitude.
  • Huge (in European measures) area to fly in. Varied terrain, easy airspace, nice ATC. Lots of airspace per plane.
  • Daylight 24/7 in the summer (but cold and dark in the December/January… time for maintenance/building)
  • Lots of free, open no nonsense airfields for GA. You can fly around as you please.

I don’t know. The focus of (private) GA has definitely shifted from being somewhat utility based (like a car), to a much more recreation- and sport based activity (like a boat) in the last 20-40 years. It’s just that we in general don’t see that as a problem, and we don’t create problems out of it. Healthy and sustainable sport and recreational activities are (much) more important than keeping a dysfunctional (private) “utility” business alive, or pretending to do. The shift towards UL, experimental and even vintage aviation is already finished most places. There is no return. Maybe in the future something completely different turns up for “utility”, large drones or something? The key is to include those “new” activities as parts of aviation, on equal terms as other aviation. We have done that I think. Other places they allow it, but don’t integrate it on equal terms: Separate fields for UL, IFR not allowed in homebuilt aircraft and other pure bureaucratic nonsense.


The only reason GA is reasonably free and unregulated in Scandinavia is because it’s such a small field in scarcely populated nations. GA flies under the radar completely. The greater masses don’t know about it and it’s therefore not subject to a lot of scrutiny and over-regulation. But you better believe that if it got any bigger, and suddenly appeared on the radar, it would be regulated to within an inch of its life. So it’s not because they’re lovers of personal freedom or great friends of aviation – it’s because it’s an oversight so far.

Last Edited by AdamFrisch at 02 Aug 05:33
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