I got a few emails in the last few days that has made me think to myself, Is this the end of General Aviation at Cranfield?
The latest email I have received has stated that due to a controller shortage that the airport will be closed every weekend from 24th September until the March 2017. On top of this there are the following closures.
September 2016: 15th-18th for Festival of Flight.
20th – 25th September possibly to relay the runway.
November 2016: 3rd
December 2016: 21st, 24th-27th
February 2017: 8th
March 2017: 1st
Single ATCO days – Opening times will be 0900-1100 / 1600-1800. Prior Permission Required.
October 2016: 14th
November 2016: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 18th
December 2016: 2nd, 16th, 19th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd
January 2017: 20th
February 2017: 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 24th, 27th, 28th
March 2017: 2nd, 3rd, 24th
As you can see, this is a horribly unworkable situation for just about everyone involved. As a student I completed my PPL (Private Pilot Licence) on weekends. I am sure there are students that will be massively impacted by this, especially the ones who are also trying to complete their training around a full time job.
I guess I can consider myself lucky as I have completed my PPL, if I was still training now I would be in a pretty bad situation. I just wouldn’t have the time to complete it mid-week and I would be left with no choice but to change schools.
The schools / flying clubs based there will also be pretty badly impacted. At my school the weekend flying is normally non stop. This is also a lot of cash that they now cannot earn, and GA schools work to a pretty tight margins, so I can only imagine that this is really going to affect them.
If the schools / flying clubs are not making that much money then you have to question their ability to survive. The airfield has already lost some famous schools like Cabair (twice) and Bonus Aviation.
I know people have a love / hate relationship with Cranfield, however it really is a nice place to fly from. Is it the cheapest? Most defiantly not, but it has full ATC, fire services and well maintained facilities.
The lack of weekend flying means that finding the time to actually fly is going to be a lot harder, I work a 9-5 and winter is coming up so it gets dark a lot quicker. This is ok at the moment as I need to complete a night rating but what about after that? The thought of having to book half days to go flying until March is not really an ideal situation.
I hope everyone can come together and find a workable situation for Cranfield, I know there are suggestions of a radio service being put on for the weekends. I will wait to see if anything will come from it but I will not be holding my breath.