At the December 2016 regular Council Meeting of the HAA a significant decision was taken to initiate a Strategic Review of the Association.

The Council debated whether, if the HAA did not exist, would the historic aviation community band together and set up such an organisation today. The HAA possesses expertise in display flying, in the maintenance and in the operation of Annex II aircraft, which fall outside of regulation by EASA. However, it was considered that Council did not know – and that it ought to find out – what the historic aircraft sector really wanted from an association.

As a starting point, statistics on the size and the scope of the historic aircraft industry were required and these are going to be gathered to provide that essential information. It was felt there is a need for an organisation to speak up for display pilots. Council considered that no-one was currently doing this. The British Air Display Association (BADA) was felt to be the voice of air show organisers, but not the voice of air show pilots.

It was observed that there was a group of high-profile war-bird owners and display pilots, who individually lobby the CAA, but they were not formally representing the full spectrum of the historic aircraft community. Certainly display pilots themselves felt they were not being listened to. The need for an effective representative body was all the more pressing, as anecdotally the CAA had demonstrated over time that it was really only listening to individual inputs where those inputs fell in line with CAA policy. The Council agreed that there was a need for an organisation to properly represent the interests of the whole historic aircraft community.

The terrible accident at Shoreham in 2015 has been a game-changer for the display industry and has had far-reaching consequences for the historic aircraft sector. Many displays were cancelled or scaled down in 2016, resulting in far fewer revenue hours for many operators. The air show calendar is not looking much better for 2017. It is now more difficult for pilots to stay current on type and to maintain recency in display sequences. It was reported that many iconic aircraft were being sold, with buyers only evident outside the UK mainly in the USA and Australia. Moreover, the CAA had become not only risk-averse, but positively unwilling to consider new ways of working, citing their workload arising from Shoreham.

Prior to Shoreham the HAA had submitted detailed proposals to the CAA to accept responsibility under delegated authority to provide the administrative oversight for historic aircraft activity – Self Administration or SAM. This system has the potential to re-vitalise the historic aircraft community. For example, our proposal for Adventure Flying was adapted by the CAA into their own version of CAP 1395 Safety Standards and Consent system that now enables people to buy flights in the back seat of a Spitfire. However, since the Shoreham accident, the CAA have effectively parked the HAA proposal for SAM. They claim their limited resources are concentrating on defending the CAA from the anticipated public back-lash to Shoreham. Against this background, the HAA has been facing an uphill struggle to secure the engagement of the industry, where the Association was not seen as having effective answers to the threats facing the historic aircraft sector.

The HAA Council reached a conclusion last month that if it was to be a truly representative body of the historic aircraft community, changes needed to be made. The HAA has an honourable history, but since the 1990’s it has regrettably become seen as a somewhat moribund and less effective organisation than desired, lacking the widespread influence or recognition within the historic aircraft community.

It was against this background that the Council decided to initiate this Strategic Review and take a very hard look at the Association. Council has formed a Task Force by inviting 5 influential individuals from the wider historic aircraft community to conduct an independent review to consider the future strategy of the Association. Cliff Spink, Roger Bailey, Phil O’Dell, Edwin Brenninkmeyer, Phil Hall and Malcolm Ward will be undertaking this review during the next few weeks with the aim of providing recommendations to the Association in time for the next Annual Meeting scheduled for 19th March 2017.

If you have any views or suggestions the Strategic Review Task Force would be pleased to receive them. You can email your suggestions through the Secretary Malcolm Ward at:
[email protected]