Notices & News

Statement from Oxford and Biggin Hill Airports

3rd February 2015

London Oxford and Biggin Hill Airports wish to clarify the following:

* The safety of all civilian aircraft using government owned military aerodromes is the sole responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority not the Military Aviation Authority or MOD.
* The CAA is now responsible for deciding if RAF Northolt is safe for use by civil aircraft.
* An assessment by the CAA is required and this may require civil aviation use of Northolt to be restricted, unless it is upgraded.
* This upgrade may result in taxpayers facing a bill in excess of £20 million
* It has been admitted (by MOD and CAA) that Northolt does not comply with Civil Aviation safety standards.
* The Court ruling impacts on all civilian flights using military aerodromes, including the 12,000 civilian flights a year at RAF Northolt.

In a landmark ruling last week, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Secretary of State advised that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the statutory regulator required to determine safety standards for civilian aircraft using government owned military aerodromes.

Previously, as part of a policy of attracting 12,000 more business jets a year to RAF Northolt in west London, Ministers had repeatedly argued that they didn’t need to meet stricter, costlier civilian safety standards – only military ones – and that the CAA had no regulatory responsibility or powers at military aerodromes.

This meant that smaller private airports reliant on business jets were being significantly undermined, as RAF Northolt became a competitor accepting civil flights without incurring the higher costs of complying with civilian safety standards.

London Oxford and Biggin Hill Airports, represented by John Steel QC, lodged an application for a Judicial Review, arguing that the use of military aerodromes by civil aircraft should be regulated by the CAA and subject to equivalent safety standards that would apply to civilian airports, as mandated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA).

This Judicial Review has now clarified the position – the CAA and the Secretary of State for Transport are responsible for the safety of all civilian flights using RAF Northolt and other military aerodromes in the U.K. The safety of military flights remains the exclusive responsibility of the Military Aviation Authority and MOD.

The Judgment is also likely to have a major impact on an ongoing EU competition investigation concerning State Aid, and requested by London Oxford and Biggin Hill Airports. Should the Commission find that the MOD have been unfairly competing with the private sector, the compensation bill could run into many tens of millions.