U.K. GA Pilots Told To Stay Home


While pilots in many places are taking advantage of the COVID-19 downtime and getting some flying done, the U.K. is strongly suggesting that recreational pilots hang up their headsets until physical distancing measures are relaxed. The government has not prohibited recreational flying but it has suggested that those who don’t fly to provide essential services limit their activity to a few narrowly restricted types of flights and to only fly solo. Flight training, in particular, is frowned upon. The authorities say the rationale is that they don’t want air traffic services to be burdened by handling non-essential flights and they don’t want an accident to divert rescue and medical resources away from the COVID fight.

Under the government guidelines, non-commercial GA flights in everything from balloons to helicopters should be limited to ferry flights for maintenance when the maintenance required can’t be obtained at the aircraft’s base airport, post-maintenance test flights and “engine health flights” that are specifically required by the engine manufacturer. In the absence of the manufacturer’s requirement, operators are being urged to prevent internal corrosion by winterization or inhibition. 

So far, the government says it is satisfied with the response from private pilots and the guidelines will remain as guidelines. “The message we are receiving from the GA community is that they fully appreciate the need for these restrictions, and observing them is being widely encouraged throughout the community,” the government guidance says. “Because the directive to stay at home is being well observed, we do not perceive a need to introduce a specific ban on flying by visual flight rules (VFR) as seen in some European countries.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. It is effectively a ban due to so many airfields being shutdown. It’s going to be mahem when restictions are lifted and a lot of rusty pilots are aloft – especially since the dramatic expansion of controlled airspace around Farnborough airport, which was intruced just before the pandemic.

    • I shouldn’t worry about that too much. This being Britain, the moment the restrictions are lifted the rain will start and we’ll be back to winter all over again.

  2. Interesting that this article should run concurrent with the one about the RV-8 pilot that flew to three of America’s busiest airports and was welcomed by controllers.

  3. “The authorities say the rationale is that they don’t want air traffic services to be burdened by handling non-essential flights….”

    Wait… what?!

    Hardly anybody is flying, commercial or otherwise. The only additional burden ATC is facing right now is boredom.

    • Obviously, the “burdening” of ATC is a reach for an excuse, as is the “they will crash and divert resources from COVID-19”. MY take is that it arises from the unspoken feeling that it is simply not morally acceptable for some to be having fun while others are, or could be, suffering. Understandable, sort of, but (again, in my opinion) misguided.

      The Aussies have an all-purpose word, “wanker”, which, among many other meanings, can be used to describe “one of those people who exist in a constant state of unrest, tortured by the thought that, somewhere out there just beyond their control, there are people having fun”.

    • I’d happily call BS on that argument. Along with the popular one that if you have an accident it’ll divert emergency services away from dealing with COVID. You’re far more likely to injure yourself doing DIY at home while you’re restricted from going out. Certainly if your DIY skills are anything like mine. I think the only convincing reason for not flying at the moment is a moral one.

      Government advice is to stay at home apart from “essential journeys” and for work, but only if you can’t work from home. I find that pretty clear, and fortunately the majority of GA pilots seem to as well, judging by the decrease in GA activity.