Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jodel D-120A, G-ASXU: 'Impounded' aircraft flies out of former Plymouth airport

Preparing to leave the former airport at Plymouth, pilot Martin Ferid said he was glad the "saga" was over.

A pilot who had his vintage aircraft "impounded" after an emergency landing three weeks ago, has flown home.

Martin Ferid made the precautionary landing at the former Plymouth Airport site on 9 August.

The site's leaseholder, Sutton Harbour Holdings (SHH), said it was an act of trespass and refused to allow the plane to leave, citing safety reasons.

An agreement was reached after assurances about liability insurance and the plane's airworthiness.

'Responsible company'

Mr Ferid, an experienced pilot and instructor, said he was relieved the matter had been resolved.

"Glad to have the airplane back and glad that this saga is over," he told BBC News.

"There's one good bit that's come out of it, because I don't think anyone else will take this stance again in an emergency situation."

Mr Ferid was en route from Cornwall to Kent in his  Jodel D-120A, G-ASXU,  when the deteriorating weather forced him to land.

His actions were in line with the Civil Aviation Authority-approved Strasser Scheme, endorsed by 98% of UK airfields.

SHH had previously insisted the plane could only be removed by road and concrete blocks were placed in front of the aircraft.

However following the intervention of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Charles Strasser, the founder of the Strasser Scheme, an agreement was reached.

The company confirmed the aircraft had left the former airport site "safely" just before 11:30 BST.

"Our position throughout this matter has been quite clear in that as a responsible company we had to be satisfied that any decision we made ensured that this aircraft was able to leave safely," a statement said.

A plane ‘impounded’ at Plymouth’s defunct airport for more than two weeks will be allowed to fly off on Friday after a lengthy wrangle following his emergency landing.

Airport leaseholders Sutton Harbour Holdings (SSH) originally told the pilot, who was forced to carry out the unscheduled landing on the defunct runway on Sunday August 9 after encountering bad weather, that he would have to remove his Jodel G-ASXU light aircraft by road and would not be permitted to fly out.

The company reversed its decision after outcry from the aviation community and after holding meetings with the pilot and his representatives.

Chairman Simon Miller has now confirmed it hopes to allow the Kent pilot to leave on Friday, weather permitting.

He also vowed for the company to review its policy when it comes to emergency landings at the airport and admitted it had been “a difficult period” for SHH.

The announcement about Friday’s take-off was made in a letter yesterday to aviation chief Charles Strasser, who wrote to SHH on Monday imploring it to come to a quick resolution.

Mr Strasser, the vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations (AOPA), was instrumental in negotiating the Strasser Scheme during the late 1990s, whereby airports, including Plymouth’s while active until 2011, agree to waiver all charges for emergency landings or diversions.

He explained in a letter that the “hugely damaging PR” for SHH could be stopped by bosses “agreeing to let the Jodel depart”.

In reply, Mr Miller said he agreed that the emergency landing was “the best course of action” and added: “I very much hope he [the pilot] will be able to take off again from the airfield this Friday and be safely on his way.

“I will be asking our executive team to update the protocol which will be used for emergency landings at the former airfield,” he continued.

“Since Plymouth airport closed in 2011, this is the first such landing which has taken place to our knowledge and we will be far better prepared for such an eventuality on a future occasion.”

SHH wrote to the pilot and his representatives only days after the landing requesting costs and ordering him not to speak to the media about the incident.

It has since withdrawn requests for money, with Mr Miller saying “he will not be charged any fees whatsoever by our company”.

Mr Miller said insurance details had been finalised on Tuesday and all that was left to complete was an inspection of the plane for “airworthiness”.

“We know [the pilot] is an experienced flight instructor so his competence as a pilot has never been in questioned,” he added.


The pilot who was forced to land at Plymouth airport earlier this month amid safety concerns has been told to cover his aircraft while negotiations continue this week.

A fortnight has passed since the plane, a Jodel G-ASXU, made an emergency landing at the disused site, owned by Sutton Harbour Holdings.

While meetings between SHH, the pilot, from Kent, and his representatives look set to continue for a third week, discussions have now turned to the matter of insurance and the "airworthiness and indemnities" to allow the aircraft to safely depart.

The official statement, published on Sunday, made reference to the site's lack of air traffic control, though The Herald understands this is not a reason the plane remains grounded.

Cllr Nick Kelly, the Conservative representative for Moor View, has been liaising between the pilot and SSH and says, should agreements be met by the relevant parties, the plane could depart this Friday.

"That is, of course, entirely dependent upon the weather reports and if negotiations are successful this week," he said.

"In my view, that gives SHH and the pilot four days to get what is a relatively straightforward process sorted.

"I had actually hoped for this issue to have been solved by yesterday, but what we're all hoping for is the weather to clear up, the pilot to be able to fly off and then we can all wave goodbye as he goes.

"Discussions are still taking place, but I'd like to see this resolved as soon as possible. I can totally understand why this has taken as long as it has though, and I do empathise with SHH.

"But, we're not talking about a plane that is trying to take off from a farmer's field, are we?"

SHH, who closed the airport in December 2011, has been widely criticised by pilots from across the world and the general aviation community over their handling of the situation.

Jeremy Diack, who is the editor of aviation industry newspaper Flight Training News, has slammed the site leaseholders and has branded their statement as both "incorrect and misleading".

"The Jodel is privately operated and does not need a licensed airfield to depart from," he explained.

"This means there is no burden of responsibility placed on SHH for the provision of fire and rescue services, air traffic control or any other airport facility – not even a serviceable runway, although that is provided under the terms of SHH's lease with Plymouth Council.

"There is no legal burden placed on SHH to determine that the departure flight would be airworthy or insured either, although I understand such unrequired assurances have in fact already been provided. The legal burden is placed solely on the pilot and his insurers.

"The Jodel currently impounded at Plymouth is owned by a syndicate of 10 pilots. With a hull value of around £15k and operating costs of circa £50 per hour, it is an affordable and safe form of aerial transport.

"Earlier statements by SHH that it is 54-years-old and therefore potentially unsafe, demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge of how aircraft are maintained and regulated in the UK.

"If flight safety concerns are really the driving factor behind SHH's impounding of this aircraft, perhaps they could have provided shelter for it in the large, empty hangar behind it?"

SHH were unable to provide a comment in response to Jeremy's quotes or a potential departure this week.

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A concrete block has now been placed in front of the aircraft to prevent it being moved.

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