Read all the essential updates from the outgoing GFA President Peter Cesco
From the President
Many good and exciting events, decisions and changes were taking place when this financial year started, and some that were not as good. But by and large we were moving forward in a positive and progressive manner – until the fires, smoke and virus hit and some of those elements were taken out of our control. Some items are listed below.
CASA, Funding Changes and General
Our reporting requirements had changed with last year’s allocation, which meant less money and more reporting, CASA advises that because this is public money, we should always have been giving this information. Our Current agreement lasts two years. As this is the second year, I recently signed the Deed of Agreement and sent them the two paper copies they require. Really – paper in this day and age.
Moving on, I am concerned that this funding will cease or be lowered further in the future, causing a need for us to decide which aspects we will continue with, as a large portion of our costs are specifically about CASA and its requirements. We also have to apply and pay for some of those authorities that actually assist CASA as much as our members. “Is it worth the cost and effort?” is a question I can see members asking a lot in the future.
Recently, I have been included in some correspondence about heavy handed dealings that CASA is taking with some other groups outside of the sports aviation sector, and have advised the Board so they may stay on top of it. We need to be careful of supposedly well justified Bureaucracy both in CASA and within our own organization. It is very easy to add rules, regulations etc, but very hard to remove them.
In SA, they have just brought in ‘COVID Marshalls’, which affects my gliding club. The club has taken a reasonable approach and asked all instructors to do the test (yes, there is an online test) so that we will always be ‘compliant’. One instructor that I know and absolutely respect has said he is not going to do that and has taken himself off the instructor’s roster. I totally understand. It’s just another barrier, and with every barrier, we lose good, capable people, regardless of who sets up that barrier – the Government, GFA, the regions or our clubs. A barrier to participation is just that, a barrier.
I sent an email to CASA recently asking for an extension of the fee-free time to enter part 149. This request was based on the recent history, the time and difficulty seen by the one group that has entered the 149 system and, of course, the COVID 19 aspects. Your GFA Board is being appraised on this significant matter regularly, and will decide as we progress towards a decision. Current thinking is that we will probably go into Part 149, but nothing is certain.
I was promised a reply to my email question very quickly. It took a while but has just arrived. Basically, it advised that CASA agreed but we had to commit to joining Part 149 by October this year to gain the extension. Part 149 will cost us up to $150,000 according to the initial estimates provided by the Deputy Prime Minister when he initially advised that it had been approved by the Australian Parliament.
If the Board decides to take on Part 149, it will be the most significant change in our operating methodology since the OpRegs were introduced. It will have significant and long-term effects. We need to be alert to unintended consequences that, because of what I call the ‘CASA effect’, cannot be changed because they are enshrined in some form of legislation, including CASA internal ‘how to’ documents. With a clear timeline now in place on the GFA to make a decision, the Board has tasked three members to continue to review and make recommendations on this matter.
The current approach of investing and actively managing our finances is at risk. The result will be wins and losses, ups and downs, but the aim is to grow our interest by greater than 4% above inflation. This does not stop us from going back to fixed bank fixed deposits if they ever increase their returns, but that is not going to happen soon, as fixed deposits are extremely low at the moment.
Marketing and Promotion
This group has started some great work. We have some new logos and more appropriate slogans, based around the word ‘extraordinary’. We don’t recognise that we do extraordinary things but we do, and we should be proud of that. A new website is about to be unveiled, probably before this this is published. I hope you like it.
The website has been an area that has been discussed many times over the last few years. It’s difficult to upgrade, when every time we change something – anything – it causes worry that some people will drop out of our sport simply because of the change. Sometimes the worry is due to the pace of the change itself around them. But we need to change to ensure we remain relevant in this brave new world.
You are probably aware that the Soar reporting now has an independent volunteer group conducting initial non-biased assessment of Soar reports. This has proved to be very good and efficient. Safety isn’t about big targets and ideas. It’s about all of us making the right and safe decisions before and when we fly, maintain or assist in the pursuit of our sport. Don’t forget, it’s a sport.
At May 2020 we had 2,488 members, down 1% since 2015. A membership deep dive has been conducted with the aim to identify clubs that have lost membership. On the basis of ‘if you don’t know, you can’t fix it’, this deep dive is based on clubs and has been made available to club committees. I don’t know what the result of the virus restrictions will be, but some good signs have emerged to indicate that more people are joining as some parts of our country come out of the various and changing lockdowns. On another positive note, I just saw a report that said we now have 15% female membership, and that is fantastic. The first time I saw female numbers in our organization, some 6 or 7 years ago, it was about 2%.
Loans to Clubs
The GFA making loans to clubs seems to be occurring more often and is a really good thing. It's a win-win situation, in that it assists clubs in major purchases, such as aircraft, at a cheaper rate than the banks, and is a great support for our members and their clubs.
Communication with Members
Launch points is the new communication to members. The name was chosen by asking you, the members for ideas. We still do the Magazine, the GFA Forum, Presidents Forum, as well as our Facebook page and individual emails when needed. Go Membership is slowly evolving and being used more fully and I sincerely hope members are becoming used to it and hopefully the saying in the next few years will be ‘why didn’t we do this before’. If you are on the forums please try to remain respectful and reasonable, remember the people you are talking to, about and of, are mostly volunteers.
Social media has both good and bad points. In the recent past, our social media pages have been full of hateful and targeted criticisms of the GFA leadership and governance, sometimes personal, vindictive, and often wrong. On the other hand, some terrific, mutually concerned and supportive aspects of the same social media have also appeared.
The Board was concerned, but rather than shut down our internal social media, some simple and responsible actions were taken in an attempt to take the vitriol away. They aim to prevent the actions of the small number of members who did the wrong thing from stopping the genuine members from talking and having a good time corresponding and questioning. It seems to be working.
Updated Member Protection Policy
We have been continually updating Member Protection to make it reasonable and useful but, unfortunately, it is still cumbersome and sometimes almost unworkable without good faith on both sides. At the time of writing, three appeals are current within this process, taking a large amount of time from volunteer members who, I believe, could be better focused on helping the GFA generally.
Fewer Face-to-Face Meetings
Last year, I said we were having fewer face-to-face meetings as part of a plan to minimise unnecessary costs. Because of the COVID-19 situation, this decision has obviously accelerated. Thus, due to factors outside of our control, it will come as no surprise to members that face-to-face won’t happen in the short term. All current meetings are to be electronic.
Currently, Radio Procedures, Airways and Airspace, and the A, B and C certificates and the flight reviews for both Command pilots and Instructors are also conducted on line. Expect more as we move to become more effective and efficient in this space.
The Airworthiness Department and their Training Manager have been working diligently to improve documentation, and supplementing it with training videos. This is great work that we can all benefit from.
Last year I mentioned the GFA simulator. Because of the virus, many members have been playing with Condor and such. Simulators can be good, and they stimulate the mind, but without proper instruction they can lead to unhelpful habits and actions. Be careful when you come back to real flying.
Remove barriers to participation for our members.
We have significant challenges ahead of us, but we also have strategies in place to overcome most of these. We must not return to the days of internal disruption for political purposes. We can only survive if we work together, and unfortunately we sometimes forget that.
Although we worry about CASA and increased rules and regulations, we also need to be very careful that we don’t turn into bureaucracy worse than CASA. A member I trust and listen to said to me recently, “RAAus isn’t stealing our members. We are driving them away.” That worried me. As a general rule at Board level the GFA is attempting to minimize and reduce barriers to activity, sometimes these continue to be put in place despite our best efforts, and with Part 149 somewhere close, we need to be very careful of anything new being proposed that puts up barriers to participation. Please let’s all work with this aim and remain the organisation we need to be, one that is vibrant, exciting and dynamic. So please remove barriers to participation for our members anywhere you find them.
Bush Fires and COVID-19
This season has been hopefully a worst case, with bush fires and the resulting smoke haze limiting flying, competitions and activity generally, followed directly by the COVID-19 virus and restrictions. Talk about barriers to participation! I am concerned about two issues related to these items. First, I am concerned that we will lose members who have become used to not going to their gliding club, and second, the wider effect on some of those members.
The first needs clubs to be vibrant in enticing members back, when they can. Regarding the second, readers may remember last year I mentioned that we were slowly seeing the demise of a large and significant group of people through the impost of advancing years. I fear this will accelerate, given the current situation. A phone call to check on your mates is a worthwhile thing to do, as some of our members may well feel isolated and fearful.
Please also remember that these members have been very effective in keeping our organisation vibrant and alive over a very long period of time and we cannot hope to replicate some of their fine work. We should also ensure that their efforts are not lost as we move to the future.
Each year, all positions in GFA effectively come up for election, some in regions, some at the GFA AGM. We also have a limit of five years for most positions.
I will not be putting my name up for President this year, simply because I have other things I feel I want to do, and now is my time of life to do them. We should all have that choice. However, I will commit to continuing to support the GFA as much as I can in the future.
Thank you to all who have given their time and efforts to make this a better organisation. Keep doing what you can and don’t let social media drive you into poorly considered directions.