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Doug Flockhart

As you read this, we are well into April and autumn, with the soaring season starting to slow down in the Southern states and maximum temperatures becoming more bearable. However northern NSW and Queensland skies, likes sirens of the deep, are still seducing those that want to venture afar - that is, when it isn’t raining! In terms of extremes, what a summer it’s been across this magnificent continent we call home, Australia!

My colleague, Executive Manager of Operations Dave Boulter, has been up to his armpits in SOAR reports this summer, which is a good thing by way of incident reporting that inevitability benefits us all – though possibly not his armpits. Thanks to all of you who make the effort to submit a Soar report, given the clunkiness of the system. Yes, it’s on the ‘To Improve’ list and is a priority.

Club Dog Houston We Have a Problem

The overwhelming winner this summer in terms of the sheer number of incidents and accidents is ‘ground handling’. In some cases, the carnage that has been inflicted and the cost to repair has been astronomical, not to mention the out-of-service time for the aircraft involved at a peak period. Disappointing and avoidable? Of course, we’re all human and errors happen, however it should prompt a lightbulb moment for all regarding the need to conduct regular internal Operations reviews to ensure all is as it should be. Often, one shortcut to a procedure or process can lead to another and so on. It’s a bit like Chinese Whispers, where the story eventually becomes so altered from the original that it is no longer recognisable.

Fun Fact
While we’re talking about incidents and accidents, when it comes flying versus ground handling, it’s interesting to note that from 2013/14 to 2022/23, 99.88% of Australian glider flights did not result in an accident – 582 accidents were reported against 504,606 total landings.

AEF Form Innovation
At three clubs, we are currently trialling a 100% digital version of the Air Experience Flight (AEF) form. Rather than clubs pre-purchasing the paper based AEF forms and having stock on the shelf, the plan is to have a club-specific AEF Form QR code, at the pie van or elsewhere on the flight line, that can be scanned with a phone or iPad and all details completed online, including acceptance of Terms and Conditions. A copy of the completed form is instantly emailed to the participant and to the club, with the billing for forms used actioned by the Gliding Australia office at the end of each month.

So, a paperless solution is hopefully not far away. A BIG thanks goes to the three clubs trialling it for us, and to Sarah Thompson for putting the required technology in place. Of course, the paper solution will also remain for those that prefer this option, and/or for those who might be challenged with lack of digital connectivity due to location. That reminds me that someone once said, "My Wi-Fi suddenly stopped working, and then I realised my neighbour hadn’t paid the bill. How irresponsible - don't they know I depend on it?"

Congratulations – Junior Worlds at Keepit
I offer my congratulations to Lake Keepit Soaring Club, who have secured the prestigious 15th FAI Junior World Gliding Championships, set to take place in Club and Standard Class categories. This achievement marks a significant milestone for junior gliding in Australia, presenting an unparalleled opportunity for our junior pilots to showcase their skills on an international stage. Gliding Australia is committed to collaborating with gliding clubs and regions across the country, including the Australian Junior Gliding Club, YouthGlide, the Australian Air Force Cadets and our dedicated members, to leverage this event to its fullest potential.

In the coming months, we will be sharing detailed plans and opportunities for involvement. I encourage everyone within the Gliding Australia community to engage with this landmark event. Whether you're interested in participating, contributing or simply wish to learn more, we welcome your enthusiasm and support. Thanks also to Mandy Temple our Gliding Australia FAI Representative, for all her effort and representations that contributed to the success of the bid.

Skyward Seminars
As you read this, the first of a series of Gliding Australia Skyward Seminars has been scheduled for Brisbane on 20 April, with Perth, Western Australia, next in line. I invite all our members to participate in these events when they hit your town. You’ve told us you want "minimum interference – yet more face-to-face interaction" on things that matter. That’s why we’re running these seminars for you! 
Also on the agenda are aviation safety, mixing it with others, and safeguarding our freedom to fly, all of which are critical to our future. We are also in listening mode – we wish to hear airfield grass roots feedback on what matters to you. A single day’s investment in your skills and education around the sport you love, a day that assists with your currency and more, has to be a no-brainer. Be there or be left behind – I’m just saying!

CEO Gliding

Let’s Talk Clubs
Regarding clubs – specifically club development – it may be time for some tough love.
Jenny Thompson, whom many of you know, shared some thoughts with me recently and she really hit it on the head. “Gliding Australia is constantly looking at how to attract and most importantly, retain members,” she said. “The Board sets the policy, and the Executive implements the policy, but the real coalface of culture is at the club level, and to an extent the Regions.” Jenny also noted, “Members leave clubs, not Gliding Australia.

The Gliding Australia strategic plan clearly defines what you in clubland, in conjunction with us at Gliding Australia,
should focus on, for example:

• Make all clubs places where people feel welcome, included and able to progress their flying,
• Develop suitable member retention approaches in line with Gliding Australia programs and support.
• Encourage clubs to minimise flight waiting times for trainees.
• Encourage and promote new ideas.
• Empower and support clubs to diversify their membership base.
• Promote pathways to gliding for the 40-60 year age group.
• Create opportunities for people to participate safely in an exciting adventure sport and to be part of something special, worthwhile and unique.

I therefore ponder why, every week since I’ve joined Gliding Australia, I receive emails or phone calls from those clearly aggrieved or distressed, who want to learn to glide, or those who wish to return to gliding after a hiatus, but are not made to feel welcome. Furthermore, if you’re a woman or young girl, you may encounter yet another level of challenge.

Gliding Australia is running a series of Club Development Webinars facilitated by our Club Development Officer Amanda VanderWal. The first was held in mid-March, titled ‘The Future Is Now’ and, frankly, enrolments for this free course were very slim. Does the limited attendance, on a Monday evening for 1 hour, suggest therefore, that the majority of our affiliated clubs believe there is no room for improvement?

I’m reminded how social media portrays smiles and happiness, success, style and experiences. Yet, if you scratch the surface, what we’re seeing is in fact not the reality – because life is not all smooth sailing, is it? In the case of some gliding clubs across Australia, the reality is not that glossy either.

Given that life is short, can I suggest the following:

ACTION: Noting that I also constantly hear that we need some new blood within clubs due to our ageing demographic, and that we’re tired – if you don’t want to retain members and/or grow your membership, then please ring or email me advising me of that fact, so we can direct our efforts and promotions towards those clubs that are ‘open’ for business.

If you think your overall offer to members could be improved, then please also email me, or pick up the phone, and let’s discuss how Gliding Australia can work through the implementation of some Club Development initiatives with you and your team.

Without customers or members, you don’t have a business or a club. If you don’t provide those customers with a quality product, that meets or exceeds expectation, then they will leave and spend their hard-earned cash with someone who does. From what I see, respectfully, there is still a lot of work to be done at the coalface. Yes, your clubs are mostly resourced by volunteers who are often, like most of us, stretched! That said, even volunteers can be welcoming, can’t they? Also note that more members means more potential volunteers – right?

Until next time… Stay safe, stay connected and continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in the world of gliding.

Ciao and warm regards,

 Doug sig 3

Doug Flockhart
Chief Executive Officer
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