|The Newsletter of Stratford Gliding Club
Issue 51, October 2011
From the Editor
John Dickinson announced his intention to stand down as Club chairman after the AGM, after eight years in the job. The Club rules state that the next Chairman is elected by the next committee, whoever they turn out to be, at its next meeting. That made it impossible to know for certain, at the AGM, who the next chairman would be.
Of course, the committee had planned an orderly handover, and Richard Maksymowicz had agreed to be a candidate for the job. However, nothing is certain until after the formality of the election, especially since both John and Richard stood down by rote and stood for re-election to the committee. A constitutional crisis was fortunately averted when both were re-elected.
Since then, that next committee meeting has taken place, and Richard has been duly ratified as Chairman.
From a Chairman
My last contribution to The Wire will be a first – it will be brief!
I have really enjoyed my time as chairman – the eight years have passed very quickly. Yes there has been the odd time that has been difficult, but that goes with the territory. I am a firm believer that generally, in life, you get out what you put in.
Having said that, no one can act in the capacity of chairman without the consent of the membership, and as such I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support over the last eight years. I trust that you will continue to support Richard in the same manner.
I now look forward to idling my time away at the launch point in between flights and continuing to have fun!
Have fun, fly lots, be safe
From a Chairman
Firstly, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to John for his tenure as Chairman over the past eight years. John has overseen significant progress with many infrastructure projects that have provided an excellent base for our future operations and positioned the Club well to grow in the future.
Of course much of this would not have been possible without an awful lot of effort from other Committee members and indeed many of you, so I wish to place on record my thanks to all concerned.
I take over the reins of the Chair of a Club that is in good health. Just prior to the AGM I sent out invitations to about a dozen new members to our annual New Members Meeting, our latest flying stats for this current year are showing significant improvement on the same period last year, and our financial position is good.
So where do we go from here? I have four key words that I want to promote, together with your support and the support of my fellow Committee members, whilst I’m in the Chair. To maintain our direction of travel we need to ensure that we have a Safe, Affordable, Sustainable, and Enjoyable flying operation.
In addition, I’d like to see us appeal much more to youngsters (teenagers, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings and forty-somethings!), and encourage and engage more of them into our sport – and of course particularly into our Club.
Over the next months I’ll be developing ideas how all this can come about. I don’t have any monopoly on ideas so please, if any of you have any views, don’t hesitate to come forward to me or any of the Committee.
Finally for now, many of you know that I’ve had something of a difficult time at home over the past months. Being part of our ‘Club family’ has helped me through some unhappy times. Words of support and encouragement have been precious to both me and Gaynor and being able to engage in an activity I love has gone a long way to helping us both cope. Thank you all.
The 2011 AGM
The 2011 AGM was held on Thursday 20th October in the Clubhouse. There were 50 members present, and 18 apologies for absence. The main speakers were the Chairman, the Treasurer, and the CFI. The main proceedings of the meeting are summarised here.
The 2010/2011 Season
As predicted, the accounts show a loss of nearly £10k compared to a surplus of £13.6k the previous year. Total income was down by £20k, of which half was due to the Peugeot event in 2010, and most of the rest to a big drop in visitor flying. Operational expenditure was down, but the cost of the motor glider planning application caused an increase in total expenditure of £3k.
The result is a reduction in our cash reserves of £8k, but we are still satisfied that we have sufficient to cope with any problems that are likely to occur.
The 2011 Season So Far
The finances for the current year look much better. All categories of income were above average for the first four months of the half year, and total income is already about £10k better than last year.
Winter Flying Rates
Winter flying rates, which were dropped in 2009 at the behest of the AGM, were reintroduced this year with an incentive to fly more: on any particular day in December, January, and February, your fourth launch will be free.
The 2010/2011 accounts, and the reappointment of the Club’s independent accountants, were accepted unanimously by the meeting.
Our income is cyclic, depending entirely on unpredictable weather, and cycles quite regularly from profit to loss. In the time since records began (2002), we have never had more than two consecutive of either. Ideally, of course, we would break even in poor years and make a profit in good years. Usually, though, optimism sets in after a good year and we try to keep our prices down.
This makes it rather difficult to plan ahead, and the only way we can change this is to move away from weather-dependent income. That’s the reasoning behind the various fixed-price flight plans that we offer, ranging from pre-paid flight time in one Club single-seater, to prepaid all-inclusive everything.
There may be other such schemes, if we can work out the details so that everybody wins. Apart from the predictability for the Club, and limitation of flying costs for members of the plans, these schemes also increase the number of launches that we do and are an incentive to others to fly more.
Visitors always have been, and always will be, essential to the Club. They are our only source of new members, so we need to treat every visitor with respect and enthusiasm.
It’s wildly optimistic to think that every visitor is a prospective member, of course, but even people who are only here for a tick in the box still talk to their friends about us.
We try to limit the impact of visitors on Club members’ everyday flying, and the best way is by Trial Lesson Evenings. Few, but more than none, TLE visitors turn into members, but the advantage for the Club is that they are part of the market which is otherwise closed to us, and that they don’t interfere at all with members’ flying.
We have, occasionally, accepted a group of visitors on a weekend day. In all cases, three in the last twelve months, the groups were only interested in a specific date, so that to refuse them would be to certainly lose the income. Three BIs had committed to be on site and fly, and a crew were asked help the group and not fly themselves. Usually, by mid-afternoon, most Club two-seater training is complete, and we can use three or even four aircraft to fly the group in well under two hours. Nevertheless, I’ve had complaints about this interference with members’ flying (though I am now aware that the complaints were regarding communication or lack of – not the booking of the groups). I think I’d get more complaints, though, if I stood here and told you we’d turned away a thousand pounds.
Election of Committee Members
Last year we had that rare event, an election of members to the committee. This year we had another such rare event.
The committee can set its own size, within the broad range of four to twenty required by the Club Rules. The size is currently set at fourteen, based on the actual size of a workable committee of some twenty years ago, which we have seen no reason to change. The size is included in the announcement of the AGM, before any nominations are requested or received, and so is fixed in advance of the meeting.
The Club Rules state that, each year, a third of the committee must stand down in rotation, and may seek re-election. Two members of the committee, Andy Balkwill and Jonty Boddington, stood down and did not seek re-election. Two more, John Dickinson and Richard Maksymowicz, stood down as their part in the rotation, and sought re-election.
Five Club members were nominated for the committee: Jamie Dickson, David Ireland, Phil Pain, David Searle, and Graham Thompson. As a result, there were seven candidates for four vacancies, and we needed to hold an election. This was conducted according to the same procedure as last year, which seemed to work well. The main reason for the formality is that the election is actually for Directors of the Company, and there are legal implications.
On the night, the election was run by two committee members, Geoff Butler and Ian Kennedy, as last year, and the members were invited to supply an independent observer, for which Dan Brown volunteered.
The two committee members who stood down were re-elected, so we must be doing something right. The new committee members are Phil Pain and David Searle. The committee is, except for the changes in roles that are soon to come, now:
|Vouchers and Courses
MG Planning Permission
Our request for planning permission to launch motor gliders, TMGs and SL/SSMGs, took an age to reach the stage of actually appearing before the District Council Planning Committee.
The meeting finally took place on July 27th 2011, well over a year after submission of our application, and was attended by many residents who were hostile to our application – some of whom appeared intent on being as disruptive and intimidating as possible. However, the Chairman of the Planning Committee asserted his control of the meeting, to the extent of threatening to call the Police to evict the more raucous protesters.
After listening to arguments from both sides, and having received a detailed explanation of the noise tests from the Environmental Health Officer of Stratford District Council, the planning committee voted unanimously to grant our request subject to satisfying reasonable conditions as required by the Local Planning Authority.
This success is squarely down to the meticulous planning done by Mike Coffee and Sharon Kerby.
The following Saturday, we were faced with a group of forty to fifty protesters at the gate and a BBC cameraman filming it all. The protest was vocal but for the most part peaceful. There were some outrageous rumours flying around: that there would be a fleet of motor gliders landing that day; and that our jet-powered glider would be flying again. Unsurprisingly, neither of these happened.
The protestors vowed to picket us every Saturday and Sunday from then on, but as it turned out, they went home for lunch, returned Sunday morning for a few hours, and then never came back.
We’re still in the process of formalising the planning conditions, at which point a legally enforceable document called a Section 106 will be drawn up. Once we have that, we will be allowed to fly motor gliders from Snitterfield Airfield.
Remember, though, that our operational procedures will be strictly enforced, and every motor glider launch will require the express permission of the CFI.
The information that we’ve published about the planning permission saga has been very limited, in The Wire and on the web site, and we’ve had to rely on paper in the clubhouse. This is because it’s all available online for anybody to read, and we know that some of the protesters do just that. We felt that anything we wrote, however anodyne, could be interpreted as inflammatory, and could and would be used against us.
An example is that one of the objections to the planning permission was that the Club management are incompetent to run the flying operation, based on the fact that that we had a minor safety issue (the other cable moved) and we published a safety reminder about this.
CFI’s AGM Report
The weather has been good for Club flying, but not so good for cross-country flying. Flight times in Club aircraft are well above average, and the number of launches is too.
On the other hand, total cross-country kilometres are down to 11,000 with many weekends showing no cross country flying at all. There were only seven 300s declared in the whole season, five of those seven were flown by Dave Benton, and Mike Coffee won the ladder easily by flying fast 200s.
Club Flying Week saw plenty of participants spending plenty of hours in the air, but there were only twelve cross-country flights and only two of them over 200k.
Summer 2011 Flying Stats
|Club glider launches
|Syndicate glider launches
|XC kilometres flown
|XC pilots on ladder
|Ladder winning score
|Visitor flights, including courses
Expeditions: Sutton Bank
The expedition to Sutton Bank was at the end of May. The start of the week was plagued by some of the strongest winds they have seen for many years, gusts in excess of 60kts, and we had to tie the trailers down to stop them being blown away.
The weather calmed down later in the week with a couple of days of low level wave. The junior members of our expedition managed to fly their way through the fleet and by the end of the week were flying around in Sutton Bank’s Discus.
Expeditions: Camp Hill
This was barely supported this year. Rumour has it that only one person attended, but the rumour mill doesn’t work well with that few people, so it’s hard to be sure.
The Club has had no reportable accidents during the 2010/2011 season or in the first half of the current season. Keep it up, I don’t like paperwork!
We had one reportable incident this year. After a low cable break in the Junior, the parachute flew upwards and dropped the cable over the wing, where it eventually caught round the air brake. The pilot handled the situation well and landed safely and with no damage.
This has reminded the winch drivers of the need to cut the power urgently after a cable break.
EASA Pilot Licensing becomes law in April 2012, and the transition to Sailplane Pilots Licences (SPLs) will start next year with the instructors first, followed by the rest of the solo pilots over the next couple of years.
The exact time scale of all this is not known, but the transition of all pilots into the EASA licensing framework has to be completed by April 2015.
Watch the BGA website for the latest information on EASA
Other Changes that are coming for EASA but have not yet been finalised are Cloud Flying ratings and Medicals. Please monitor the BGA web site for the latest updates and advice on how to respond to the proposed changes.
In EASA-land, a qualified pilot is a pilot with an SPL, and a Bronze C with a cross-county endorsement equals an SPL, so if you haven’t got this you will classed as a pilot under training. This will not stop you flying solo and doing the type of flying are used to but we still have to hear how this will work on a day to day basis.
The Bronze C lectures will be run in early 2012 if there is sufficient demand.
There should be, because possession of a Bronze when EASA licensing starts will give you grandfather rights which cut down the amount of training and paperwork that you need to do. The dates will be finalised over the Christmas period.
The committee trophies are awarded by the committee for contribution to the running of the Club.
Winch Trophy: Pete Merritt.
John Simonite Memorial Trophy, Contribution to the Running of the Club: Steve Pearce for the Doughnut Days.
Fred Haines Shield, Long and Meritorious Service: Geoff Butler.
The Chairman’s Trophy: Nick Jaffray, for his support for the Chairman over the years.
Member of the Year, voted for by the Club membership: Chris Bingham.
Flying Committee Trophies
The flying committee trophies are awarded by the instructors for flying achievement.
Best Flight in a Club Glider: Dave Martin, for 106k in the K18 in very difficult conditions.
Badge Ladder: Jamie Dickson. Most Progress in the year: Jamie Dickson.
First 300k of the Year: Mike Coffee, in May.
Club Ladder: 1st Mike Coffee, 6528; 2nd Dave Benton 6179; 3rd Martyn Davies, 4633.
The Derek Phillips Trophy for Club Ladder flights in a wooden aircraft: Tony Murphy.
The Tom Smith Cup for X-C Achievement: Dan Brown.
The Andy Coffee Award for Flying Achievement, andThe Seaside Trophywere not awarded.
The project to put a proper pitched roof on the clubhouse took much longer to get started than we’d hoped. Concerns about the ability of the building to support the load, either the weight of the roof itself or the wind loads, convinced us to have the roof designed by a qualified (and insured) structural engineer.
The design was based around a timber frame, mainly on the basis of the cost. However, by the time all the planning had been done, we missed the season and had to wait until this spring before we could start. And by that time, the price of the timbers had almost doubled. That made steel, which is lighter and stronger, much more attractive. However, to switch to steel would have made us start again from scratch with a new structural design and a new bill. So we stuck with the timber frame.
The project started in the spring, once the weather had calmed down, and we ordered the timbers. The size of these surprised a lot of people, and went a long way to explaining the need for a structural engineer.
In all, it took nearly two thousand man-hours of labour to build the roof, with all the usual suspects doing the bulk of the work, and an army of helpers lending a hand whenever they could.
The sheeting was almost finished in September, when it was interrupted by the urgency of the works for the mains electricity, and it was finally finished in October. There is still some fettling work to do, such as some cross bracing inside, and the guttering, but the roof is weatherproof, in plenty of time for the winter weather.
Over the years, various committees have made several attempts to bring mains electricity to the site. The highest estimate, which wasn’t discussed for long, was over £80k, and involved us paying for a new high voltage transformer on the Bearley Road. A better estimate of only £65k a few years later was still well beyond our means.
A combination of improved technology, and some inside knowledge from Allan Donaldson who works in that field, brought the estimate down to £43k. This was still out of the question, and our thoughts were still very much with green energy, but other factors came to light which made us look more closely.
The generator is at the end of its working life, and we would be faced with an £8k bill to replace it. Running the generator costs us £4k a year in diesel and maintenance, which means that our power costs us approximately £1 per Kwh. With our fuel bill expected to increase, and a probable mains electric bill of £500pa, that £43k would be recovered within ten years.
Then, Allan, Andy Balkwill, and Barry Monslow came up with a piece of electrickery. Electricity supply companies are obliged to deliver 230v to the point of supply, which in our case would require a thousand metres of 11kv overhead power lines along the entrance road to the clubhouse. However, by making the point of supply near the road, this large cost could be removed. We could then use our own underground cable to supply the clubhouse, and do the work ourselves.
The voltage drop over such a long distance means that only 200v or thereabouts arrives, depending on the load, but a device called a Voltage Stabilising Transformer restores the output voltage to 230v whatever the input voltage. The disadvantages are that we pay for the voltage drop so our electricity is 5-10% more expensive, and that a sudden load can cause a trough in the voltage as the transformer adjusts to cope. The advantage is a total bill of £26k, very much in reach and paying back in five years. The decision suddenly became a lot easier.
Once we’d made the decision in principle to go ahead, the Chairman went to see Richard Hobbs, our landlord, to make sure he was happy about the cable on his land. Not only was he happy, he has made a contribution towards the cost of the project.
The plan was to get the supply installed, which we did in late September, and then lay the cable at our convenience, given that the work on the roof was still going on. That was scuppered when we discovered that the farmers who rent Richard’s fields were planning to plant winter wheat, which meant we needed to get the cable installed by the end of October, or wait until spring. That prompted some urgent trenching with the aid of a digger for a week, to get the conduit in place. The cable was finally pulled through the conduit on 20th October.
Unfortunately, the stabiliser arrived damaged and had to be returned and replaced, and there is still some work to do on the supply to the hangars. Nevertheless, mains lighting was switched on the 27th October, well ahead of our expected schedule.
Remember, though, that the lights don’t go off any more when we go home at night, so it’s important to switch everything off at the end of the day.
Second hand genny, one careful owner.
The two big projects that have just been completed, the roof and the electricity, have taken thousands of hours of voluntary work, and have mostly been done by four members: Chris Bingham, Pete Merritt, Barry Monslow, and Phil Pain. Without their efforts, we would not have been able to afford to take the projects on.
In recognition of this, at the AGM, they were each awarded a year’s subscription to the Gold Flight Plan. This gives them free flying time in any Club aircraft, £2.50 discount on launch fees, and free SCBs.
We all owe our thanks to them, and to everyone who helped them.
One of the big advantages of mains power is that we can implement a proper security system, with as many sensors and lights as are necessary to make the site secure. Dave Martin is looking to the details of the system, which for the obvious reason won’t be published in The Wire.
Please remember that, if you answer the clubhouse phone, you are representing the Club. If you take a call that turns out to be a complaint, which happens sometimes in the wake of the planning permission, be courteous and say something along the lines of:
I’m very sorry you feel you had to contact us about this – I will pass on your contact details to someone who will deal with this matter and they will contact you very soon.
Then pass the buck as quickly as you can to the Chairman or any committee member.
From the Floor
Despite his absence from the meeting, David Clark sparked a lively discussion about the way the launch point operates. Many points were made by various people about the general safety, efficiency, and reliability of the operation.
The Operations Group, a think tank which runs during the off season, will be looking into this over the winter as one of their high priority subjects.
Site Height Record
On a very good day in August, Sharon Kerby broke the site height record with a climb to 11800′ in her ASW-24, flying in wave to the south of Alcester. This broke the long-standing record of 11400′ which belonged to Harry Williams, flying his K6 from Long Marston in 1977. Several other pilots contacted the wave on the same day and reached heights of around 10,000′.
Chris Burrows got his Gold height at 14000′ in wave from Skelling in Cumbria. It could have been higher but it gets cold in a K8 at that height.
Stephen Farmer has achieved a Full Category Instructor rating, which he passed in 13th November.
An Inspector Calls
Filling in DI Books
Could we please all ensure that no defect or reason for putting a glider u/s is written in the DI book without it first having been brought to the attention of an inspector. This is due to there being absolutely no latitude with respect to the replacement of parts on our gliders within the EASA umbrella, and the fact that DI books are being filled up with all sorts of irrelevant and pointless comments without having been thought through first.
DI books are also a potential source for discrepancies to be noted in the event of an audit, which we have just been a subject of. Please continue filling in the DI books as at present if no defect is found on the inspection.
The Aircraft workshop
Following our recent audit, I need to reiterate that there must be absolutely no entry to the aircraft workshop without supervision of an inspector. This is due to the fact that, as part of our Part M compliance, any premises in which aircraft maintenance is undertaken must have restricted access.
As a matter of accountability, all tools used in the maintenance of aircraft must remain within the maintenance environment and therefore cannot leave the workshop, so please don’t ask to borrow them!
On a lighter note
Could I ask you all to please look through your T shirt collection, and if there are any that are past their use-by date, to pass them on to the workshop for use as polishing rags. Many thanks!
On Saturday 5th November we held our 4th Annual Bonfire Night, which was attended by over 150 people. The night was organised by Chris Bingham, with the assistance of his usual band of helpers: Pete Merritt and Sally (a typically splendid barbecue); Allan Donaldson (fire-eating); Phil Pain (arson); and Phil Pain, Daniel Brown, and Allan Donaldson (explosives).
Everybody commented that it was a great evening with a terrific firework display. All in all, the event raised over £800. Now that the Clubhouse fund is close to achieving its target, funds raised by events like this will be allocated to the new Fleet Fund.