June 1997 to June 1998 has been a mixed twelve months for the Federation. Whilst we have achieved our desired outcomes and performed better than expected in some areas, some of our operations have not been within the budget targets or have not delivered the outcomes or standards desired.
Income was down compared to budget expectations on a number of items.
Certificate issue fees (down $11,000) and new member fees (down $16,000) . Government grants were $11,800 behind expectations and investment returns once again dropped due to poor interest rates (down $16,800 on budget).
This resulted in being some $92,500 under budget on income. We did not budget for a sponsorship return on the TV Series in 97/98.
Whilst expenditure was generally close to budget in most areas there were several significant exceptions.
$20,000 unbudgeted expenditure on the World Championships, $6,000 unplanned
expenditure on amalgamation meetings,
$14,500 over budget for the TV series namely camera damage and pilot retainers,
Annual reports from the Executive Director and Operations Manager.
Minutes of the Board meeting and AGM held 28-39 August.
Report on the 1998 Awards night held in Canberra August 29.
$4,800 for administration assistants state award increase, $6,000 depreciation on office and other equipment. These were somewhat balanced by some savings against other budget allocations.
Total expenditure was $621,346 being some $91,420 under budget which was a very good result. We did however budget for a deficit based on expenditure for the TV series without matching sponsorship income.
However, it can be seen that the savings made on expenditure are nullified by the poor income performance and hence with the TV series costing about $81,700 in total our operating deficit of $87,500 represents a logical performance in the circumstances.
Obviously any sponsorship that could have been attained for the series would have significantly reduced the resultant decline in total asset value of the HGFA.
It must be said that the board had always allowed for this scenario in deciding to proceed with this Sport development and promotional project.
For the second year in succession we have experienced a slight decline in overall membership numbers.
In summary Trainee Member registrations are down by about 148
Visiting pilot members were up by 22
Short term members were down by 19
Full/Family members are down by 123
Overseas resident members are up by 32
and Skysailor subscriptions are up by 44
Unfortunately we still have no method of accurately tracking tandem or introductory training flight numbers.
For our three major disciplines the trends identified last year continue. Hang Gliding (traditional FAI class one) has once again lost ground. Similarly Microlight numbers continue to fall away although only by 16 this past year. Fortunately FAI Class 3 hang gliding (paragliding) continues to show a more positive trend with a slight increase of around 4.8% or 42 new certificate holders.
Also it is disappointing to note that female participant rates declined for the first time this decade to be down by 33 to represent a bit over 6% of membership.
If we calculate our total equivalent membership by allocating our four month memberships and trainee memberships as proportions of the year we end up with a total equivalent membership for 97/98 of 3256.
Obviously we need to remain committed in our efforts to reversing this overall trend.
Whilst the sports on the whole continue to improve their safety standards there is still significant room for improvement. The Operations Manager will cover these issues in detail but I would like to take this opportunity to re-emphasise the need for each individual member, each instructor, each club and each state association to maintain a focus on our responsibilities to reduce the opportunities for accidents to occur.
Support and advice for fellow pilots is perhaps the simplest yet most effective measures in reducing accidents. The sale of inappropriate equipment to low airtime pilots remains a major area of risk and contributes quite significantly to the annual drop out of new pilots.
Maintenance of aging aircraft especially microlights will become an increasingly critical issue over the next few years as the first production Edges and Quantums alike go beyond 7 years of service and must be approaching their expected limit of service in terms of both airframe hours and wing UV years.
It is the responsibility of the owner or operator of any wing to ensure that the aircraft is maintained in accordance with either the manufacturers schedule or the maintenance schedule recommended in the HGFA Operations Manual. This refers to hang gliders and paragliders as well. A recent incident where a paraglider was on sold without sufficient evidence of correct maintenance and then apparently failed (and upon subsequent inspection failed a simple porosity and line strength test) draws attention to how serious this situation is for all members.
The introduction of new glider classes for competitions in both hang gilders and paragliders is a major step toward encouraging people to compete and fly on equipment more appropriate to their skill, ability and experience.
Whilst experiencing a slight drop in local competitor numbers at major events it has however been a very big year. Two major international events were successfully hosted.
The Paragliding World Cup at Bright whilst suffering at the hands of some El Nino winds proved highly successful. In fact this competition delivered a surplus for the organisers and thus leaves them in a good position for hosting future PWC rounds in Australia.
Christian Tammegar and Claire Bernier emerged as the winners.
Fred Gungl continues his dominance of the domestic scene with top three results in 4 events for the season. Although it must be said that Peter Bowyer and Enda Murphy have closed the gap considerably. Heike Hamann also maintained her position as the leading female paraglider pilot with an overall national ranking at ninth.
Godfrey Wennes has also pushed our paragliding performances along with a new National Record for Straight Distance. The 215 km flight from Mt Borah near Manilla NSW occurred last November but we are now awaiting documentation for his 235 km flight later in the season which took him over the border into Queensland to break his own record.
The HG World Championships were also hosted very successfully by Richard Nevins and his team from the Canungra Hang Gliding Club at Forbes in late January and early February .
Those of us there had the opportunity to witness what I believe represented a substantial performance leap by the top pilots and equipment. Guido Gehrmann of Germany was closely dogged by Oleg Bondarchuk and Manfred Ruhmer into the medal places.
The Austrian team were dominant gold medal winners with Germany taking the silver teams medal. Italy were able to hold off a strong challenge from the Aussie team to finally take the bronze leaving our team in fourth.
What is most pleasing to see is the emergence of some younger competition pilots as capable of cutting it at this elite level of our sport. Kraig Coomber showed a maturity beyond his 21 years to finish the season as national champion. It is perhaps ironic that another of our top young performers was unable to get a spot on our national team for the Worlds yet throughout the season moved from 12th to 5th on our ladder pushing past experienced campaigners Drew Cooper, Steve Moyes and Geoff Tulloch. Joel Rebbechi has since gone on to be our best performed pilot on the European circuit this season with several top twenty finishes.
Rohan Holtkamp number two on our ladder continued his consistent performances bagging two new World Records (330 km out and return distance and 56.6 km/hr speed over a 300 km out and return ) and three national records including a new 100 km out return speed record.
James Neff a Canadian working and residing in Australia completed a similar treble with three Australian National and three World Records at Eucla for Class 2 Hang gliders with flights on his Exxtacy over the same 300 km O & R courses.
Just last weekend Neva Bull our second highest ranked female hang glider pilot took the silver medal at the World Championships in Hungary. Congratulations to Neva and I bet Tove our top ranked female pilot is kicking herself for not getting over there. Corrina Schweigerhausen of Germany took the gold giving germany the double of male and female world champions for class 1 in 1998.
The details of the proposed amalgamation continue to be fine tuned. Given both HGFA and GFA Board/Committee endorsement at their respective AGMs this month, then the members of both organisations will have the opportunity to vote on this very important issue in mid 1999.
I would encourage all members to consider this proposal not by looking at what might be lost in terms of traditions and emotive memories but to look to the potential of a single soaring/gliding organisation and the future. The move is about improvement in administration and representation, there is no agenda or motivation to impose the rules or personality of one group over another. I have heard such fears expressed but these are unfounded and there is no reason to suspect that any group of members would accept unnecessary regulation or ill conceived philosophy or policy any more than they do now.
Sport Development Strategies
Back in early 1997 we began an ambitious long term program in an attempt to reverse the then emerging declining membership trend. It had become obvious that since about 1993 world wide participation in class 1 hang gliding was declining. As these pilots represented over 73% of our membership in 1993 and about 60% of membership in 1997 it was decided that this portion of our industry was in trouble. This period coincided with the closure of one of our three hang gliding manufacturers and was placing the other two under great pressure.
Fortunately Paragliding and microlighting were gaining in popularity throughout this period so our emphasis turned to the largest proportion of our activity that was now in decline.
We started with an industry wide meeting where the problems facing the sports were identified, and a range of strategies were developed to begin chipping away at those problems. These problems were not only entrenched within our systems and psyche but also in the broader community.
The strategies adopted were to target two specific issues:-
New membership attraction.
To tackle the retention problems we researched the reasons for the drop out rate and initiated two strategies. Firstly we asked the manufacturers to come up with a more user friendly class of gliders on which to learn and develop flying skills and confidence. This strategy is now complete with these models already receiving encouraging market share and appropriate sub classes have been introduced into the competition scene. It is interesting to note that there has been a spin off into paragliding where a sub class system has also been adopted.
The second phase is to provide club based programs for pilot support and development. The focus was to swing our concentration from elite pilots toward the new and developing pilot. This strategy is well underway with fly-ins and other pilot support programs becoming more common. However there is still much to do in this area. Once again this strategy is not exclusively aimed at hang gliders as the benefits of improvement at club level will flow to all members regardless of the type of wing they fly. The emergence of some new Microlight clubs in the past few months is indeed encouraging.
This strategy also depended on the building of successful partnerships between the clubs and training operators so that trainees are passed onto the support system provided by the clubs. Once again we need to do considerable work to strengthen those relationships and generally imrove our performance in this area.
To attract new members it became obvious that our public image and general sport profile were so low as to be negative . To address this issue a call for expressions of interest in promoting our organisation and our activities was distributed to a number of sport PR firms and consultants. After about three months we received a call from Sports Momentum (not on our mail out list) who had heard about our interest in raising our profile. A rather lengthy period of consultation and negotiation followed with the board finally approving the Momentum proposal to go with a TV series for hang gliding immediately following on from the World Championships. Apart from this specific project a general sport media consultancy was established for general public relations and promotion.
Momentum advised that whilst they were confident they could produce a series for mainstream TV and gain a wider audience and exposure for our sports they advised that to turn that into new members we would need to ensure that local promotion occurred to bring customers into the schools These schools would also need to deliver training at a more professional standard as is increasingly expected by adventure sport customers.
Whilst the TV Series has already enjoyed good programing support from the Nine network, Optus Vision and Sky further episodes are to come with other networks programmed to run at least parts of the series later this year and next. However we are yet to see the training operators and clubs take advantage of this exposure by running localised promotions. It is imperative that we now assist clubs and schools with this very important component of the scheme.
Anecdotal evidence suggest that our profile has risen considerably with Wide World of Sports gaining very good ratings during the screening period and schools in some areas are beginning to see some extra enquiries. Over 4 million Australians have seen the sport on TV over the past months.
I must reiterate that this project was not about producing a promotional video. The video recently released was just a by product of the series. In my meetings around the country I have become aware of a wide spread misconception that a promotional video was the objective and focus of this scheme. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the board had decided on a PR video then we would have been not only obligated but mad not to equally promote all aspects of our organisation and sports.
In order to measure our success (or failure) on this rather large program we have some fairly simple performance measures.
To measure sport profile and exposure, we can use TV ratings as a guide to the size of audience reached. We have already raised our profile from its past zero rating.
To measure image improvement we must rely on anecdotal feedback as well as our success in securing sponsorship for future events and projects.
To measure increased general interest as a result of the above we must introduce a process for tracking introductory flight participants. (See minutes)
To measure the success of the schools-club partnership strategy we can compare club membership and planned activity levels against historical data.
To measure membership retention in the broadest sense we can use current HGFA membership data for comparison.
To measure new member trends we can also use current member data systems to track performance.
To measure the success of the strategies to introduce and promote more appropriate equipment we can measure sales figures from the manufacturers and competition entry trends across the classes as well as inappropriate equipment accident rates.
So far we have not achieved our target of gaining sponsorship to underwrite the TV series. If we are to justify the investment in the long term, we must achieve an increase in membership by about 800 membership units over the next five years.
A reasonable growth pattern would be about 50 new members each year for 5 years which would deliver 750 membership units or approx $82,500 and hence recover the cost of the series. This equates to gaining one new full member per week nationwide. If we cant do that we do have a serious problem. However, employees in a national office can not gain these members. It is other keen members and clubs that must be relied upon to achieve this target.
The organisation faces challenging times. Changing governments and policies along with world economic trends have created a very difficult environment for sports administration bodies . It is tougher still for sport aviation bodies such as ourselves. However we must rely on our own resources and member expertise to move us forward. There is much to be done and most if it by volunteers if we are to achieve our goals.
I remain confident that our members are keen to see the organisation proceed toward a secure and stable future where their flying freedoms and interests are protected by their elected representatives and employees alike. This future will only be achieved if our membership can attain soarable status as opposed to the current waffling about in sink.
Ian Jarman, Executive Director
REPORT TO THE AGM
After a comparatively quiet time over the last summer season, recent feedback from instructors is that most are reasonably busy and expecting the trend to continue into autumn. I can only assume that this apparent rise in interest has to some extent resulted for the amount of cover our sports have had in the media, via the Grand Prix Series and several other segments featuring our sports that have gone to air in recent months.
I see a need to focus our efforts on consolidating Club activities to better cater for new members. We also must endeavour to improve Club supervision of sites to counter an emerging trend of pilots flying illegally through not being financial HGFA members.
In the earlier part of the financial year I attended several meetings with CASA and other sport aviation organisation representatives in conjunction with the Regulatory Review. Over the year I have visited clubs and training facilities through Northern NSW, ACT, S.E. Qld, W.A., S.A. and recently Nth Qld. Feedback from HGFA members on the proposed amalgamation with the GFA has been quite positive, though it appears that the GFA membership may be more sceptical of the benefits of the merger.
The remainder of this report is framed under the headings of Safety, Instruction, Regulations and Employment. In the interests of brevity I have not detailed my activities in every Project Area, opting to highlight specific areas I believe to be of interest to the Board.
Operationally the HGFA has had a mixed year, with the four fatal accidents (as I have reported via Skysailor); Peter O=Loughlin=s hang gliding accident which led to the loss of all his limbs; and several serious training accidents. I would hope that this has been offset to some degree by my continuing efforts to promote the safety consciousness of pilots and increase instructors= training standards generally. Overall the number of reported accidents appears to be down, though at the time of writing I have been unable to bring the accident database up to date.
It appears that the vast majority of accidents stem from recurrent causes, namely:
pilots flying beyond their experience level;
pilots operating their aircraft outside its recommended envelope;
flying too slowly close to the ground; and
failing to set up an appropriate landing approach.
These causes recur despite the inclusion of these aspects in our training syllabi. I plan to continue to target these areas during the coming year.
In the interests of ensuring the continued airworthiness of microlights, the five yearly inspection requirement has been introduced. Expiry of microlight registration has also been extended to five years, with renewal dependant on the inspection being completed.
At a recent meeting of the Byron Bay Hang Gliding Club, the compulsory carriage of reserve parachutes during tandem hang gliding training was raised. This topic arose as one of the local instructors does not presently have a reserve. The Club suggests that emergency chutes be made compulsory for all tandem training. I have sought the Boards advice on this matter.
During the year theory and practical workbooks for Student Pilots, Apprentice Instructors and Chief Flight Instructors have been introduced. Feedback I have received from students and instructors in regard to the Workbooks has been most positive.
Disciplinary Tribunals have looked at complaints which have led to the suspension of several Instructor Certificates. An appeal from Gary Stevenson against his suspension was dismissed by the Appeals Tribunal. Both he and Rob Lithgow will be required to undergo a period of retraining before having their Certificates reissued. Yet another incident involving Peter Wilson led to the suspension of all his HGFA Certificates for a period of one month.
Problems in the Cairns area continue. I have supported the Cairns Clubs stance in refusing David Willis permission to operate from Cairns Club controlled sites. This refusal stemmed from his activities over the winter season last year and his inability to employ an appropriately accredited instructor. The Club have stated that because of his past antics, the Club do not wish to have him operate on any of the local sites under any circumstances. I have advised Mr Willis that any future application for training facility approval will need to be from an instructor, rather than from him as a business proprietor. On hearing that he is threatening legal action against both the Club and myself for not allowing him to operate, I sought legal advice from our solicitors. As we have provided reasons for refusal (on safety and compliance grounds), and we have since offered Willis the opportunity to lodge submissions in support of his application (subsequently rejected), our solicitors believe that there are insufficient grounds for any legal action to be successful. This does not necessarily mean that Mr Willis will not try to drag us into the courts, as he has a lawyer whom he says is prepared to instigate an action. I approached his lawyer whilst I was in Cairns and suggested that it would be preferrable to resolve the matter out of court. He agreed and stated that he would seek direction from Mr Willis, though to date I have had no further contact from him.
HGFA approved training facilities currently total: