First, words of thanks to the previous committee - Nigel, Barrie, John, Q, Elton, Helm, Cliff, Bugs & last but not least, Annie. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep this club on the road. I didn't fully appreciate this until I was elected to the committee. The committee put the work in because they are passionate about aerobatics, and 100% dedicated to ensuring that our club & sport continues well into the future. The 2018 / 19 committee have all been re-elected for the next year. Thank you for once again standing for election! We have included a few new members namely, Eugene du Preez, Conrad Botha and Mike Stark, thank you gentleman!
Our objective for the coming year is the very same as the years previous, which of course is to grow our club. We need to add new members. The reasons I am sure are obvious to all. So, the question is how?
In the past we have pretty much left it to the committee, and I guess mainly the chairman to wave a magic wand and produce new members, which they did and we thank them for it. However, the committee is a small group of volunteers, with a limited amount of time & resources. They can't be everywhere on every airfield all of the time canvassing for new members. So, what do we do? Quite simple, we must all take responsibility to keep a steady flow of new pilots entering the sport. There are many ways to go about it. Here is one method that has already found success.
1. First we need to identify them.
For years the guys at Kitty Hawk have arranged training camps down in the low veld where the aircraft perform, the winters are warm and the beers ice cold, with none of the pressure we face at these competitions. We have always taken pilots already in the sport attempting to improve their flying. This year, we decided to change tack. We have been trying to involve new guys with little to no aerobatic experience. Pilots that have say, an RV (capable of aero's), a Decathlon or Yak. Most of these guy's believe me, have thought about doing aero's, but have either never tried it as there was no one to assist them with instruction, or they have tried it with a poor "instructor" who ended up scaring them. For the recently held Tzaneen training camp, we took 4 new guys. They expressed interest in going when they were asked. What you have to appreciate about a GA pilot standing on the outside of this group, is how nervous they are to approach us. To them, we seem to illicit an air of superiority over them (justly deserved of course!!), but this attitude of ours, all be it sub- conscious must stop if we are going to further our cause. Adding to this, instead of waiting for these guys to come to us and ask for help, we need to be going over to them, introduce ourselves, and show interest in their flying, then do our best to talk them into giving aerobatics a go!
2. Next, we have to train them -
In our case the training camp worked incredibly well. These guys were immersed in aerobatics from the moment they landed in Tzaneen. The training took place in a well-managed, safe environment. This does a lot to inspire confidence in the student. We are also fortunate to have what I would personally consider one of the best aerobatic instructors around, Bertus du Preez. What we would be proposing going forward is the idea of using these camps to introduce aerobatics to all the new guys that you, our hard-working members, are going to bring!
The committee has attempted to have a representative in each major hub. Helm down in the Western Cape, Mike Stark in Natal, Conrad in the Free State, Barrie for Johannesburg. I'll take Pretoria. If there are other areas you feel we should cover, please let us know. The idea would be to let your representative know as soon as you have someone interested in attending one of these camps. Once we have enough pilots interested, we would go ahead and plan a camp. These camps, by the way, would also be open to existing aerobatic pilots provided they do their part in furthering the aim of the camp! The camp only happens when you put up your hands and ask for it, so the ball is firmly in your court.
3. Lastly, we have to hold onto them.
This is the difficult part. If a structure conducive to furthering the pilot's skills is not available at his airfield, the training camp would probably be the last time he tries aerobatics or worse still, he continues without help, and invariably ends up hurting himself. It is up to the aerobatic pilots on the airfield to ensure that training continues with crit, coaching and where necessary instruction in an environment that is safe and controlled.
Every training camp we arrange will be highlighted on social media to the wider General Aviation audience with an invitation to participate in subsequent camps, with contact details attached. Apart from the above, another avenue we will pursue is consistent SAC representation at one of the many fly-ins across South Africa. We could possibly arrange a small presentation on aerobatics and a sequence demonstration flight. A fly in like the RV day at Kitty Hawk is a no- brainer for a good source of possibilities, but there are many more! So, let's all try and bring at least one new pilot to the game in the next year - please!
Onto other news, some of you may know that we will be putting in a bid to host WAAC in South Africa next year. We actually stand a very good chance of success! If any of you have ideas on sources for sponsorships please let us know. Hosting is not going to be cheap.