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With 2020 & 2021 behind us, 2022 saw an industry revival, although it is still muted from pre-2020 levels as the economic conditions have started to bite and the global disruptions of inflation and logistics affecting most of us, and then having to deal with the fallout of the European conflict as well. The post-pandemic world is for sure still very asymmetric - and difficult to forecast what the future holds.
We have at least seen a bumper year in our Aviation Sporting activities, with many SA Protea teams taking part in FAI events around the world as well as at last after two postponements being able to hold the 22nd World Rally Flying Championships in Brits. Air Shows has also seen a resurgence this year after a 2-year drought with an exceptional show to start the year with at Stellenbosch.
The Aero Club was also able to hold its annual Awards ceremony, the last one having been held in 2019, with many recipients being recognised for their achievements in their sport and activities throughout the last 3 years. The highlights for sure were the feat of the Sling team flying three High Wings to Oshkosh as their debut introduction of their newest model, Adventurist Paraglider Pierre Carter having been the first to Paraglide off the top of Mount Everest. EAA's Kevin Hopper and team was also able to debut their LSA Orion Cub as a South African design which is also affordable as a kit-build, for sure we have as an Aviation Community do not lack in innovation and intrepidness.
This year has at least seen less accidents in our community after a black 2021, we also see an improvement in the statistics, and we are starting to see accident statistical reporting to include accident rates against hours flown, so far we are below the international average, although hours flown verification / basis will still need to be reviewed for accuracy.
Our support to Safety First Aviator webinars continues as these are occurring frequently at least once every two months and are well attended, unfortunately physical events and road shows are not well attended, and will be limited in the future as a culture of on-line meetings / events are becoming more prevalent.
The CAA as part of their General Aviation Safety Strategy (GASS) held two Accident Reduction Weeks this year at Stellenbosch & Kitty Hawk with various speakers and demonstrations with much involvement of the wider support community of Rescue services, EMS and volunteer support available to Aviation.
The Aero Club again organised a successful Airweek this year at Middelburg, which has become a signature event to involve all our Sections, this year the EAA convention was also held in conjunction with Airweek. What we have seen as a trend, that Aviators prefer a day fly-in and fly-out, as less and less partake in a weekend away with overnight stays, which unfortunately reduces the impact of the sociability that hangar & braai time gives. The Aero Club also attended AERO and Wonderboom and AAD at Waterkloof, although the latter was poorly attended and supported in the context of GA & RA.
The Aero Club continues to work closely with the CAA as the regulator on a number of topics, particularly to gain traction on a number of Advocacy subjects. We have at least been able to work towards a good solution to classify airfields into various types to ensure appropriate standards are applied for the type of operations. Much work still has to be done to support the outcomes of some of the GASS elements concluded earlier in the year.
ATF renewals has seen a steady improvement in turnaround times, although we are still working improving this further, especially that the CAA upholds their 20-day SLA (Service Level Agreement) time lines. The Aero Club's ATF on-line renewal system is also supporting our members well, as an efficient means to ensure full documentation sets are submitted, we have at least now had over a year's worth of experience in running with the on-line system. We will continue to take concerted efforts to ensure Recreational Aviation is embraced by you the Recreational Aviator and supported by the Regulator to uphold our charter of ensuring Freedom of Flight.
Our membership improved in 2021 over 2020 levels, however this year is reduced, the overall membership of the Aero Club and its constituent Sections has been in decline, we are now under 2800 from a high of 5500 in 2015, which is surely a sign of increasingly tough economic conditions, a turbulent regulatory environment and a few other challenges that we find ourselves in that plays a large part in lessening the recreational participation within the Sections.
This continues to put significant pressure on the Aero Club budget, and we continue to operate without the services of a GM, the workload is shared amongst members with the requisite skills in various advocacy and technical areas co-opted to represent us on the various forums dealing with these matters. Our membership renewal season for 2023 commenced on the 1st of December, we have applied a CPI related increase to the membership fee with a view to ensure affordability going forward. We will also be instituting a rolling membership system, so that a member's joining / renewal month becomes the membership anniversary.
One of the many benefits of being an Aero Club Member is the third-party insurance scheme, as within context of a wide membership base, can enjoy significant discounted premiums especially in the category of aircraft below 600 kg from 25% to 75% depending on aircraft type (see the Aero Club website for details). Similarly, with NTCA aircraft above 600 kg and below 2700 kg, there is also an Aero Club beneficiation Third Party Liability Scheme. The premiums in terms of benefit as such far outweigh the membership fees in many cases. The Aero Club has also renewed its Airmeet Third Party Policy, which covers all the events that the Aero Club and its Sections hold throughout the year, which number close to 80 or so events.
The Aero Club is also the National Aero Club (NAC) representing sporting events for competitions held Internationally under the auspices of the FAI, as such is affiliated to SASCOC in governing the conferring of Protea Colours.
Our aim continues to focus to make aviation appealing to the recreational aviator and the youth, in order for them to share and progress in the wonderful passion of all types of aviation sport offered by the various sections of the Aero Club in South Africa, as such we are fortunate to have in our midst many professional and retired professional career and military aviators that continue to share their mentorship and guidance freely to anyone who is interested in aviation in South Africa.
With this, let us all work together and support the structures that represent recreational aviation to make 2023 a success to achieve growth, as it will only be our coordinated collective efforts that will ensure the survival of our
disciplines into the future. If you have any comments or contributions to make you are most welcome to contact us at the Aero Club.
Many thanks are extended to our Aero Club Exco and Council support during the year, given the volunteers we all are, and having to weather the economics of the past few years, will be looking forward to a better 2023. An early in the year Strategy Session is planned to map out the future of our Recreational Aviation Community.
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