This past year, after the disaster of 2020, was supposed to be a year of recovery, growth and revitalisation. Little did we know that two further lockdowns later and into a 4th wave that 2021 did not aspire to these expectations. The overall industry remains depressed, with many knee-jerk reactions to varied restrictions world-wide, although in some quarters sanity is starting to prevail, as the industry is looking at operating despite the pandemic's continued unpredictability.
Recreational aviation had at least seen resurgence in activity in between the lockdown levels and many events were able to take place, most notably the Aero Club Airweek in April, which at last could celebrate our Centenary in style a year later while most sections could hold their regional / local competitions in their disciplines.
Airshows however, had to forfeit any plans for events for a 2nd year running given the restrictions on public gatherings, although a bumper show schedule is planned for 2022. The World Rally Flying Championships had to be cancelled for a 2nd year in a row, fortunately enough foresight in July of the potential risk of the 4th wave hitting the world in November saw the decision to at least save the day, given the flight cancellations and border closures to SA that occurred.
2021 has also been a sad year in the loss of well-known aviators and we unfortunately had to say farewell to Mark Stoxreiter and the team on the Netcare Bell 430, Des Barker, Rama Iyer, Essie Esterhuysen, Neville Ferreira and most recently Glen Warden in aviation related accidents. We will remember them.
This past year has also seen the Aero Club gain further traction with CAA interaction on advocacy topics, notably ATF renewals which has seen a good improvement in turnaround times, although we are still working at improving this further, especially now that the CAA upholds their 20-day SLA (Service Level Agreement) time lines. We are also collaborating on the rewrite of the Approved Persons regulation Part 66.4, with good progress being made. Members have been kept informed with regular mailchimps throughout the year detailing our interactions with the CAA from our GA/RA Industry Liaison forums.
We will continue to take concerted efforts to ensure that recreational aviation is embraced by you, the recreational aviator and supported by the regulator to uphold our charter of ensuring Freedom of Flight. Foremost activities include simplifying the ATF renewal process while also rolling out the Aero Club on-line ATF application system, establishing multi-year licencing protocols and reducing the service level turn-around times, among others.
Our membership has at least improved slightly since 2020 as recreational aviation activities resumed. The overall membership of the Aero Club and its constituent Sections has however been in decline and we are now under 3000 from a high of 5500 in 2015, which indicates a sign of increasingly tough economic conditions, a turbulent regulatory environment and a few other challenges that we find ourselves in 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 thus shared among 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 2022 commenced on the 1st of December and we have applied a CPI related increase to the membership fee with a view to ensure affordability going forward.
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 is still working on insurance to cover APs, as well as benefits for Aero Club Members on wider Insurance coverage:- these will be communicated as they come to hand. 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 and as such, is affiliated to SASCOC in governing the conferring of Protea Colours.
Our Centenary celebrations, although muted from the original intentions, are largely complete with Airweek 2021 having been successfully concluded and the Centenary Book published. Given the circumstances, we were able to give our 100-year history the recognition such a milestone deserves. It would have been great to have had a 100 aircraft flypast, possibly still something that can be done at a future date once restrictions are out of the way to at least round off the Centenary.
Our aim continues to focus on making 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, and with 2020/2021 behind us, let us all work together and support the structures that represent recreational aviation to make 2022 a success in order 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 you wish to make, you are most welcome to contact us at the Aero Club.
The Aero Club of South Africa
Tell: 011 082-1100 / 087 702 5270
Fax: 086 635 3755
Email: sandra @aeroclu.org.za or firstname.lastname@example.org