What does the Aero Club of South Africa mean to you?
In answering this, two main principles need to be agreed on. Most Recreational pilots fly for pleasure because it is a passion and secondly, to do so they need to fund their activities privately, which means they need to work hard and hold jobs or won and run companies that afford them the time and the financial standing to pay for recreational aviation. Taking these two principles into consideration the vast majority has little time to keep an eye on what the government and various organisations are doing, attend these meetings and ensure that the very rights to fly that they hold so precious are protected the right to freedom of Flight.
Yes, we have many sections with volunteers that give selflessly to look after their sport, but these committees and associations meet all too infrequently and change so often that it is difficult to maintain impetus to complete projects and to pay attention to every challenge which arises that may threaten recreational and sport aviation. On the whole there is an amazing amount of apathy and the feeling that somebody will do it. When it does not happen there is much complaining.
To this end, as the minutes capture back on 6 April 1920 a group of passionate aviators, mostly from serving forces, founded the Aero Club of South Africa. The very things that were true back then are still relevant today. The Aero Club has become the most important organisation to protect the rights of freedom of flight. The Aero Club of South Africa is a distinguished organisation that has grown and in 2020 will celebrate its centenary.
Every other African country that has not had an Aero Club that is strong with permanently employed members has seen a radical decline of recreational activities and loss of rights and freedoms.
There are certain acts and regulatory requirements that have been formulated over the years to protect recreational and sport aviation. The Aero Club and more recently RAASA have various authorities and are recognised by various governmental and international aviation bodies as the governing bodies in South Africa. The Aero Club of South Africa the officially recognised body representing all 15 affiliated sections on the various committees and forums listed below;
- Industry Liaison Forum ( ILF)
Deals with all matters relating to commercial and sport aviation.
- General Aviation Safety Initiative Forum (GASI)
Deals with all safety in general aviation, which has already had a huge impact on reducing accidents
- National Airspace Committee (NASCOM)
Handles all matters with the design and regulation of airspace (this is very important to recreation aviation)
- Civil Aviation Regulation Committee (CARCom)
Deals with all regulations and development along with ICAO compliance or difference initiatives.
- Aviation Medical Department (AVMED)
Working groups’ deals with the standards, training and all matters related to aviation medicals and especially the class IV requirements pertinent to recreational aviation.
- Air Traffic Control (ATC) working groups to deal with all air traffic control issues and special exemptions.
- National Airspace Master plan (NAScom)
The group designing the guidance document for all airspace design in South Africa.
- Department of Transport (DOT)
Provided guidance to the SACAA and handles all transport matters.
- South African Weather Service (SAWS)
Deals with the meteorlogical data, the dissemination and the type of data required for aviation.
- CAA budget Consultation group
Assists in debating the SA CAA’s annual budget
- Recreation Aviation Administration of South Africa (RAASA)
Deals with all administration and legislation and oversight for recreational aviation.
- South African Sports Confederation Olympic Committee (SASCOC)
Deals with all sports in South Africa and controls the national and provincial colours for those federations that adhere to its rules and regulations.
- Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa(SRSA)
To improve the quality of life of all South Africans, foster social cohesion, enhance nation building by maximising access, development and excellence at all levels of participation in sport and recreation.
- South African Air Force (SAAF)
Dealing with mutual airspace and air security matters.
- Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI)
Handling of records and international sporting events and rules for each discipline.
- Insurance companies to provide professional indemnities for the AP Scheme
Group Third party insurance where we recently achieved gaining for paragliding Tandem instructors for up to R50 million.
Currently the Aero Club of South Africa is totally self sufficient, reliant on membership fees to finance the operations and thus fluctuations in membership numbers affect us greatly. We need more money to do more, but at the same time must be cost effective to our members which basically place us between a rock and hard place, If we could get in a extra R500K per year we could radically develop many of the initiatives we need to develop and maybe we should use some of our reserves to embark on these ventures.However, many see this as a far too radical move.
Aero Club has a few hats that it wears. One is the custodian of aviation sport in South Africa, the second is as the representational body at various forums and committees to protect the interests of sport aviation in South Africa and the final one is to grow the membership and enable Transformation and Development in aviation sport. Transformation and Development does see Lotto funding and we are working on another revenue stream that should bring more financial support to these initiatives. The main challenge is for sections to provide volunteers to work at these various projects and initiatives and this is not happening as much as it should. The route of paid employees seems the only route that will ultimately work as the pressure of our economy.