By Kevin Fresson
Firstly thank you to those who supported my election to the committee. Having only been a member for the last few years I ought to introduce myself to those who only know me as a tuggie.
I was one of that lucky generation that was with the Air Cadets flying T31’s, a wonderful intro to the flying world. A member of SGC from 1989 for a decade. I worked my way through syndicates & gliders with Standard Cirrus, Lak 12, DG202 and then with a DG400 share, as a tuggie I was able to launch others, then myself on ad-hoc flying days. Amongst syndicate partners was Michel Carnet with the Cirrus (So good to see Charlie’s back). With Michel, one had to be on the field before 10, else the aeroplane would be up and away all day. One would expect that with an ex world-champion pilot in a similar discipline. I well remember everyone avoiding eye contact - a Lak 12’s wings are long & heavy! I enjoyed my flying and still do, it’s a special & privileged view on the world. If you are sensible, in flying, you only change one thing at a time. Before my recent return to Parham I was flying motorgliders at Ringmer. Having got used to the operation of Parham again in a share of the RF5 with Chris, I was then invited to tug. Now having got that sorted, I will re-engage with pure gliding. I hope that maybe BI by the end of the year would be achievable. I fly professionally & live in Storrington so hear the tugs launch. Not being 9 to 5 I can be at the club for those very short notice tuggie needs on ad-hoc days if I’m home. I am married with two children one of whom is Christian who glides with us & went solo on his 14th birthday last Summer. I’ll be told what the younger element of our club are feeling without a doubt.
A committee member should have the whole club’s interests at heart. Having been away from the club for a lengthy time, makes one a good observer upon return. Some things don’t change. There are still different needs for different people. Some only need or want a launch machine (turn up, fly, go home!). Others really are happy after a local flight in a fab machine or an older wooden glider. Then there’s “Bang for the Buck” winch launches at £10 a go. Then there’s the chatting to others & drinking tea! It’s a brotherhood - Just being at the club with the people, is an important part. We are a club that has more paternalistic qualities than I remember in the late 80’s & 90’s. More are now prepared to share their knowledge & skill so you don’t have to teach yourself X-C. There is no more shouting. People have learnt more about Human Factors. I do wonder if as a club we are a bit complacent (a dreadful thing to have to say). The gliders have become a bit better & go further faster. A most significant observation is that we don’t fly as much now as we used to. Our LS4 doesn’t fly enough nor the 505. Often only the duty team will turn up when the weather is not so good. There has been much talk about the winch & us being mostly an aerotow site. The winch gets currency up. Most accidents revolve around Human Factors but the length of the site keeps being mentioned. If you have recency you make better decisions – maybe still not perfect - but better. The aviation industry has learned lots about HF’s – it’s about being effective, not nice. Make good decisions.
The ridge makes us a year round club for sure. It is a major aspect of who & what we are at Southdown - the “Ridge Rats”. The dynamics of the President’s hanger position can cause tensions on gridding up. We now can have a large grid with visitors from far afield, so suddenly the duty team is in a most pressurised position. Not a normal slow Wednesday at all! Human Factors to the fore! It’s a shame our Blog was only last updated in Autumn on such a day, have we done nothing since? I know that there have been issues with the website lately.
Our experiences of attracting members are similar to those in other clubs at the moment, be it sailing, golf, model aeroplanes etc.. Members tend to be grey or white then with an element of younger people. Time rich, cash poor it used to be. The opposite prevails much more now. Everyone seems to work longer & harder. Gliding is a sport that requires time, rather like sailing. I read a sailing mag recently that talked about experimenting with having its club’s boats set up ready to go for (particularly) people with young families. I think that we are close to that already with the hanger spaces & certain times for trial lessons. Dad’s & Mum’s don’t tend to have time, but one thing they do do is media. Our media interaction is more important than ever & will continue to become more so. Most locals have no idea about our cadet scheme. Neither do locals know that we have one of the highest youth membership levels in the country - & that we’re proud of it. Something should be done about that. I’ll try. When locals hear our tug we need to make them change to something like “I wonder if that’s another youngster about to go solo – I wonder if my granddaughter would like a go”. That will be tough, & only slowly achieved. It seems there is no knowledge that junior members club together to buy a glider for £1500 to go safely fly. That’s the cost of sending a school kid to Iceland on a geography trip or a ski trip these days. We live in an affluent area, but this sport is not the domain of just the wealthy, its accessible to virtually all, it’s a brilliant leveller with members from all walks of life. We don’t sing our own praises enough.