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Member's Newsletter April 2024

It has been a strange season. As you have undoubtedly noticed we have had our fair share of wet and windy weather this year. Despite that the club remains in a good position with a steady stream of new members, and a number of students progressing to solo, single seat gliders and a keen group of Wednesday flyers working on developing their cross-country skills despite the weather.

Recently, we had a contingent of Boonah pilots fly at the DDSC Easter regatta. Thanks to Pavel, John Tucker and Jeremy Thompson for making this happen. By all reports a very successful venture, despite the constraints of weather and the usual difficulties in moving aircraft between sites.  One of those difficulties being the need for maintenance of our equipment. To get UIY to DDSC it had to be loaded into its trailer, of course this happened to be on a rainy day with a short-handed crew. A small team of us, including Brian Allerby, Pavel, Tony, Erik and myself derigged UIY and started to load UIY in the trailer in the rain, with the trailer backed up close to the hangar to try to keep as much rain off UIY and the team as possible during derigging and loading. The precarious business of loading the glider into the trailer was not assisted by the discovery that water ingress into the floor had weakened the ply in places and temporary repairs were needed during and loading and the return trip to get UIY safely to and from the Darling Downs for the regatta. Some of these issues you find when you do something rarely, like putting the training gliders in the box for transport others you plan for some time ahead which brings me to the next issue the club budget.

As indicated in the last newsletter, financially the club is in a good position with its finances arguably the best it has been in some years, and we are forward planning for the development of the club. In fact, this forward planning has been going on for some years. Several ideas have been floated around the club in regard to where we should be heading as a club to some extent based on perhaps a misconception that there is a large sum of unallocated funds just waiting to be spent. It would be nice if that were the case, however it really isn’t quite like that. Gliding is an expensive activity to fund, a large part of that expense is maintenance oriented, and we must plan for expenditures on key pieces of equipment that we know will need to be replaced in the future. One of these key pieces of equipment is the tug WWP. As you may know aircraft engines have a fixed life measured in hours before overhaul. The glider tug is no different.

For at least the last five years one of the enduring concerns regarding maintenance has been do we have enough readily available funds to cover the replacement of a major component of the tug in the event of engine failure, end of engine life or a prop strike. When I first joined the committee, a previous committee had investigated the purchase of a replacement engine and concluded that a replacement superior engine would cost about $29,000 and perhaps a further $15,000 to install so we have been planning on that basis and adjusting for inflation for several years with a view that we needed about $60,000 at last estimate towards engine replacement. However, inflation has been faster than expected and our most recent estimated total cost of engine replacement of the tug is now at $80,000. That’s a very large proportion of what we have managed to save. The good news is that we are positioned to keep the tug running. Why do I bring this up? One major consideration is that while at the moment the tug is in fine form and running well and having had its SIDs review and panel upgrades is in perhaps the best condition its ever been in, its engine is currently running “on condition” what that means is that we can keep using it because its running well and shows little sign of abnormal wear and tear but engine replacement is something that now is a key priority. If the engine was to develop any issues we would have to replace it quickly to keep operating. It’s come to the point where we need to be looking at spending some of those accrued funds to acquire a replacement engine and get ahead of the maintenance. This doesn’t mean we don’t have other club development plans I’ll come back to that in a moment. The committee is currently looking at purchasing the engine in advance. There are several advantages of such a strategy. First it defrays the outlay into two blocks, engine purchase and fitment. Second it takes quite a while to source and deliver an engine so purchasing an engine before you need it to have it on hand minimises the potential down time of the tug. Thirdly, it prevents further inflation of the cost of the engine over time. The cost is not insignificant but necessary and inevitable and that has an impact on what other club development we can do. Before, I go onto the committee’s thoughts on club development and fleet renewal in particular let me return to a couple of maintenance issues.

Trailering UIY revealed water damage to its floor and rear door, similar water ingress is apparent in IKD’s trailer so we need to expend some funds on those trailers in the near term. Tim has volunteered to assess UIY’s trailer and look at the necessary repairs. What we need is some volunteers to do the same with IKD’s trailer and perhaps the best way to do that is to organise a working bee. We certainly have the talent among the members currently to replace the floor panels and doors on the glider trailers to return them to good serviceable condition. I’ll put out a call for volunteers in a few weeks.

You may well know that for the past perhaps six months the club was giving serious consideration to purchasing NTT the ASK21-mi from John Feeney and Rob Houghton. It is undoubtedly, the nicest well priced K21-mi in Australia. After much consideration and an independent evaluation by a team of reviewers we came to the decision that whilst its is a beautiful glider its not well suited to club operations for a range of reasons. If you want to know more ask me, we can talk about it.  If you can find a syndicate of five or six partners it would be a bargain. Have a look at what others are asking for a comparable machine. Why were we looking at NTT? About 5 years ago we started looking at fleet renewal, for some time instructors have been asking for a second K21 or similar machine, a light to handle aircraft with good characteristics suitable for training and air experience flights, which would also allow early solo pilots to transition to the single seaters.

The twin Astirs we have are fairly heavy gliders with more difficult ground handling characteristics, the potential for excitement in a crosswind and whilst they are all in good airworthy condition one of them has a considerable number of hours on her and is a candidate for a refinish. Refinishing a glider is a big task with a large associated cost a minimum start estimated for a single seater would be $15,000. A better option would be to retire that glider and replace it with a more modern glider in better condition. However, gliders are also expensive bits of kit in their own right. If anyone has been following the market they would have seen an ASW33, single seat glider on the market recently for close to half a million and it hasn’t even been built yet. A new trainer would set back the club about $300,000 a great deal more than we have, and a crushing loan. We have been in that position before with the duo discuss and it was costing us about $24,000 a year to run with an annual return of about $6,000. The numbers involved means this sort of decision making and planning process is a multi-year venture, and it needs careful consideration to spend members money in the most effective way. It’s the committee’s intention to pursue fleet upgrade by purchasing a more modern easier to handle two seat aircraft. This isn’t a rushed decision and we won’t necessarily be looking at new aircraft. Due to the inflation of costs of new equipment if we go down that path…

Why do we think the two seater is our priority after provisions for the tug engine replacement?  There are three elements to this. The first point is that the bulk of the income to fund our operations and pay for increasing fuel, maintenance and insurance bills is derived from air experience flights for visitors and training flights, both of which rely on having a two seat aircraft available and in good flying condition. Good flying condition includes basic presentation as the aircraft age some wear and tear is showing on them. Fleet upgrade will provide visitors, students and other members using the aircraft with a better experience of gliding, and hopefully help retain students and perhaps attract some of the air experience passengers to more flying. It makes most sense in terms of the clubs continued financial viability to spend on fleet development where we get the greatest return on investment, and that’s in the two seat aircraft. If we maintain the income stream by prioritizing the return on investment we can continue to keep the flying costs to members low and improve the fleet.

A second issue is simply the physical characteristics of the twin Astirs. I don’t know if you have noticed but our instructors are not getting any younger and a few of them perhaps many of them have noted that they have difficulty with the weight of the Astirs in ground handling and so either don’t fly in them or use the 21 in preference. There are a lot of bad back, knees and shoulders in the club. Looking for a replacement glider with handling characteristics more like the 21 will keep our instructors and trainees healthy and active longer, and generally make flying more enjoyable.

Another important consideration is simply the cost of holding on to aging aircraft. IKD has about 7,000 hrs on her with a limit of 12,000 hrs so we could keep her in service for many years. There is no rush to replacement. On the other hand, whist in some respects her finish looks a little better than UIY there are some gel coat issues apparent that will require a refinish. That’s an expensive option and going down that pathway would further delay our ability to undertake fleet renewal.

You might be thinking at this point that we are planning on a big or immediate spend, that’s not the case at all we are actively looking as we have been for some time, we have time to make a good decision, but we wanted to inform members about our planning. Having a plan doesn’t limit consideration of alternatives or prevent responding to changes of circumstances and we have routine costs that we have to continue meeting and sometimes costs imposed by external pressures such as the purchase of the ADSB-Out Skyecho devices.

More on the fleet usage, the club has its own two single seat aircraft WUN and IKE that are in moderate demand at the moment, and whilst its still rare to have both in the air at the same time the club has based on member feedback implemented an online booking system for the single seat aircraft initially limited to 3 hour slots. There are two private gliders also available for solo pilots signed off by instructors for use, who have signed a usage agreement form. The Club Libelle and Dennis Costigan’s Mosquito are available to fly by more advanced solo pilots. Dennis’s Mosquito can be had for $1/minute, the Libelle at usual club rates. These are a little different in handling from the Astir’s but nice aircraft to fly.

In terms of external changes, we are now a part 149 organisation. For anyone unfamiliar with part 149 this refers to a change in how Gliding Australia operates under the aviation regulator. Previously, gliding in Australia operated under a series of exemptions to CASA regulations under Civil Aviation Order 95.10 which recognised that gliders have different characteristics to other aircraft and this provided us as a consequence with a series of privileges and limits. Over recent years the administrative costs associated with compliance with the relevant Civil Aviation Orders were increasing and the Gliding Federation Australia executive made a judgment that to keep us flying we would need to move away from working under the exemption model to having gliding recognised as a self-administering organisation that reports to CASA through the GFA executive.

Last week Boonah had good representation at the Skyward Summit in Brisbane. We are the first state to have a briefing program on the impact of the change to part 149 from the Gliding Federation of Australia and CASA. Thanks to those who attended it was greater attendance than I expected and much appreciated. Over 100 delegates attended and we were briefed on ADSB amongst other things. I guess the most immediate feedback to members is that all of the MOSPS have now been updated and members should make themselves familiar with MOSP 2 which details operations and MOSP 3 which deals with airworthiness. The other important issue is making sure club members are familiar with the Emergency response plan which can be found in the club house.

Whilst we are talking about the club house a few people have asked about purchasing club shirts and bucket hats. We are currently out of stock of the bucket hats awaiting delivery of an order that was placed early April. Some of you may know that we provide air experience passengers with the blue caps as part of the flight package. We think that our stock of bucket hats was depleted by handout to passengers. Just for information’s sake the bucket hats and shirts are for sale to club members. We will display one of each in the club with pricing. The estimated cost of the bucket hats is $25. They should be back in stock soon. We have plenty of club shirts available in a full range of sizes.

That is it for now.


Kind regards,


Mark Bahr

President Boonah Gliding Club

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