June 2015

  • Last Month’s Meeting: Brian Davies, LAA Chairman, Director and Chairman of the Engineering Committee – Richard Griffiths

Last Month’s Meeting: Brian Davies, LAA Chairman, Director and Chairman of the Engineering Committee

May’s monthly meeting at The Swiss Cottage was attended by approximately 20 members. Brian Davies gave a very thought provoking talk on the current and future situation of the LAA, touching on longer term changes in membership and impending changes in regulation. Seen from the perspective of the LAA chairmanship, times are’ interesting’ in the Chinese sense!  I’ll give a brief outline. I took notes, but unfortunately I managed to lose my notebook, so topics may be misrepresented or omitted depending on the fallibility of my memory.

Changes in membership: The association has moved from being made up of builders and flyers to one where builders are now in the minority. The increasing adoption of orphaned types brings members who are not necessarily interested in the nitty-gritty of aircraft construction and maintenance. They just want to keep their aircraft flying and membership of the LAA is instrumental in this. Also a substantial proportion of the membership does not own an aircraft. These two constituencies will want different things from their membership; efficient administration of the permit system on the one hand and something worth the membership fee on the other; just what this is (the magazine?) needs to be determined. These are different again from the traditional builder membership.

The other change is in the age demographic; the LAA membership is massively grey-haired. There may be a substantial number of reasons for this. Philip Hall, the current CEO talked about the competition from other lifestyle pursuits (skiing, etc.) amongst others when he visited earlier in the year. The grey-haired members are part of the post-war generation who’s childhood and young adulthood would have been during the ‘golden years ‘of British aviation. This was a period characterised by large-scale employment in engineering industries and an attitude of self-reliance and pride in DIY capabilities. Aviation was seen and promoted as futuristic and exciting. Test pilots were as well-known as professional footballers are now. The grey-haired carry this interest in aviation, nurtured in our formative years as a ‘natural’ view of the world.  Not so the current generation. Who now does their own car maintenance? Even DIY superstores are closing. Courtesy of Easy Jet and Ryan Air, flying is the mildly unpleasant experience you have to go through before clubbing in Ibiza or snowboarding in Verbier. To recruit this challenged generation will require something different of the LAA. Brian spoke about the youth initiative that the LAA has been promoting as an indication of the challenge being taken up, but also where much more effort is needed.

The other change Brian mentioned is the increasing reluctance of people to get involved in the business of running a membership organisation. This is not unique to the LAA; it has been observed in many areas of life.

Changes in regulation: The regulating authorities, EASA and the CAA, want to move away from light GA regulation. Increasingly the authority to permit aircraft will be delegated to other organisations. This might be seen as wholly positive – but in real life there is no such thing! One fly in the ointment for the LAA is the occurrence of the word “contestability” that occurs in official proposals. It turns out that this is a code word for competition. The LAA is not going to be granted a monopoly, but will have to compete with other existing or future competent organisations to regulate permit approvals.

Looking for a new CEO: The meeting ended with a brief discussion of the recently announced resignation of Phil Hall and the search for a replacement. Brian paid tribute to Phil for the needed changes that he has put in motion. Replacing him with someone with equivalent experience, competence and ‘fire in their belly’ – at the modest salary that the LAA can afford, is going to prove a significant challenge.

Richard Griffiths

Upcoming Events

For the latest list of events, go to the Events page on the Strut website.

Some possible additional events yet to be finalized:

  • July – Gliding evening

Please suggest/volunteer to organize some more. 🙂

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