November 2021 – I was chatting to a professional pilot and was unsurprised when he said that he was finished with the CAA.

HE SAID IS GOING TO MOVE his type certified aircraft onto the American N-register and just not bother screwing around with the increasingly dysfunctional ex-RASA component of the CAA for his non type certified aircraft. My friend said that he will insure his planes for Balance of Third Party and public liability, and fly solo, without an ATF.

He is not alone. I know of an increasing number of pilots who would rather fly illegally than try comply with the increasingly doltish dictums of the CAA.

                   ‘GET AWAY WITH SEMI-LEGAL FLIPS’

Which brings me to the role of flying clubs. As the CAA increasingly fails to regulate reasonably, so it falls to the general aviation (GA) community to self-regulate its members. The role of flying clubs is a long unappreciated pillar of safety. The ability of clubs to share experiences and inculcate a safety culture is often overlooked. I am a proud member of a flying club (call it Club A) that is prepared to take its own enforcement actions against dangerous flying or poor airmanship. The success of Club A’s safety culture and the dynamic social ethos it has developed has meant that it is almost certainly the fastest growing flying club in the country.

I belong to two flying clubs: Club A is pro-active in creating a safety culture and enforcing it. Club B operates primarily as the airfield owner and operator, and the safety and social roles of a club are largely ignored. Thus, at Club B, a flying school run is allowed to get away with semi-legal flips in micro-lights that have an obscene rate of engine failures. It is symptomatic that, despite the CAA’s narrow escape in the Berwick vs CAA case, they are still unable to effectively regulate operators flipping trusting yet litigious tourists.

The contrast with Club A, which pro-actively manages safety, is profound. At Club A, members have been grounded for months for doing dangerous beat ups. Even the safety officer, an ‘uber-pilot’ of note, was obliged to stand up in front of a club meeting and apologise for a rare judgement failure. It was a mistake any pilot could make. The public apology was an excellent learning experience that any pilot with a modicum of honesty will take a lesson from, and so is far more effective than any sanction from the CAA.

Up until now I have been sceptical of clubs, disliking the false bonhomie and exclusivity, and clinging to the aphorism that ‘clubs are for seals.’ However, the success of Club A makes that an evident lie and in the light of the CAA’s inability to earn the respect of those it regulates, it is the clubs that will be increasingly required to fulfil the self-correction and indeed self-regulation role that GA needs if it is to improve airmanship and create a safety culture.

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