Safety Report, EAA of SA Convention 2015 Margate

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- Mike Visagie, EAA National Vice-President and Chapter 1504

Safety as always is a non-debatable and vital aspect of aviation and related events. Last weekend’s Convention was no exception in this regard, but a few factors made my life very easy.

Due to work issues I could not attend any of the pre-planning sessions and neither was I able to travel to Margate during the safety planning sessions prior to the Convention. Although I travelled down in time for a day or two in advance to find my feet, I need not to have worried at all.

Between a human dynamo called Marie Reddy and Walter Doubell, EAA National Safety Officer, Des Potts from MFC and the Airport Manager Yolanda van Rensburg, an excellent job was done of identifying all relevant role players, classifying the risk level as low, completed planning of the entire safety plan and setup for the weekend and had all the paperwork sown up, whilst the rest of us were packing and munching sandwiches.

Margate is a great venue as it is a registered airfield with an airport manager with few equals, a very professional emergency crew compliment and a tower staffed by absolute gems. The event JOC was headed by Mr Sean Davidson, who, as a member of the emergency services based at the airport, had performed this duty several times before and had all the proper procedures down pat. Overseeing the EMS contracted for the event was taken up as a matter of course. Marshalling at any event is normally a headache of epic proportions in the making. This time around we had marshalls from the region overseen by Paul Sabatier, all with vast experience performing marshalling services at air shows and events for years and ably assisted by local Scouts.

The single event of an aircraft declaring an emergency due to suspected fuel supply problems was dealt with calmly and professionally. The tower requested and directed Eugene Couzyn in his helicopter to fly to the aircraft in distress and to assist as required. We all know what this means of course, but being the exceptional people they all are, they not only assisted the overworked pilot, but provided vital information regarding alternates, options and advice all without ever increasing any stress levels. The JOC and emergency services responded as efficiently, readied their response vehicles, although very fortunately it was not required as the aircraft made the airfield and landed safely. Even then the safety job was not finished, and the vast experience inherent in the organisation was called on when Col Jeff Earle was available to debrief both pilot and pax immediately after the aircraft was parked and tied down. The causal factors were determined irrelevant to the Convention or any of the other participants and the incident was deemed isolated and finalised and no further action required. Safety-wise Margate Airport gets a huge fat thumbs up and EAA members as well for all contributing to make it a successful and safe convention!

The Convention was hosted by the Margate Flying Club, but the final authorisation to utilise the airport per se was granted by a local government committee. All members of this committee were duly invited to attend a tour of the Convention on the Saturday afternoon. However, only two members accepted the invitation along with their daughters.
Both counsellors stated clearly they had no knowledge of anything related to aviation. It therefore presented an opportunity to not only establish a solid foundation for future events, but also to provide them with an understanding of how the flying fraternity would value the positive interaction from local governmental bodies. About two hours were spent first explaining flying, aircraft and piloting training, skills and standards to the visitors. Then the intricate questions started,
Can a pilot fly without a license?
Is it possible to just take of and fly anywhere?
How do we ensure compliance with regulations?
How do we know what each aircraft’s status is wrt registration and airworthiness?

All the questions were answered effectively and with ample emphasis on the integrity of the system and self governance.
The final big question was not exactly unexpected, but fortunately it came at the end of the complex explanations and narratives.
“Why are there no black pilots here?”
The previous two hours was spent on explaining the very complex and demanding world of General Aviation, with mention of the highly regulated world of Commercial Aviation and much was said as well about the prohibitive cost of obtaining any licence and to maintain flying competence.
This was then used as a basis to suggest to the two councillors that the solution for the absence of black pilots lies within their fields of responsibility. They as a local government can utilise the assets they have with ATOs, AMOs, all on a registered airfield to start a pilot cadet scheme using Factory Built NTCA aircraft.
They could theoretically initially produce pilots at less than the cost of a smart mayoral vehicle, and thereafter annually maintain the programme with relative minimal cost. It was also suggested to explore this avenue in accordance with the resident airport manager whom is both a commercial pilot and an aviation management professional.

The seed has been planted, may it grow and bear fruit.
Cheers until next year