By Dom Juretic
Hi fellow members, pilots and friends of free flight,
I welcome you to this first instalment of our new e-newsletter. This is our new chosen format to communicate all official HPAC business to our members. HPAC volunteers will be called upon to contribute to this newsletter to make sure that we share all matters of interest with you our members. This concept might evolve in the future to include contributions on topics relating to our sport which might come from you. But for now we will keep it light by focusing on HPAC official business.
Since the last issue of our magazine Air was published in its paper form, the world changed. Many newspapers and paper magazines disappeared and the way people communicate evolved. Taking this into account, there is no way of going back. This is why we will from now on almost exclusively use the internet to keep contact with our members. We will do so through our website and its forum, this newsletter and the HPAC Facebook group/page. (This group is up to 460 members as of today).
Many things happened in our sport in the last little while. And quite a few of them were really sad. Our 2012 season was one of our most dismal ones safety wise. Some dramatic accidents brought unwanted media attention and bad press like at no other time in our sport’s short history. While under this spotlight, we realized how superficial some of our safety processes were and how shallow some ratings requirements seemed to be. This prompted our sense of due diligence into action. There was no alternative but to take all means necessary to beef up our ratings requirements and safety processes. To achieve this we brought together all senior instructors and sequestered them in a Vancouver meeting room for a whole weekend in November of 2012. And it worked! It got the ball rolling and we now have the first total overhaul of our instruction system since it came into being many years ago. Yes there have been other attempts, but all other were partial or fell short. And this overhaul also included all exams which were long due for a review.
You can’t fail to note that these new requirements were upgraded, meaning they seem tougher. And in many ways they are. But what is really noteworthy is that we moved away from the more quantitative to a more qualitative approach. What is key in our new system is the list of required skills that go with each rating. This list is really spelled out now and will constitute a new baseline of minimum standards which will have to be imposed all across the land. This more comprehensive approach is also reflected in the higher requirements that include the instructor ratings. And this should also put us more in line with other major nations in our sport.
All this work on the ratings and exams is now being done on our safety processes where following the recommendations of our special investigator Martin Henry, we (our safety chairs Suzanne Francoeur and George Martin) are adopting a risk management approach to make sure that we are up to date with the best practices safety wise.
In search of those best practices, your Executive Director Margit Nance and I attended the semi-annual USHPA Board of Directors meeting recently. The open door policy of our American neighbors allowed us to witness the transition that they had to go through recently to implement this new risk management and best practices approach and thereby satisfy new requirements of their insurer.
Even if these weren’t imposed by this series of tragedies that plagued our sport last year, we would have had to come to the conclusion that it was time to bring our game up a notch or two anyway. Your association just can’t afford to look amateurish in these times of instant media scrutiny, if we are to continue to defend this still seemingly frivolous sport in a professional way. With the steps mentioned here I do believe that we will be well armed to do just that and more importantly, that these steps should favor better skills for pilots and instructors and better overall safety for all.
I have just been reelected for another two year term as Quebec director. I cherish the confidence that you have invested in me and will try my best to rise to it, thank you!
Be safe and fly sky high!