Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The SAMAA as an Aviation Recreation Organization

Recently there has been some debate about the direction in which the SAMAA is heading. It's been difficult to separate matters of fact from opinions and rumor.
I spoke to Neil de Lange of the Aero Club to get more insight.
Here's my understanding.

The Civil Aviation Authority, (CAA), is changing the way it deals with recreational flying. It is doing this through the Aero Club. The plan is to move more of the responsibility for operations to the Aero Club. In turn the Aero Club will do likewise for its sections.
The mechanism is the Aviation Recreation Organization, (ARO).
To be approved as an ARO a flying discipline must have:
1. A Manual of Procedure, (MoP), that defines how it will operate, and
2. A Quality Control System to ensure adherence to the MoP.
The MoP complements the CAA regulations. Together they define the rules under which the discipline operates. The focus is on national safety. Flying, and this includes model flying, is potentially dangerous. The rules map the landscape of safe flying for every one involved in the discipline.
All interaction with the CAA for recreational flying will be via the Aero Club and the ARO. This means the ARO must provide services fairly to both its members and others. It is permitted to charge non-members on a cost recovery basis. Or alternatively give members the same services at a discount. An ARO may not deny services to non-members.
The CAA may approve more than one ARO in any flying discipline.
At first AROs are approved for two years. The status may be extended for another three years and thereafter for five years at a time. Extensions will depend on how effective the ARO is.
The SAMAA has been approved as an ARO for model flying. As of now it is the only approved ARO for model flying.
What does this mean?
The SAMAA is now a quasi-governmental body. It has legal status and the power to make rules for model flying. These rules apply to all model-flying whether by SAMAA members or not. (The CAA regulations and the SAMAA MoP define these rules).
It does not mean that it is illegal to fly models if you are not a SAMAA member.
But if you are not you must still fly according to SAMAA's rules.
All aeromodellers whether SAMAA members or not can deal with the CAA only via the SAMAA. The SAMAA is obliged to handle these interactions.
You may for example request a service given to SAMAA members. The SAMAA may not refuse to provide the service but you may be charged for it. An example might be a "non-SAMAA" club applying for the registration of a flying site. At this stage it's not clear how the costs of such a service would be calculated.
ARO status gives the SAMAA more clout than before with the CAA. At the moment the SAMAA is negotiating successfully for the relaxation of some height restrictions for SAMAA registered fields.
All this adds greatly to the value of SAMAA membership.
That's why the recent heavy-handed bludgeoning of Aeromodellers to become SAMAA members puzzles me. There was the rhetoric of "free-loaders" and the threat of being "illegal" if you were not a member. SAMAA membership numbers increase steadily all the time. The value is clear. There is no need for Groot Krokodil scare tactics.
Is there a downside?
Well perhaps in theory; but not I suspect in practice.
Section 2 of the SAMAA MoP restricts model flying to registered sites. What about those who fly on farms, isolated slopes, beaches, even in parks?
South African Law recognizes the doctrine of the Reasonable Man.
Assess the risk and fly with care and consideration. In the event of an incident the law will ask how a reasonable man would view your actions.
There is a good example of this:
The chairman boasts of flying from Swartvlei Lake. Is that a SAMAA Site? I don't think so. He even flew at night in contravention of regulation 94.05.1. (What an awful example for young members.) He assessed the risk and flew with care and consideration.
Lastly there is the intriguing thought of a second model-flying ARO. It's not likely but it's possible.
If a model flying group felt that its MoP was sufficiently different from the SAMAA one it might apply.
A second ARO would be part of the Aero Club and hence the FAI. Think about it. The threat of a little competition often works wonders.

More info on the SAMAA MoP here

1 comment:

Aragon said...

Great write up. I think SAMAA need to concentrate on one thing immediately: Their communication with (to and from!) hobbyists (not just members). This blog would be a good start if the people at the top used it to interact with us. SAMAA should strive to recognise everyone's activities.

Two model AROs might not be a bad thing. SAMAA is JHB based and possibly JHB centric as a result? A Cape Town body might be beneficial, but I guess time will tell.

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