Saturday, November 17, 2007

"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

I sent my view on the Manual of Operations to members of the management committee asking if anyone wanted to comment or put another view. Only Joe Coetzer and Tony Stockwell replied - about par for the course. I've added their remarks at the end.

It is my suggestion that we replace the present paper Manual of Operations with a shorter, simpler Internet document. Here are my reasons.

There are four central benefits of SAMAA membership.

Group insurance cover
Association with the FAI, and international competition
A voice in dealing with the authorities on airspace, frequency, field tenure and other matters
Access to advice and guidance on safety and other operating issues.

When Keith, on behalf of the committee, defended the manual at the AGM, he mentioned none of these. Instead, he seemed to concentrate on a bizarre Corporate Correctness. He used such expressions as; SAMAA did not have a manual for seventy years now it's time to move forward; or no business operates nowadays without a manual; or we need to do things properly now; and so forth.

The SAMAA is not a business corporation. It doesn't have to make profits for its shareholders. Its task is to do the best for its members. There may be some basic similarities to a business but these are few. Mainly they have to do with accounting to members for money spent.

I think it's a great shame that so much effort went into writing this manual. I doubt if anyone will read it. I doubt if anyone or any committee will observe it's labyrinthine procedures.

Then there's the affect on insurance. I quote two examples only;

Page 23...." It must be clearly stipulated and issued to the Association members that if they do not comply with certain basic Safety Rules and an accident occurs, they are solely liable for all costs and for the legal consequences which may follow."

Page 69..." If an (sic) SAMAA member or any Registered Clubs or Special Interest Groups of SAMAA normally covered by SAMAA Insurance Policies, participates in a display of Model Aircraft without the Display having a proper permit issued by SAMAA Management Committee it will invalidate their SAMAA Insurance Cover"

(There are other rigorous rules for display pilots.)

Insurance is one of the four central benefits. The manual gives carte blanche to the underwriters to repudiate claims. Safe flying is important but this is ridiculous. I attended the JOMAC Guy Fawkes celebrations recently. A number of JOMAC members flew aircraft - safely. Is this a display? From one point of view yes. Did the SAMAA Management committee issue a proper permit? I doubt it.

Members of the public watch the Hermanus Slope Event. Is this a display? Does it need a permit? Who knows? And yet, the manual is specific. Pilots at Hermanus could lose insurance cover.

So what next?

I suggest that we re-think the process.

First, what should be in a manual, second, how should it be presented?

Here are some ideas on how it should be presented.

The simpler and shorter we can keep the manual the better. A long document will just attract dust. If it is to be useful, if it is to be read, it must be easy to read. A manual of hundred pages is too long.

A conventional hard copy document is out-of-date as soon as it is published. This manual is no exception. For instance, the section on 2,4Ghz sets is out of date. It can be brought up-to-date but to do this for every member will not be a trivial process. (It will be neither trivial nor low cost to get initial copies of the manual to members). If members are not kept up-to-date, the purpose of the manual is defeated.

The Internet with its hyperlinks can assist with both these matters.
Develop the manual as an Internet document from the word go.
Where content for the manual exists, (and this is so in many cases already), link to it rather that duplicate it. Updating the document will be simple too - all members will see the new information immediately.

There is a drawback to this. I estimate that only 20% of our members have regular access to the Internet. But this number will grow with time. It may be better for 20% of members to use an up-to date version than for all to use an old one.

What should be in the manual?

I suggest it should hold:
How the association works
How the association delivers the four central benefits listed above.

The working of the association is set out in its constitution, the workings of SIGS in founding statements. The constitution exists as an Internet document, founding statements likewise. The manual should contain a link to the constitution and to an example of a founding statement. I see no need for pages and pages of detail on the working of committees, sub-committees and other groups. The sub-committee structure is flexible and changes all the time. It is often ad hoc and transient. Let it operate without a bureaucratic millstone around its neck.

There should be a clear statement on insurance. - What is covered, what the exclusions are if any, how to report incidents and how to claim. (The statements we have had up to now have raised more questions than they answered. We have No-fault public liability cover while flying. Yet, we constantly seek to erode our cover. I'm not sure why). Incident reporting and claim procedures exist as Internet documents. Cover and exclusions are surrounded in mystery and contradictory statements. There is a good example on how to present the insurance issue on page 8 of the 2007 BMFA handbook. We would do well to study it.

There are Internet documents dealing with our relation with the FAI. These have to do with team selection and approval, team funding, team managers' duties, planning overseas travel, liaison with FAI Technical Committees and the like. It's my perception that this information is a little fragmented now. Perhaps the SIGs could work together to revise it and draw it into a simple concise set of Internet documents for a manual.

There are Internet documents on aspects of dealing with the authorities. These include, how to set-up and register a flying site, guidelines for Public Air Shows and Displays, incident reporting and confidential aviation hazard reporting. There have been a number of notes on liaison with ICASA. Most of the information is available now. Some new policies may have to be written, some existing ones revised.

There are Internet documents giving advice and guidance on safety and operations. These include Team Managers' checklists, judges' remuneration guidelines, proficiency tests, club safety guidelines, frequency control, TX fail-safe guidelines, SIG safety codes and many more.

Bring all this together into a short, simple, linked document.

Tony said. "Hi John,
Some bureaucracies are here to stay. CAA is going nowhere. CYA neither!
It is never any Insurance company's intention to cover gross negligence. So the requirements of the P&P (or MoO) are no different to that required by any reasonable Insurance arrangement.
For CAA to be comfortable with our mandate of guarding the interests of Aeromodellers the "normal " behaviour of our members must be proscribed in a document that is approved by the "Authorities". Get real John - even you drive on the right side of the road (mostly!)

Keith has simply put all the "links" together in a format acceptable to those who require it. The Regional workshops will initiate the Regional Associations where the P&P will be properly dissected for Club consumption (and debate no doubt).

Those Ancients among us, steeped in the nostalgia of "Free Flight", should take cognisance of the technological advances that have made the risks greater than the rubber band brigade were used to. Plus the proximity of civilisation has made disaster imminent and expensive. This means keeping our collective noses clean so that we can fly in peace.

If we have to eat the elephant let's cut it up into small pieces rather than send such bounty back to the kitchen!

What say you?

Joe said. ".........The more I re-read the so-called MOP the more upset I get."


Piet Le Roux said...

The bottom-line is that the manual has to be user friendly or else it would just be a pile of papers laying around in the club house and would be used to clean aircraft if noting else is available. The rules have to achieve a goal but must also be practically executable. Or else it will be said that “ I know the rules say so but at this club we do it this way”. The most important value of SAMAA membership namely insurance cover would then lose its value because our members would be aware that there is a good chance that their claim would be rejected on a technicality.

The whole idea of a Manual of Operations seems to have been copyed from the MAAA (Model Aeronautical Association of Australia ), theirs can be found here :

What I like about their manual is that it is made up of different chapters that is made up with different pdf files. So it is easy to rectify a mistake or to ad something without changing the whole manual.

Anonymous said...

Our current "Groot Crocodile" is leading us into a bureaucratic minefield. We will have to tread very carefully form now on if we want to survive. One wrong step and "Ka-boom" !!!!!
We should make an abrupt about-turn, retrace our footsteps and find a safer route into the future!

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