Coronavirus update: 20th March

Dear Members,

On Tuesday, following the government’s advice on social distancing and stopping non-essential travel, we took the precautionary measure of halting flying operations at the club.

  • We have used the time since then to gain further input from both within and outside our sport, as well as taking note of the increasing levels of guidance from the government.
  • Our prime focus is on the safety of our members, and also to ensure that our actions do not cause an additional burden on the NHS.

We have therefore come to the following conclusions regarding flying operations:-

  • Flying of club 2 seater aircraft and the simulator is suspended, as the advice on social distancing to keep 2 metres apart to stop the virus spreading, means that it is not possible to safely fly these aircraft.
  • We have reluctantly come to the conclusion that flying club single seater aircraft will also need to be suspended for the time being, for an accumulation of reasons:-
    • Currency is a major problem, as the poor weather over the winter means that few pilots have been able to complete their annual checks, check flights will not be possible, and that there is no other objective way of assessing people’s fitness to fly.
    • We would not want to put an additional burden on the health service at this critical time, if lack of currency caused an accident requiring emergency services to attend.
    • We are also advised of the need to “deep clean” aeroplanes between use, and that there is a risk of passing on the coronavirus through handling club parachutes. There is evidence that the virus may remain on plastic and textile surfaces for some days making regular cleaning of harnesses, straps and parachutes etc essential.
  • Members needing or wishing to self isolate, or avoid unnecessary travel, together with the number of members on rosters over 70, means that we do not believe it is feasible to maintain the rosters as they stand.
  • We have considered the potential for members to fly their own gliders, but this also presents some significant challenges:-
    • The need to assess fitness to fly, given the lack of annual checks. We have therefore asked the flying safety committee to provide us with a list of named pilots, or a level of proficiency for people who they are happy to fly solo cross country. We are asking for them to provide us with this list by early next week
    • The availability of tug pilots or winch drivers who are below the age of 70, and are able and willing to come out and tug for us.
    • The need to deep clean tug aircraft, winches and other equipment such as hiluxes and buggies between use (though perhaps this could be managed if people wore surgical gloves)
    • The potential risk of a glider landing out in a field, possibly owned by a farmer who is self isolating, and the resulting poor publicity to the club and the gliding movement.
    • Despite these difficulties, and taking the account the fact that some other gliding clubs are still allowing single seater gliders to fly at the moment, we are therefore considering allowing groups of private single seater pilots to organise flying on suitable days, subject to the group:-
      • ensuring that all glider pilots are on the approved list of pilots from the flying safety committee.
      • arranging a tug pilot or winch driver
      • arranging a duty instructor on site for the day, who does not fly
      • using their own vehicles for towing gliders. Hiluxes and buggies are not to be used.
    • Once we have received the feedback from the flying safety committee, and reviewed any changes to the situation early next week, including any further guidance from the government or other regulatory authorities, we hope that we will be able to put this plan into action.
    • However, please note that our expectation is that with the rapidly changing situation, and corresponding increase in government legislation and restrictions, this arrangement to fly could well be revoked in the coming days or weeks. However it  may also be relaxed again in the future as and when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Trial flight and course bookings for the next 3 months will be cancelled, with customers invited to re-book with us.
  • The Open Day, scheduled for May 3rd is cancelled.

We have also come to the following conclusions on non-flying operations:-

  • The clubhouse remains open, primarily for the use of the toilets.
  • The kitchen will be shut until further notice..
    • We ask that any perishable material in the kitchen that is owned by members to be removed as soon as possible next week.
    • There is a drinking water supply in the disabled toilet.
  • The bar will be shut until further notice.
  • Joanne will be working from home, and the office will not be attended at weekends.
  • The workshop remains open.

All members must fully comply with current NHS UK advice concerned with minimising the risk of catching or spreading the virus, and on hygiene and social interaction. Please ensure that you regularly wash your hands, keep the clubhouse tidy, and regularly clean all surfaces.

Due to all of the above, our club will also be closed to visitors for the time being.

Financial considerations

We do not know how long this situation will continue, but the advice from the Prime Minister yesterday was that if we all follow the government guidance strictly it may be possible to “turn the tide” in twelve weeks.

That may still give us the opportunity to fly later in the season, but given this unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, our prime focus is now to ensure that the club survives, so that we are all able to continue enjoying our sport in 2021.

  • We are therefore putting in place a series of actions to cut costs wherever possible and to conserve cash. We will also be investigating opportunities for rates rebates, grants and loans that may be available to us.
  • (Note that we still will be going ahead with the re-surfacing of the entrance track in the next week or two, as this money has been donated specifically to the club for the use of the entrance track. It does not affect our cash flow as if we didn’t use this money for the track, we would need to refund the money back to our members.)
  • Club subscriptions for most of us are due on April 1st. We recognise that the club cannot offer a guarantee that you will be able to fly in the near term. Whilst we will take every reasonable step to reduce our immediate expenditure, we have high levels of fixed costs so it is vital we maintain the flow of funds to remain viable
  • Annual subscriptions cover a significant proportion of our fixed costs and we urge you to renew your subscriptions promptly.  This will help us ensure that once we are through this crisis we will still be able to go gliding from Gransden Lodge.

In the meantime we hope that you will remain safe from coronavirus, and join us in thanking those members who work in the NHS and other vital services for their dedication on behalf of us all.

Kind regards,

Pete Joslin                          Andrew Hulme                 Michael Samuels

Chairman                            Treasurer                           Secretary