Friday, September 21, 2007

Airport Dreams

Following is a memo I sent to the RA-Aus Board. This is for Board consideration. But YOU, our members are the association. Without you we amount to nothing. We, the board members, act on your behalf. But we also must have your support. As your board member I need to hear your views. If you think we need our own airfields let your board members know. If not, also let us know and reasons if possible.

My memo to the Board

In my view, one common failure of the leadership of bodies like ours, and not just ours, but clubs and even governments is they think short term. One year, maybe even five years. I believe we should be thinking out at least 50 years.

We won’t be around then but we must set in motion long term goals and ideas that can be acted on or modified by those who follow us. Perhaps very few of our ideas or dreams will ever come to fruition. But if we don’t have any, NONE will come to fruition.

Airfields are a big issue for us. If we don’t have an airfield we can’t fly our types of planes, and perhaps should consider paragliding. I see a number of ways we could secure airfields.

1. We could look at securing existing council airfields where the local council wants to rid themselves of this “burden”. As a non profit body we could take over the airfield much easier than an entrepreneur could. This could be done as an outright purchase or on a long term 99 year lease.

We could supply and rent hanger space, or lease land for private hangers to cover our costs and pay any loan charges. We could lock this airfield up as an aviation site for at least 100 years.

One urgent airfield that I know needs action now is Teewah near Noosa. Another possibility is my home airfield of Boonah. A third would be Evans Head and a fourth Gympie. I am sure all of you are aware of similar fields.

2. We secure vacant land in areas of need and develop our own “Airparks”. These could be 30 to 60 minutes out in the bush as I believe most Pilots would be happy to drive that far into town if they lived on site. Or the “Townies” would drive that far out to an airport. Obviously the distance would be further out for sites close to major centres (one hour), and closer in to minor centres (15 to 30 minutes).

At “our airfields” we set up “cheap fuel” and food outlets to encourage visitors. We could have our own plane and vehicle roadhouse if we are close to a major road. We could set up low cost camping areas, not only for visiting pilots but an encouragement for the retired “Grey Nomads” to visit on their travels. This way we start to get “critical mass” for our services.

I believe we would have a better chance of local support being a non profit Aviation Body rather than a “greedy” development company. In time (50 years thing) we might be in a position to buy the Archerfield’s or Bankstown’s of the future and save them for aviation at breakeven costs.

But we can start small NOW. We have a lot of members which gives a lot of political support. If we asked these members for a non interest loan of, say $200, we would instantly have a fighting fund $1M to $2M. More if we get higher loans or donations. We could have “set in stone” policy that would require a future Board to have a 75% member vote to change this policy. (eg to sell an airport)

“Our Airparks” could be a breeding ground for future pilots. There are a lot of grandparents amongst us and having the grandkids over for stays at an aviation venue might install in some of them the aviation spark.

All this might be a dream at the moment but it is an achievable dream. Without a dream we achieve nothing.

John McKeown