Flying Club Finance
ALTHOUGH one would like to say that things are otherwise, from all I hear, the present condition of the country is having a retarding action on the doings of the flying clubs, and secretaries and members of committees are wearing worried looks because of the growing financial difficulties which are already upon them or which loom up ominously in the not-verydistant future.
When the subsidised club movement was first inaugurated about seven years ago, the outlook was quite promising ; the Government concession of two complete machines, plus an annual sum of £1,000, seemed a good basis upon which to work, and everyone was optimistic. But a year’s operation revealed the fact that with the original rate of charges for instructional and solo flying the majority of clubs were not paying their way. The Government was then approached in. order that the subsidy agreement might be revised, and a fresh grant was made in the form of £50 for each new ” A ” licence secured, £10 for each renewed licence and £1 10s, per flying hour, up to a maximum of £2.000 per annum. Under these arrangements the clubs found themselves in a happier position, but a further revision was made later which only allowed a grant of £10 per licence or renewed licence. When this scheme was instituted it was obvious to all whose experience of club operation dated from 1925 that to carry on profitably would be impossible. And their prophesies have been fulfilled.
Many clubs have made strenuous efforts to bolster up their income by introducing side-lines such as pageants, club dances and so forth, but they have been of small avail in the face of the several set backs which have accumulated. One factor which was not at first apparent is that the great increase in the size of the power unit of the so-called light aeroplane (from 27-60 h.p. in 1926 to the present-day 100 h.p.) together with the rise in the cost of fuel, has added in no small measure to the running expenses and upkeep of club-owned machines.
The situation is serious, especially as the present subsidy agreement does not terminate until July. In the meantime the people concerned are talking of pressing for fresh terms embodying a grant of £25 per new licence and 15s. to £1 per flying hour for club craft.
Back to Lower Power.
The whole position of our clubs brings into prominence once again the fact that flying is an expensive pastime, and as things are, it seems impossible for it to be other
wise. The cost of an aeroplane suitable for instructional and general use is in the first place a big factor, running expenses are heavy, and the complicated regulations set down in the Air Navigation Act make maintenance work a further formidable item of expenditure.
I have heard it said that the low-powered machine is no use, that to revive the 35-50 h.p. type would be retrograde step. But I am left unimpressed. After all, there are machines in America in the two-seater dual-controlled class with simple 3-cylinder “X7 ” engines of about 35 h.p. which function perfectly satisfactorily, and the Klemm with but 40 h.p. and even 20 h.p. has a world-wide reputation for efficiency, economy and safety.
It seems to me that manufacturers will sooner or later have to turn their attention once again to machines of lower power and less elaborate design (which would mean lower first cost, and lower running and maintenance charges) if private flying and club flying is ever to be brought to a state of real popularity. A person of average ability can, of course, secure an” A” licence for an outlay of about £25, but unless he manages to get in a goodly number of hours fairly continuously, he will have to have a further period of dual (which is expensive) before he can be safely entrusted to go solo again after a period of no-flying of, say, only a month. Piloting is one of those things which one simply must keep at if one is to become proficient and remain so ; give it up for only a short time, and you have to start learning all over again. This is a fact not realised by a lot of tyros who imagine that with the acquisition of their certificate they are forever free from the costly businessIof instruction.
Gliding as a Solution.
Discussing this subject of cheaper aviation with a man who, in the course of a lengthy career as a professional aviator, has both lost and made money (a little) at the game, I was interested to find that he agrees with me that a better way might be found through the gliding clubs towards training for powered flying at a minimum of expense. He would like to see a club formed which would specialise in auto-towing. “All this business with primary gliders of the Zogling type is a waste of time and energy,” he said. What is required is an efficient two-seater auto-tow sailplane, fitted with dual control, which would enable a pupil to be taken up, and from the beginning have the benefit of an instructor with him in the air. Tuition would be given in exactly the same way as when a
powered aircraft is being used. And the pupil would learn more in half-a-dozen flights in the auto-tow sailplane than he would in weeks of floundering around with aerial toboganning on the Zogling. Having passed his tests on the engineless machines, he would then pass on to instruction on the club’s low-powered two-seater ‘plane, and an hour should suffice to bring him to the solo stage, and ultimately to his becoming a certified aviator.
Elaborating the scheme, a motorised-glider of 10 h.p. would form part of the equipment of the club, and this would be available for qualified soloists with which to build up flying hours. As matters stand, it is too much to hope that the motor-assisted glider will be revived ; as soon as a power unit is added to a machine it becomes an aeroplane, and as such its design, construction, operation and main
tenance becomes hedged about by laws and regulations.
But if the Air Ministry could be prevailed upon to draw up less-restrictive and simpler rules applicable to this class of craft alone, it is probable that its development would quickly follow.
Alternatively, the necessary supervision and approval could be left in the hands of the British Gliding Association, who already do such work in connection with gliders and soarers. Whether such a move is under consideration I do not know, but it is interesting to learn that one or two motor-cycle and engine manufacturers are now experimenting with small engines for use in aircraft which rather encourages the conjecture that things are happening behind the scenes. Well, we can only wait and see.