Phil received a call from Stuart Naylor at Easterton saying the RAF Fulmar GC had cancelled their proposed trip to France due to club closures there, but were considering booking for Feshie Octoberfest.
A number of CGC members including Nick, Mike, Miles, Gaby, Stephen Struthers, James Cochrane and Iain Marshall were discussing via email how the Club or its members should deal with the threat posed by the virus. Mike was concerned the Club should be accountable for its actions if questions are asked.
Phil suggested a list of proposals to be sent to Mayfest visitors and ICL pilots. These included possible open-air briefings, cleaning of cockpit controls and edges between flights, regular cleaning of door handles and kitchen surfaces, use of paper towels etc. Never released as it was overtaken by events.
First guidance notes published by the BGA. They advised all members and visitors to follow the latest government guidelines, not to feel pressured into attending the Club for rota duties, and to observe the 2 metre separation rule. The Club should point out to potential visitors the proximity of pilots to each other in a 2-seater, and should anticipate the absence of instructors aged 70+.
Mike confirmed to the membership that the Feshie leg of the ICL, due on April 25/26, had been cancelled but no decision had yet been made concerning the Aboyne leg in June.
Phil received a call from Jim Cook at Portmoak confirming the Walking on Air group were cancelling their booking for Mayfest. They were interested in re-booking for Octoberfest if they could get accommodation sorted.
The BGA were already circulating information suggesting that Clubs eligible for Small Business Rate Relief would be in line for a one-off cash grant of £10,000. Bob Petrie confirmed that the rest of the Portmoak group had cancelled their trip to Mayfest, in view of the fact that most were in the vulnerable age bracket (!) and also taking note of the Prime Minister's advice against unnecessary travel.
(Sunday) This was the last flying day at the Club before we closed down.
Mike distributed guidance to the membership, stating that all group meetings at the Club are suspended including the AGM, trial lessons are suspended and the Duty Rotas are suspended. All members must make their own decision about whether to attend the Club or not, but at this time it was still our intention to provide single seater launches.
Mike confirmed that Aboyne and Portmoak had now completely ceased operations, although Easterton had not decided at this time. He thought our stated position of trying to continue would be short-lived.
DB (Chairman) had agreed by this time the Club would be closed down, and had visited the clubhouse to check everything locked up, till emptied and water turned off.
DB issued official notice to the membership closing down the Club until further notice.
The Prime Minister announced the initial three-week lockdown on TV. The Club's web site was updated the same evening with an emergency notice confirming the next review would be on or around 14 April.
The BGA circulated latest information concerning COVID-19 financial support with specific reference to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Within a couple of hours Nick had sent off our application for a £10,000 grant.
The BGA pointed out that interest-free loans would be available from the Philip Wills Memorial Fund. They also sent out a Club questionnaire with queries such as "How many months can your club survive on zero income?"
The webcam had stopped working but DB thought it was a plug fuse problem on the balcony. The weather station was still displaying data OK.
The BGA confirmed that essential maintenance of airfields such as grass cutting was permitted under the latest regulations. Social distancing rules need to be followed throughout, and the "public perception" issue was mentioned.
The BGA published a notice extending the period of automatic ongoing access to BGA airworthiness support on expiry of an ARC from 90 days to 150 days.
Mike passed on a notice from the BGA publicising guidance for General Aviation from the Department for Transport. The first sentence said it all: Current government guidance on coronavirus precludes recreational GA flying.
DB passed on a lengthy notice from the BGA Development Committee offering sources of funding and other help, and requesting information about our situation.
Nick was still in communication with the Highland Council concerning niggling details in our application for the £10,000 grant. A notice from the BGA reported they were cutting back office opening hours to Monday, Wednesday and Friday due to staff on furlough.
Pete Thomson passed his assessment to become a new inspector. Many congratulations received from other club members. Meanwhile the BGA were concerned about the CAA guidance on essential engine maintenance flights.
Nick made a new epoxy resin housing for the Puchacz rear instrument panel, much lighter than the original polyester one. He was considering whether to replace the old T/S with a lightweight Kanadia Horis instrument, having either a 57mm or 80mm dial. The Committee favoured the smaller version.
The Feshie ICL weekend would have been excellent, with lenticulars in the blue on Saturday and good looking thermal clouds on Sunday. Jordan reported he had purchased most of the cleaning products necessary for the club's eventual re-opening, including soap and sanitiser dispensers, paper towels, etc. He was waiting for a final invoice.
There was a small heath fire on the other side of the river opposite the airfield. Stewart Hills posted photos showing a column of smoke over the south end of the strip. There were Fire Brigades in attendance but no risk to the club.
The CAA have indicated a probable six-month extension to the deadline for sailplane licenses, which will now be October 2021 instead of April 2021.
The BGA released a checklist for clubs to consider when preparing for re-starting. Subjects covered included equipment, fuel, filling operational roles, access to club facilities, the question of recency and currency, and consideration for our neighbours.
Gliding Clubs in England were able to re-start on a limited scale today.
Dave Brown mowed the airfield strip, while Jordan and his father had installed signage and sanitary equipment in the clubhouse.
Mike (CFI) together with Paul and Nick had discussed the conditions to be applied to all pilots when flying re-starts. Instructors and some others will be allowed to check themselves out flying solo, while the rest must wait until the rules are sufficiently relaxed for them to be checked out by an instructor.
Miles, Jordan, Gaby, Stewart Hills and Iain Marshall (maybe others) had set up a separate discussion group for users of Condor flight simulator.
Pete Smith (Safety Officer) assisted by Miles had produced a draft document outlining safety procedures to be followed when flying re-starts, although this was not released to the membership until the 28th.
Chairman Dave Brown announced the club would re-open on Friday 29th May, following the Scottish government's Phase 1 exit strategy which covers outdoor sports. At present we will be confined to single seaters unless two-seaters can be occupied by members of the same household. This means no training flights and no trial lessons. Numbers on site will be restricted, and the airfield will be closed to the public for the time being.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday were good flying days with several flights made out to Ben Nevis and back. Stewart Hills became the first to claim the cross-country prize suggested by Nick for novice pilots at the beginning of last year. Other candidates have until the end of the year to beat his speed of 64.05kph.
Dual flying re-started at the airfield following a successful meeting between the CAA, the BGA and the Department for Transport. Priority given firstly to early solo pilots and others needing check flights. At present we are not offering Trial Lessons to the general public, which includes redeeming Trial Lesson vouchers.
The Club is once again closed down with the Highlands being elevated to Tier 4 travel restrictions. At present it is not possible to say when we will resume operations, since this depends on the Scottish government's mid-January review.