We’re at the point where we have been released from the grip of gravity again. There is still some way to go, but it has been very gratifying to see the almost perfect adherence to the guidelines issued by CAA, BHPA and the member clubs across the UK regarding free flight. One of the outstanding characteristics of PG and HG pilots, and our powered cousins, is a willingness to assess risk, make reasoned judgments and take responsibility for the consequences. That this has not led to large numbers making the assessment that it’s OK to fly despite the official line, is a testament to the responsible attitude of the vast majority of us.
The club’s officers have been in constant communication with the BHPA, our neighbouring clubs and the various individuals and bodies that control the land around our sites to coordinate our approach to the easing of restrictions. Rest assured that we were all desperately keen to get back to what we love as soon as it became safe and reasonable to do so.
Our sport is but a niche recreational activity on the fringes of aviation which is a large multi-billion-pound industry. It is only through the hard work the BHPA’s officers over decades that we have such light-touch, unlicensed (and therefore untaxed) regulation of our activities. The future of this relationship depends on CAA and, by extension, the government, remaining convinced that paragliding and hang gliding are governed responsibility by the BHPA through its network of local clubs.
As the aviation industry shrinks, there is an opportunity to influence the future airspace plans that are afoot. We have a dog in this fight, albeit a rather toothless, three-legged one-eyed mongrel, but we have a voice and have made representations to derestrict some of the blocks of airspace that get in our way downwind of Parlick and Pendle. I’m not expecting too much to come of this, but one way to guarantee no movement will be to discredit our organisations in the eyes of the CAA.
Please remember too that when we go to Parlick or Pendle or wherever, we are guests in the neighbourhood. People are fearful of the virus and may be very wary of the return of visitors from outside. Take heed of the guidance given in the BHPA document regarding hygiene and social distancing – we are only in phase 1 of the re-opening.
So, thank you to all of you for your patience, and please – resist the temptation to use closed sites until we get the go-ahead. Remember that even though you may be invulnerable and indestructible, someone close to you or an onlooker may be only one contact step away from another with a pre-existing condition that means serious consequences if they were to catch this virus. There are still thousands of new infections each day, and that’s just among those able to get tested.
Enjoy the skies, and thank you for waiting.