For the ICS Australasia 2020 AGM & GM
It has been a challenging year, to say the least.
Fly-ins. What Fly-ins?
What would undoubtedly have been a fantastic fly-in to Shell Harbour (Wollongong) had to be postponed- indefinitely as it turned out- due to the then-emerging pandemic. However we very definitely still want to run this event. It was going to be too good to miss, and we don’t want to miss it.
Our last general fly in was therefore the AGM held October last year- with a full day at Broken Hill and a most interesting day and half at Packsaddle. What a memorable bit of flying that involved, with dust storms making the arrival at YBHI a bit of a challenge for the late arrival (me). After being in the thick of it all the way from Mildura, we then had to fly an RNAV approach to find the airport through the dust while organising separation with a Rex aircraft hot on our heels. Rex landed as we were pulling onto the apron.
After the next morning exploring Broken Hill and the afternoon exploring Silverton, the following day the group headed literally up the road to PackSaddle – leaving YBHI in beautiful blue skies and arriving at Packsaddle, much to our general consternation, in another sky full of windblown dust and terrible visibility.
With Packsaddle being a gravel strip barely distinguishable from its desert surroundings at the best of times, it was a struggle to find it in the prevailing conditions, requiring a couple of orbits in several cases. The photo below was taken on late final. It could have been used in a spot the runway competition.
After this bit of aerial excitement we all made it safely onto the ground, and after negotiating banks of gravel at the side of the runway, proceeded to move into our quarters at the road house and have fun in this quintessentially Australian outback place. It made Silverton feel distinctly metropolitan.
Here are a few photos that captured the essence of our PackSaddle visit:
Remarkably, the gravel didn’t do serious damage to anyone’s aircraft when it came time to leave on the Sunday. As a footnote; as recently as a few days ago (almost exactly one year after we were there) there was an announcement in the press that the RFDS intend to seal the runway. Good idea. That would have been very nice!
Pilot Proficiency Programme
Our annual PPP weekend was held in February at Deniliquin and was, as always, a great opportunity to share and learn with twenty something members attending. They are never quite long enough for me, and as soon as they are over I start looking forward to the next one. As many of us have hardly been able to fly since then, the next opportunity to fly and meet up with fellow Comanche flyers can hardly come soon enough.
We do intend to hold a PPP in the first quarter of 2021. Obviously, this will be subject to whatever restrictions and protocols are current at the time. If it proves impossible to organise a physical gathering for this event, we will organise a series of dedicated online Zoom presentations covering the material. Our very strong preference will be to have a physical gathering as these are so much fun, but we will of course have to do what is prudent (and legal).
Speaking of Zoom
With the disappointment off having to cancel the Shell Harbour fly-in, and flying generally being shut down, someone suggested getting together by Zoom. Then someone put their hand up to give a talk, so we did it again… and so on. Nobody expected that many of us would be locked down for as long as we have been, or that there would be so many restrictions on our flying, or that the Zoom thing would keep on happening.
But all these things did happen, and as I write we have just held our 27th weekly gathering.
Looking back at the list of topics, we have had about 50/50 general chat/themed talk. If anything, with more presenters giving themed talks than general chats. One of my current jobs is bringing as much of the presented materials to the website as we are able. I know I should have done it before, but somehow life got in the way.
The current plan is continue holding Zoom gatherings until we run out steam. To avoid running out of steam, though, it would be great to have members share stories- not necessarily technical every time; stories of flying trips are fascinating. Actually, stories of any kinds of trips and/or anything to do with aviation are always welcome. I will almost certainly be proposing that in due course the meetings are held fortnightly rather than weekly, which will take the pressure off a bit, but I think those of us who have participated will agree that this has held us more ‘together’ than we would otherwise have been, and prompted some pretty interesting, useful discussion and knowledge sharing. Long may that continue.
Stabilator Horns and Oleo Housings
What a year it has been in this department. A steady stream of horns has been finding its way to the US for fitting to the fleet over there, but demand for oleo housings had been extremely low for the past couple of years and the manufacturer went bankrupt after the most recent batch were made, so we were wondering what to do about it. It was tempting to stop bothering.
Then in February this year the proprietor of the repair outfit in the US that had been performing weld repairs on cracked housings passed away, and his business was shut down. Our email inboxes started to fill up with requests for “Aussie Trunnions”. We consequently sold the last of our Oleo Housing stock the same month. The (four!) Facebook Comanche groups quickly saw pleas for Aussie trunnions and the phones started ringing. It was time to get moving.
This was coincident with Jack Moore handing over the “Horn and Trunnion” reigns to Ossie Miller. There has subsequently been a heroic effort during the handover to work through the process of finding a new manufacturer, negotiating the price back down to something tolerable, and working up a potential order list long enough to make the whole thing work. As I write this we are very close indeed to confirming an order that we can sell straight away, and get back on track.
ICS : The International Society
As many will be aware there has continued to be a little bit of noise in the background from across the Pacific. Specifically in the North Eastern part of the US, where there is now a NE Tribe of the society and a breakaway group claiming a similar sounding name. The discontent that led to this seems to linger on. It appears to boil down to a handful of former members- mostly one former member- disagreeing with how the show was run, and leaving to start their own group when they couldn’t get their way. They even went so far, as many will be aware, as taking ICS to court over their alleged grievances. I’d like to let everyone know that the complainants lost their case with prejudice when it went to court, meaning that they may not bring the case back to court.
Nevertheless, not content with losing their argument and stacking up a bill, they have now lodged an appeal. It would appear to have no basis in fact, and our advice is that they will lose again. (ICS’s legal costs have been covered by insurance, b y the way).
In any event, this has almost no impact on what the ICS as a whole is doing, other than to waste a great deal of the Board’s time and energy.
The Tribe Website
A couple of years ago it was agreed that we had to move the website from its old platform to a new one and revamp it as it had become un-maintainable.
Stage One of the process was to gather information from the old site and move it to a new one, using a different web building platform on a new hosting service. No mean feat. That happened during 2019
Stage Two was to recover/update all the broken links, and do housekeeping to get things into a more or less usable state, especially with respect to making sure that members still had access, and that we could add new members. This has happened.
Stage three has been to learn how to do our own web updates, with less reliance on our hosting organisation than required previously, and to tweak the web design to make it easier to navigate. This has taken quite a while, but we are pretty much there now!
Had you noticed, for example, that we have a buy and sell/swap section? Members can post here. Anyone can see what has been posted. It works.
As with any society, old members leave us and new ones join – mostly as aircraft change hands. I would like to take this opportunity to farewell those who left and give a hearty welcome aboard to everyone who joined us during the past twelve months or so: Ray Grambower, Edward Williams, Michael Van der Spek, David Howson, Danny Georgeson, Vincent Mollica, Derek Perkins, and Andrew Cameron. If I have missed anyone, please accept my apologies. It was not deliberate.
The Year Ahead
While some of us are already free to fly over significant parts of our amazing countryside, a few of us have been grounded for what feels like an eternity. Lets hope that the situation eases sufficiently that we are all allowed out, and are able to start catching up and planning a couple of fly-ins.
– Apart from the obvious desire to reschedule the Shell Harbour event, we are always open to suggestions re fly-in destinations and even better, volunteers to help organise them.
– The PPP mentioned above will be ‘ON’ one way or another.
– Now that we have discovered the popularity of Zoom catchups, we shall continue them.
Before signing off I would like to extend sincere thanks to the rest of the committee for all their support; Tony, Kevin and David; to Jan for all that she does in the membership secretary role (its a lot more work than you may think), Jack for all the work he has done in recent years in support of the Horn and Oleo Housing sales; Ossie for taking that on at a particularly busy time, and the technical team; Nigel, Ken and Lawrence for their work on the PPP and in helping members generally; and last but not least thank you to everyone who has been able to turn up and contribute to the Zoom meetings. We couldn’t do it without you guys. Thank you!
ICS Australsia Tribe Chief