So, Who Really Screws US Pilots?

Davis Straub, who chairs the USHGA Competitions Committee, has recently published an article in his Oz Report (CIVL Screws US Pilots, Vol 10, Number 52) which follows his usual anti-CIVL agenda but which gives a very one-sided and inaccurate picture of the unfortunate situation – unfortunate that is for the pilots involved.

Davis is inconsistent, appearing unsure of who he is representing; he starts by saying “We're (the royal we) very excited about holding the Worlds here and would be even more excited if we didn't have to deal with CIVL”, goes on to use “we” extensively in the first part of his article and finishes off “Now, finally, let me state that this article is entirely my responsibility as the editor and publisher of the Oz Report and has nothing to do with my official function as USHGA Competition Committee Chairman”. He also adds that the article is not supported by the pilots about whom he writes. OK, just who is he writing on behalf of? We know his editorial stance on the Oz Report is anti-CIVL and he appears certain that his own views are superior to the collective views and decisions of CIVL. Those collective decisions are of course those of your national delegates or the officials elected (and recently re-elected) by your delegates.

Now to the case itself. Davis starts by explaining why two US pilots are not qualified to fly in a Category 1 championship. The reason? “the meet organizers didn't attempt to obtain and pay for CIVL category 2 sanctioning for these meets. And the USHGA does not require it, as we feel that it puts too great a financial burden on meet organizers and all pilots for the benefit of only a few pilots”. What is the actual financial burden on meet organisers? It is the cost of one entry fee and this is set at a minimum of 30 Swiss Francs – under 25 US dollars – for the whole competition. Obviously if the organiser charges the pilots a higher entry fee the cost is higher but surely this cost is well worth while when it can qualify US pilots to fly in Category 1 meets. The average cost last season across Category 2 meets worldwide was $90. And the cost to the pilots? This is the cost of a FAI Sporting Licence. Whatever that cost, it is an internal matter in the USA and CIVL cannot take account of those costs in individual countries. We (the CIVL Bureau) applaud those NACs who issue them at no cost and would prefer that other NACs charge no more than the cost of issuing the licences – but we do not have the power to decide that.

It might be a little hard on pilots if the entry requirements for Category 1 events were recently introduced and unfamiliar to the USHGA’s Competitions Committee, which Davis chairs. Is this the case? Certainly not, they were introduced back in 2000 and have changed little since. As for the USHGA and Davis being unaware of them, this is obviously not the case. The USHGA sent an unqualified pilot to the World Air Games in 2001 and that pilot did not fly. They were sufficiently aware to have all pilots properly qualified for the Worlds in Brasil in 2003 but in 2005, when Davis had assumed responsibility for this, they sent an unqualified pilot all the way to Australia for the Hay Worlds. On this occasion CIVL bent over backwards and, with the agreement of the other competing nations, found a way for that pilot to fly as an individual. Yet now we are in 2006 and it seems US comp organisers are still not providing a route for their own pilots to qualify for the most important competitions of their lives. Who is to blame here? The USHGA Competitions Committee, who know the rules and the qualifying criteria and chooses not to gain Category 2 sanctioning for most of their major meets (only the April Flytec meet was sanctioned in 2005), or CIVL who has an obligation to ensure that pilots from the richest nation in the world qualify for Category 1 meets in the same way as pilots from Argentina, Belgium, Croatia, Columbia, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania – who all manage to “burden” their pilots and organisers with Category 2 sanctioning. Davis even points out that the two pilots on whose behalf (but without whose approval) he is campaigning have entered many significant US meets which have not bothered to apply for sanctioning – in one recent case in the US an organiser assured pilots that he would do so but still did not.

Davis also has the cheek to claim that this failure on behalf of the US organisers to obtain FAI sanctioning for their meets should count as “lack of opportunity to qualify” for US pilots and gain them an exemption from the rules that other nations follow. He then makes this worse by going on to point out that both pilots live close to the one flight park in the US which does actually hold regular Category 2 meets – but they did not enter them.

It is really easy to run a Category 2 meet and 172 were run worldwide in 2005 - over 50 of these in hang gliding but only one of those in the USA. Apart from holding a FAI Sporting Licence the only qualifications pilots require to enter these meets are those set by the organiser so there is no barrier there. Pilots can also easily find out which Cat 2 comps are available by looking online at the FAI Sporting Calendar.

In recent correspondence Davis Straub said “Well, my efforts at getting our competitions to be Category 2 sanctioned may be paying off this year”. Welcome news, he has finally acknowledged that US pilots need to have these Category 2 meets - but it seems that US organisers in the main are not providing them. Whose fault is this? CIVL which makes the process of obtaining FAI sanctioning simple? Or the USHGA Competitions Committee which has apparently failed to convince their competition organisers of this need. Of course this is a relatively late conversion on the part of Davis so perhaps now that he recognises that need we will see more Cat 2 meets in the USA – but shouldn’t he accept that the fault up to now has been in the USA where meet organisers, and possibly the Competition Committee (which he chairs), have let US pilots down badly.

Davis also tries to make a case that a recent meet in Florida - which was organised with the express purpose of qualifying the two pilots one whose behalf (but without whose support) he is campaigning – should be declared valid. Unfortunately it failed to qualify as a valid Category 2 meet on three separate counts. The first and most obvious of these was that, despite the efforts of the organiser, insufficient pilots had FAI Sporting Licences and any others cannot enter an FAI event so do not count. The organiser (one of the pilots who wished to qualify) has now accepted with good grace that the meet did not qualify. Davis apparently does not do so. We (the CIVL Bureau) strongly believe that Davis’ energy and campaigning skills would be put to far better use if he accepted that he is fighting a lost cause and instead he stepped up his campaign in the US for competition organisers to obtain FAI sanctioning for their meets. Also, as Chairman of the USHGA Competitions Committee, he should prepare himself to properly advise US meet organisers of how to ensure their meets are valid for FAI purposes. At this point the only US meets that have applied for sanctioning for the 2006 season are the unfortunate “Quest Qualifier” that has been the subject of Davis’ article and the Quest/Flytec April Florida meets. Not even the Pre-Worlds to be held at Big Spring, Texas in August has yet applied for sanctioning. Are US pilots going to have the same problems for the US-run 2007 Worlds as some are having for the US-run 2006 Worlds?

John Aldridge On behalf of the CIVL Bureau