The recent visit to Turkey of FAI President Pierre Portmann and Secretary-General Stéphane Desprez offered the chance to learn more about Türk Hava Kurumu (THK), the Turkish Aeronautical Association, which celebrated its 85th anniversary on February 16. THK counts as one of the FAI's biggest and most ambitious National AirSport Controls – active in everything from staging competitions and training pilots, parachutists and aeromodellers to fire-fighting and purchasing matériel for nearly 500 aviation clubs nationwide.
Although it co-operates closely with the Turkish Air Force, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Transport, THK receives no State funding: its income derives largely from private donations (and wise investment down the years). Income is spent mainly on training and equipment. In 2009 some 40,000 air enthusiasts, in every corner of Turkey, received free training in parachuting, gliding, hang-gliding, paragliding and aeromodelling. THK also donates aircraft, gliders, parachutes, hang-gliders and paragliders to its 472 branches and training facilities throughout the country.
Since 2004 the Türkkuşu Flight School, operated by THK, has been training pilots for Turkish Airlines and, in 2007, began training civil aviation pilots. Some 150 pilots receive training every year.
Aviation training has a long history under THK, which regards it as a "fundamental duty" to train and make aviation available to everyone. The Türkkuşu Flight School was founded in 1935 and the Inönü Gliding Centre in 1936; in 1937 a Powered Flight Camp was established at Etimesgut (Ankara) and Parachuting Towers erected in Ankara and Izmir.
THK continues to supply manpower (and women-power!) to all areas of the aviation industry New training centres are due to open soon in Bursa, Samsun and Istanbul; activities at the Antalya/Karain centre are being stepped up; an Aviation University is planned; and new student accommodation is being built across Turkey.
Last but by no means least: another of THK's missions is fire-fighting. THK pilots have put out over 2500 forest fires in the last 25 years, and THK reinforced its capabilities in this field by acquiring five new amphibious aircraft in 2009.