The South African Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (SAHPA) is a membership-based organisation in South Africa which represents the interests of pilots partaking in Paragliding, Hang-Gliding and related air-sports:
- paragliders (PG)
- hang gliders (HG)
- powered paragliders (PPG)
- powered hang gliders (PHG)
All pilots that partake in these sports must be licensed by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), as required by the Civil Aviation Act.
SAHPA is the controlling body to keep the sport self-regulated. Without it, the sport would be under direct control of the Civil Aviation Authority (previously known as the Department of Civil Aviation), which would bring many disadvantages with it, such as glider registrations, stricter rules and licensing, higher fees, more red tape, etc. It is a legal requirement that pilots, including hang glider and paraglider pilots, have licences. SAHPA negotiates with the CAA to ensure that the regulations reflect what is best for hang glider and paraglider pilots.
3rd Party Liability Insurance
SAHPA provides a third party liability aviation insurance cover at reasonable rates. This often eases access to a flying site, as landowners want to avoid liability for property damage or injuries sustained by visitors to the site, or want to know that if a pilot causes damage or injury to a spectator or to his own property, that he/she will have recourse to compensation for the loss or injury, ie. SAPPI requires a third party cover of at least R3.5 million in third party cover for their sites to be utilised.
It provides a safety-orientated licensing system, which allows for minimum standards of competency. SAHPA is the only entity that can issue hang gliding or paragliding licences. Imagine if we would have untrained pilots, learning through trial and error only, on the hill. Imagine that everybody or anybody could train people without being qualified – what would the minimum training level be? Nobody would know. How many people would die? Without licences which at least give us an idea of what the minimum capabilities of the pilot should be, we would be justifiably scared. The death toll would cause CAA to step in with unrealistic regulations.
International recognition through Aero Club and FAI affiliation. Our competition pilots can fly in competitions locally and overseas due to this affiliation. Our licences are recognised overseas through the same affiliation. That eases the way for South African aviation tourists to travel and fly at overseas sites. The Civil Aviation Authority will only negotiate through the Aero Club and SAHPA offices. A lot of behind the scenes consultation takes place with these bodies.
Communication and information through a regular newsletter. SAHPA produces a regular newsletter that gives information on what is happening around the country, interesting articles on flying (paragliding and hang gliding and powered paragliding), information about and results of competitions, national rankings, contact persons from around the country, and much more.
The SAHPA Office
To make sure that the best possible service is available to pilots, SAHPA maintains an office run by a Secretary, to issue licences, collect payments, send information to pilots and clubs, and so on. The general administration such as sending out reminders to pilots, issuing licences, assisting pilots, assisting in taking pilots’ complaints to the Committee, assisting the Committee, etc, is quite a lot of work. As it is only a half- day position, there is often not enough hours in a day to get through everything, but it is continually strived to improve the service to members.
The SAHPA Committee
The SAHPA Committee consists of volunteer pilots from around the country. The committee is elected once a year from nominations made by fellow pilots. Only members can be nominated, or elected. The Committee members are volunteers and do not receive any form of remuneration. All the time and effort spent on improving conditions or circumstances for the majority are given from a sense of loyalty to the community.
SAHPA cannot be everywhere. The Clubs are an extension of SAHPA, and are required to assist with licensing and regulating the pilots on behalf of SAHPA, once the pilot has received a licence through a SAHPA recognised school. Should a Club have problems with a member, or unlicensed pilot, who refuses to comply with the regulations, the complaint can be directed to the SAHPA Office, who will deal with the problem. If the culprit still does not comply, it can be escalated to SACAA through the Aero Club, who will prosecute a person if necessary.
To do all this, SAHPA needs money. Making phone calls, costs money. Sending out licences, renewals, information, printing newsletters, everything costs money. To negotiate with people requires traveling, or phoning. Many times the Committee members contribute their own costs for the purposes of solving problems. They always contribute their time, sometimes to the detriment of their families, hobbies or their own flying.
The functions of SAHPA can be improved (what in the world cannot be made better?) but to do so, more money will be required. The membership fees are where the funds for all the daily tasks and any improvements are found. So from time to time, the fees will have to increase. Considering all that is included in the fee, we are not paying much. (Even your local club needs funds to exist – they probably do less for you than SAHPA, you just do not know it. Ask yourself a few questions: do they send me a newsletter? What other organisations do they pay fees to on my behalf? Do they always do what is required to maintain the sites under their control? Do they ensure that all the members are licensed, to help improve safety? What else do they do for me?)
Part of the SAHPA membership fees include membership fees to the Aero Club of South Africa. Without that stable office, SAHPA will have more difficulties to negotiate with the CAA and national sporting bodies (such as the Olympic Committee). The affiliation to the FAI is paid for through the Aero Club
membership fee and FAI licence fee.