I’d like to extend my appreciation to the Board for initiating this conversation. This is a great club. The friendships we’ve developed here are more important than any one issue. I respect the people who have submitted their opinions and perspectives here even if I don’t fully agree with them. My objective, as always, is to remember that friendships come first and that differing opinions can be discussed without taking things personally.
The main challenge I see with the winch is logistics, not finance. The minimum crew requires a highly trained winch operator, a focused winch director who acts as the communications coordinator, one or two wing runners, and a mule car driver. This crew needs to be on duty for several hours at a time to have a credible winch operation. It’s a challenge for an all-volunteer organization to pull this crew together. Planning launch crews ahead of schedule has never been a core competency at Sky Soaring – that’s not a slam, it’s just the way it is for an all-volunteer club.
I voted in favor of the winch when the club decided to get it. But at that time my concern was more cultural than financial. At the time, I wondered if Sky Soaring had the self-discipline to train and motivate enough members to run a credible and safe winch program. In my opinion, time has shown that it has not demonstrated the will and the self-discipline to create a credible and accessible winch program. Sure, we have a few dedicated members who use the winch and love it but there’s been no real program to get members motivated and trained to use the winch.
I’ve seen no stats on how many members we actually have that are checked-off to run the winch and who have been trained to be winch directors. If I want to fly a glider all I need to do is call a tow pilot. If I want to launch with the winch how do I make that happen? I have no idea who is certified to run the winch, nor do I have any information on days and times those individuals are available. Ditto for winch director. With all due respect to the people who have put time into training others to use the winch, I have not seen a program that’s been thought through, communicated consistently to membership, and integrated into club culture. It’s nobody’s “fault”, it’s just the way it is.
The argument that we need to sell the winch to come up with money for the buyback program seems a bit surprising. When the buyback program was conceived and agreed upon, liquidating the winch to pay for it was never part of the plan. Therefore, talk now to liquidate the winch for that purpose is misguided, in my humble opinion. There are other ways to finance the share buyback. As a householder, my responsible goal is to minimize my debt. But it’s not always correct to assume the same finance model applies to an organization like Sky Soaring. Debt is not always bad. Others can speak better on that issue than I.
I like the idea of having a winch for all the reasons cited by others in this conversation. But unless a team of people steps forward to take leadership in putting together a viable winch training and usage program and commits to follow-through, I’m skeptical that it will ever properly and safely fit into Sky Soaring’s all-volunteer culture.
Finally, I’d like to see stats on how many members are trained to use the winch and how many members actually want to serve as winch crew in 2021 (and how many hours they actually commit to!) and how many pilots want to use the winch in 2021. Those stats would speak volumes and would help the club decide which way to go on this issue.
We need accurate data on what members want and what they’re willing to pay to get it. Once the data is available, it will be easy to make correct decisions without drama. I’ve proposed we use a survey to ask members these types of questions, and I’ve drafted one and submitted it to the Board. So, if you see such a survey in the near future, please respond to it.