Message From the President #2

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      John DeRosaJohn DeRosa

        January 1, 2021


        Dear Sky Soaring Members,


        Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!  Hope that everyone is staying healthy.


        This is my second message/newsletter as president of Sky Soaring.  I am using this communications channel to keep you abreast of member work that is going on, work that the board is doing for your benefit, and what future activities are being planned for 2021.  Below is information that you should be aware of from each of the Sky Soaring Board’s members.  I think you will find that a lot has been going on.


        Here’s to a very safe 2021.


        Thank You,
        John DeRosa
        President, Sky Soaring Glider Club



        President’s Report


        I have a few things to cover;


        Last month I spoke about the potential for an insurance rate increase.  Towards that end we will be providing to our insurance broker details on the work we are doing to increase our safety culture.  Many of Don Grillo’s efforts mentioned below will be provided as examples of the key areas of progress.  We believe that this will help the insurance underwriters to believe that Sky Soaring is a good place to insure.


        Are you aware that both the ChicagoLand Glider Council and the Soaring Society of America have scholarships and monetary awards that you may be able to qualify for?  Here are some examples;


        > Cadet Youth Flight Scholarship

        > Dennis Purduski Flight Training Scholarship

        > Costello Insurance Flight Training Scholarship

        > SSA Flight Training Scholarships

        > Stoffel Flight Training Scholarship

        > Bultman Service Award

        > SSA Junior CFI-G Fight Training Scholarship

        > Spirit Of Dr. John H. Campbell Junior CFI-G Scholarship

        > Kolstad Achievement Award

        > Civil Air Patrol SSA Partnership


        I am looking for two volunteers, a “Weekday Coordinator” and a “Social Coordinator”.  Neither position is difficult, nor time consuming.  The first coordinator’s job is to keep an eye on the weather and then raise interest in weekday flying via emails to the membership.  Sometimes this happens spontaneously by the members themselves but past experience shows that a coordinator can convince others to join in the fun.  The social coordinator will help host events we had to miss in 2020 such as Labor Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day and other holiday gatherings and barbecues.  Contact myself to get more details and suggestions.





        There has been a load of work being done during our winter hiatus by many people, chief among them are those in the maintenance team (which everyone is welcome to join).  Nearly every Saturday there is some maintenance work going on starting around 10AM – with a noontime break for lunch.  You should plan on being there!  John Lincoln (Maintenance Chairman), Larry Kase, Gary Palumbo, Don Grillo, Jim Hopkins and others have been working, and lead, on multiple critical activities – here are some highlights.


        Over the past few weekends the attic has been cleaned out (you wouldn’t recognize it) of many derelict items that quickly went into the “Nostalgia Balloon” trash dumpster. The Lark’s leading edge is being rebuilt by Larry with some help from Greg Tomczyk.  A new canopy for the Krosno has been purchased and will be fitted soon.  Stars and Stripes has a new push-to-talk (PTT) switch installed by Tim Ponsot.  There is a water leak that has shut down the bathroom – which should be fixed as you read this.  Significant work has been made by Don Grillo on modifying/widening the eastern half of the runway as part of the overall safety push and which will continue after the spring thaw.


        Pawnee news.  The annual inspection is ongoing. The engine cylinder compression check came back with good numbers which means that an engine overhaul will most likely be able to wait until the winter of 2021-2022 – see more on this in the Financials section below.  We are looking into how to move the tow plane’s tow cable release lever for easier access.



        Flight Chairman


        Don Grillo has really dove into the many areas that he feels are critical for next year’s safe and active operations.  Don has been cleaning up the office documentation we have for members and for aircraft.  For aircraft this refers to updating, and in some cases creating, the quizzes we administer before you can fly a particular glider.  For members this refers to the “Blue Book” (kept inside the operations table file box) which has a page for each member.  This book’s primarily use at Sky Soaring is to help keep track of every member’s details such as which aircraft they are “checked out” to fly.


        Don is also working on an updating the Policies and Procedures manual plus creating a new flight training syllabus.  For students, and new members, these things help each pilot to know how we do things here at Sky Soaring.  For instructors these documents help them to consistently handle both new, and recurring, training and flight reviews.  I want to resurrect the Ground Safety Office (GSO) function – more on that in a future email. Finally, Don is working on web based safety reporting system.



        Vice President


        John Osborn has been working with the new member coordinator and orientation lead, Art Silverman.  Many thanks to Art for volunteering to help jump start new members.  This effort helps new members become more quickly engaged and to stay involved longer in the sport.  Most importantly John is also the Chairman of the Finance Sub-Committee with members Steve Snyder, Jim Hopkins and John Lincoln – more about their efforts are covered below in the Financials section.



        Club Financials


        During 2021 we will be paying off a field note held by several club members.  This is good news.  However, looking forward to late 2021 there are two major financial goals that we will need to meet.  Already mentioned is the Pawnee engine overhaul during the winter of 2021-2022.  Then in January of 2022 there will be a large SSI share by-back program payment due.  I had mentioned above that John Osborn is chairing a financial sub-committee with Steve Snyder and John Lincoln.  I rely heavily on these board members to help make sound financial decisions.  Osborn’s financial overview, and the committee’s suggestions, are shown following my signature below.





        Finance Committee Chairman’s Report – John Osborn


        Pawnee Engine Overhaul Funding


        The Pawnee engine is rapidly reaching its overhaul limit. When the SSI Board purchased the plane, it was aware of the high time engine.  However, a Pawnee modified for towing does not often come onto the market. Also, the price was within our budget and the Board anticipated the engine would last at least two or three flying seasons. Engine compression was recently checked and all cylinders had good numbers. Our tow pilots did not observe any problems during the 2020 flying season and our maintenance team expects the engine will serve us well for at least one more flying season.


        Recently, the Board requested a quote from Popular Grove Aeromotive for rebuilding our engine. Their quote was in a range of $30K to $33K. The overhaul will take 6 to 8 weeks.  Since the tow plane is essential to the Club’s operation, the Board is planning for an overhaul during the 2021-2022 winter shutdown. The Engine Overhaul Escrow account is currently at $13K. The Club needs an additional $20K to have sufficient funds for the overhaul project. Unfortunately, there is no excess money in the 2021 budget which is essentially a “break even” plan.


        The Board considered various options to cover this financial shortfall including a loan, or a onetime assessment from the members or voluntary contributions to the fund from the membership.  Since we have some time before the funding is needed, the Board has decided to ask the membership for donations to the engine fund. The goal is to have sufficient funds for the engine overhaul by December 2021 so the work can be scheduled with Popular Grove Aeromotive.  Sky Soaring Board members are already stepped up to this task by each pledging $700 to the Engine Fund which will add $4,200 and reducing the shortfall to $15,800. The Board is asking you, our Club members, to  consider also pledging to the engine fund. Donations to the fund can be made in any amount throughout 2021 and if each member contributes approximately $300 to the fund during 2021, there will be sufficient funds to overhaul the engine.


        Field Note and Promissory Notes


        On October 21, 2021 the Club will issue the final payment for the latest 5-year Field Note. The Field Note is a long-term debt the Club incurred years ago to acquire the airfield. Funding for this note has, in recent years, been provided by Club members. The Field Note is held by Sky Soaring LLC, the legal entity that owns the field (Sky Soaring Inc. is the manager of the LLC and is its major shareholder). Four years ago, the Sky Soaring Board (the Club) issued 5-year promissory notes to buy any outstanding LLC shares from the LLC members. The Board now owns nearly all of the LLC shares (a few LLC share holders declined to sell their shares). These promissory notes are due January 2022. At that time, the Club has agreed to pay the promissory note holders $80K. Detailed information on the Club’s financial history can be provided by any Board member.


        The Finance Committee has considered various ways to finance the $80K owed to the promissory note holders. After reviewing various options, the Finance Committee will recommend the Board structure a 5-year loan with a 15-year amortization schedule, annual payments and a balloon payment at the end of the loan. The interest rate offered for this loan has yet to be determined. The loan will be offered to the membership with the expectation that a number of members will invest in the Field Note. As with previous Field Note loans, the SSI airfield will serve as collateral for the loan.


        Should voluntary donations to the engine fund be insufficient, the Finance Committee will recommend rolling any shortfall into the promissory note loan.


        With a new Field Note in place, in 2022 the Club will see an increasing improvement in its operating budget and cash position. For example, a Field Loan of $100K at 3% interest, amortized over 15 years, with a 5-year balloon payment would save the Club around $17,000 per year over its current Field loan. Note: This savings is not fully realized until the end of 2022. Other loan amounts and interest rates could result in even greater savings. The downside of this approach is the balloon payment. At the end of the 5-year loan period, the Club will be faced with another financing requirement. For the above example, the Club would need $71K for the 5-year balloon payment. The Finance Committee believes the benefits from improving the Club’s financial position far outweigh the downside of “kicking the debt can down the road”.


        Please contact the Sky Soaring Board with any questions that you might have.


        Thank you,

        John Osborn

        Vice President Sky Soaring Glider Club

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