Gliding club accuses Sydney Metro Airports of ‘money grab’

written by Sandy Milne | March 9, 2020

Southern Cross Gliding Club (SCGC) and Sydney Gliding are two of Sydney’s most historic aviation clubs.

Based at Camden Airport in the city’s south-west, the clubs have been in operation for over 50 years.

However, soaring rent prices could soon see them shuttered. Sydney Metro Airports have proposed increases of 225 per cent and 550 per cent, respectively, for the two clubs, which, according to SCGC club president Justin Couch, is “untenable”.

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“Countless teenagers have started their commercial and military pilot careers with SCGC,” he said.

“It’s upsetting to see such a short-term, naked money grab by the airport owners, who have no interest in fostering long-term growth of aviation in our country.”

Couch also claimed that little prior notice was given to clubs of the hike and said Sydney Gliding was notified only one day prior.

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Operating on a long-term lease, the club facilities developed on SMA’s land were built at the gliding club’s cost.

This included significant support from federal and state government (including a recently-landed Sports Australia grant).

Together with the rent increases, SMA also allegedly proposed new lease conditions that would give the company ownership and access control rights to these assets.

The loss of the two gliding clubs could spell trouble for Australia’s next generation of aviators. Gliding is often cited as the best form of introductory training to all forms of pilots – with aviation legends such as Captain Chesley Sullenberger and Neil Armstrong crediting their successes to early experiences gliding.

SCGC and its predecessors have been a crucial part of Australian aviation training since the early 1940s.

The club’s alumni include military and commercial pilots, national champions, international competitors and MBE recipients (including the late Roger Woods).

Sydney Metro Airports have been approached for comment.

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3 Comments

  • Robert Morrison

    says:

    As a 10 year member of Southern Cross Gliding Club back in the 1980s, it saddens me to see such a great club facing extinction. I remember my time with SCGC as some of my best times in aviation, the friends I made, the fun I had on camps and the experience I gained in furthering my aviation experience. I started gliding with Adelaide Soaring Club in the 1960s in parallel with gaining my PPL but my memories of SCGC will remain with me forever. At SCGC I was part owner of a Twin Astir which I re-aquainted myself with at Lake Keepit a couple of years ago. On joining SCGC I thought that after nearly 20 years of both power and gliding experience I was a reasonably good pilot – the late Bill Dinsmore, who was the CFI at the time, showed me just how much I still had to learn and I will be forever grateful to him for his input and guidance towards my aviation experience (so much so that I was the recipient of the inaugural Wally Maurer Trophy for “the most improved pilot”). We can only hope that common sense prevails and organisations such as SCGC are left alone to continue the marvellous work they do in securing Australia’s aviation future.

  • Andrew Beveridge

    says:

    It infuriates me, what is happening to airports around Australia. Sadly, we can’t turn back the clock. But as most of the airfields where this is happening are all in prime real estate country, it is sadly only a matter of time until vibrant flying clubs are forced out of business. Enlightened land owners, governments and councils might in an ideal world all work together, to ensure that aviation remains an important part of the fabric of Australia. Sadly, I fear that the profit motive and greed are simply too strong. General and Sport Aviation will be thrust to the far outer reaches of our capital cities. It’s just unbelievably sad, though I feel powerless to stop it happening. What to do?

  • This is another case of a disastrous result of the decision made by the Federal Government back in the mid nineties to sell off or lease public aviation assets to.commercial organisations with little or no regard for their utility as a valuable community asset that is not directly quantifiable in dollar terms. This had happened in all states. Unfortunately at the time most community aviation organisations did not see the writing on the wall and did little or nothing, assuming things would be ok. It has been disastrous for these aviation groups and has contributed significantly to the huge downturn in general aviation and now gliding in this country. It is not only these gliding clubs at Camden thst are affected but also smaller commercial aviation organisations who are being pushed towards the impracticability of continuing to operate there. This flows on to higher prices for flight training and maintensnce and reduction in the availability of those as non aviation businesses who can afford the higher prices take over facilities. There are a lot of examples of this at other airports. It is a disaster for the long term viability of Australian General Aviation.

    In the case of the gliding Club at Camden it may now be too late to do anything about it unless the conditions of the lease of the airport to the airport operator can be changed to ensure community groups are given some immunity from these commercial pressures. That is not an easy task as it would almost certainly require political action which will.have little traction with the general public who have little or no understanding of the benefits that the lower echelons of aviation groups bring to the totality of aviation in this country. In the long term, the decline in these community aviation groups such as Southern Cross Gliding Club has an effect which flows through to the capabilities of large commercial aviation organisations. Australia has a proud record of its grass roots capability in the development of aviation pulling fat above our weight. This stands to be lost to a large extent as we become just another country where our commercial aviators are just trained on simulators and computers. It has been acknowledged worldwide that initial training in gliders and light general aviation has distinct benefits in the later development of professional pilots. Much of this stands to br lost to next generation of young pilots on Australia as it progresses towards a numbers game of push button computers.

    Political pressure needs to be applied. Good luck with that, but try.

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