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Thread: BMAA Membership

  1. #1
    not real name 500 Club
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    BMAA Membership

    I've started this thread as a continuation of the membership discussion on this thread:

    http://forums.bmaa.org/default.aspx?f=15&m=122200

    There is some excellent input but the discussion has somewhat veered off from the original thread title about the Magazine; also there is no clear consensus on the way forward, and there probably never will be. However I would like to summarise how I see the current situation and propose some ideas, some of which may be received favourably and some of which almost certainly will not.

    It really should not be a surprise to anybody that membership numbers are stagnating, the question we should be asking ourselves is, is this purely a function of the economic environment, and if so we have little control over it, or are there things that collectively, we could all be doing. It strikes me that there are a lot of talented individuals that frequent this forum who could contribute and add value in all kinds of way but there is no clear plan or direction being given and no sense of collective ownership of the issues.

    There exists a gap between the public perception of modern microlighting and its reality. Of this I have no doubt. But for the public, perception is reality. Time and again when out with friends, someone mentions I fly a 'plane', someone else expresses an interest in coming up with me and then I mention the microlight word and with amusement I watch the colour drain from their face as they make their excuses. Other than the odd documentary, and we all know what I'm referring too, microlights only make the news when there's been an incident. The reality in this world is that bad news sells newspapers, good news doesn't. The public's perception of microlighting is stuck in the 80s when they last heard about them. They are blissfully unaware that your average fixed winger these days is buzzing around in an affordable Skyranger, with ultra reliable 4 stroke engine, running on mogas, while keeping a casual eye on his new ipad with built in GPS. A similar story exists with the beautifully designed modern flexis. Rotax engines may be expensive but they have played a major role in the transformation of microlighting into a relatively safe sport. There is a perception, reinforced by recent TV coverage that microlights are inherently dangerous, the preserve of a minority and that flying in general is elitist, expensive, requires a minimum number of hours (and therefore involves an ongoing commitment) and extensive instruction in the first place to gain your ticket. It is also purely recreational in that you can't realistically suddenly start commuting to work by air. The new generation of microlights are light years from the pioneer days of the 80s but there is no education process that I am aware of that that is making the public aware of this. Membership expansion will happen by making the BMAA an organisation that people want to belong to, not by targeting specific groups like bikers.

    It has been mentioned on the other thread, that 'I came across microlighting by accident', ''someone bought me a trial flight' 'I drove past an airfield'. It's all a bit accidental. Not that I am suggesting we need a big budget marketing campaign, we don't, and it would be a complete waste of money. A lack of engagement with the public would be entirely foregiveable twenty years ago, the advent of the internet has changed all that. If you think about it, we've put a pretty good wall around ourselves, if you wanted to keep something quiet you would probably adopt similar tactics. Airfields and hangars are often out of the public view on private land up winding tracks, the excellent MF Magazine is not available on subscription or newsagents as it almost gleefully reminds us inside its back cover. We have no news shelf representation, the website is average, confusing to a newcomer and outdated, the BMAA forums have until recently been hijacked by the lunatic fringe and the flying landscape is confusing to a newcomer trying to get his head around BMAA, LAA, BHGA, PPG, SSDR, fixed-wing, flex wing, weight shift, NPPL, NATS, CAA, etc etc. The internet should be at the centre of a strategy to better engage with the public.

    In addition to all that we are in the middle of an economic downturn, we live in an overpopulated cloudy country with lousy weather that has short summers and long winters, a population whose centre of gravity in terms of wealth and density is weighted towards a south east dominated by Class A airspace with expensive fuel and expensive imported equipment because of the weak pound. However, we do have a legacy from two World Wars that many countires do not have and that is a landscape littered with old airfields.

    The first question is would we welcome more members? For me it's an emphatic yes, it seems natural to want to share something as enjoyable as affordable flying. Some are aghast at 'membership numbers potentially tripling', I would suggest there is no danger of that. There is strength in numbers and at some point in the future our privileges will come under threat as airspace is encroached upon by other users such as drones or restricted, temporarily or otherwise by the inevitable next security scare.
    A strong united flying community is in all our interests. We must ask ourselves if we are taking a proactive approach to protecting the legacy that we will pass on to the next generation, will they thank us for it or do we risk becoming an irrelevance.

    So what's to do?

    Well we have a council of ten and a membership of 4000 and not much in between. How about we look at the landscape regionally and put out a call for say eight volunteers, let's call them Regional Officers (ROs) who liaise with a single nominated member of council. The regions could be say, South East, South West, West Midlands/Wales, East Midlands, Northern Central, North, Scotland and Ireland. The exact geography doesn't really matter, this is just a starting template, in fact it is likely to be defined by the volunteers themselves. Would anybody like to put their hand up? Are the great talkers on here prepared to have a go at putting words into action. I'll start the ball rolling and make myself available for the West Midlands.

    What would these ROs do? Well, they would develop an intimate knowledge and interest in their region and have responsibility for promoting the sport in their region. They would be a point of contact for inquiries, engage with local media, newspapers, regional magazines, radio stations etc. A picture can say more than a 1000 words. Stunning aerial photography of local landmarks taken by local aviators could be a regular feature in local press. Two of our major underused assets are ourselves and the photography that is available to us, but is it getting out there? Targeting airfields in your region that do not currently allow microlights could be another charm offensive. Lots of other things, the right individual will have no shortage of ideas and will find the right things to do.

    Putting MF Magazine on the news shelf is not feasible for an association of 4000 members, but could we piggyback off some of the existing magazines that occupy shelf space? At council level a more national initiative could be taken to get regular representation in photography magazines of which there are many. Could we reciprocate NMBF with a regular column or feature in Pilot or Flyer? Reminding GA readers that modern microlights look and perform a lot like the aircraft they are used to can be no bad thing, and downsizing in the current environment can be an attractive option while retaining your licence. The weekend press regularly does features on weekend activities/getaways/breaks, I rarely see microlighting get a mention.

    MF Magazine & website

    The magazine has certainly come a long way when you look back at copies 10/15 years old and it is a credit to those involved in its production. I still think that we are not leveraging out terrific photography I.P. It must now be time to consider refreshing the website. This is not my area of expertise but from what I have read there is plenty of in-house expertise on here that could utilised. There is no need to engage an agency with a big budget. I will leave others to comment further but from what I understand there are extremely cost effective solutions these days suited to an enthusiast's website while at the same time looking enticing, inviting and accessible, cheap to implement and free to run. Basing it on something like Wordpress and having a template built by someone who knows what they are doing but is also a microlight enthusiast would be my suggestion. Somebody needs to take responsibility for updating and maintaining it, why have we still got a link to the Flying Show there on the front page? There have been offers to revamp the forum here by members, it seems like we have good expertise amongst us, are these offers being progressed? Can we incorporate some interaction with new visitors, some feedback would be invaluable maybe thorugh a survey (must be unobtrusive and inviting, maybe offer an incentive to enter a draw for a voucher?). Suppose I had a question I wanted to ask someone, I don't really want to email a generic address on the off chance it got answered would there be a way to have a phone number on the front page to contact a duty council member, similar to the accessibility that Planning Departments offer? In the Quick Start to Microlighting there should be some information on syndicates and typical flying costs. Fuel consumption is almost always lower than newcomers expect.

    Microlight Flying eNews

    Herein lies the future, very scaleable at no extra cost. Dramatic content with a distribution list already approaching 4000. If you aren't signed up already get signed up, and foward on to all your friends. Well done to all those involved in its launch and to Geoff for the content.

    Finally some more contentious proposals that will no doubt provoke some comment so I put them on the agenda to do exactly that:

    1. Ditch the umbrella 'microlight' moniker, and reclassify. I think Kev mentioned 'Light Sport Aviation'. Drop the BMAA name and adopt a new one.

    2. Closer liaison with LAA. Do we have a long term future as a stand alone organisation with 4000 members? Is it a case of when a merger happens not if? I see a recent afors survey was overwhelmingly in favour, you cannot ignore public opinion for ever.

    3. Move Deddington to an airfield somewhere, it might even save an endagered airfield? I don't know if we own the freehold, I ought to check the accounts, but if not we should be putting rent funds back into flying.

    4. Stay with the bursary scheme, it is a modest outlay and does a lot of good, there will always be detractors but they make the mistake of looking at is as a pure financial equation. That's an error. You give the detractors ammunition however if you don't publicise it and use it as part of the overall marketing strategy when it will start to pay back. It warms people's hearts when you give someone the chance to learn to fly who otherwise couldn't, you just need to get the story out there.

    5. Change the membership structure, offer social membership as well as flying membership. Make the Magazine available standalone on subscription.

    I believe we have been lacking in our promotion of the sport over the years or the effort has gone in the wrong direction - you get out what you put in and there is much ground to make up. It will take a long time but with the chance of an economic turnaround soon this would be a good time to start a new initiative. There will be no fast results but the reward is the securing of the future of microlighting. We all have a collective responsibility.

  2. #2
    Senior Member 500 Club
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    BMAA Membership

    Some good ideas there. There are other aeroplane magazines. Bundling an issue of MF in with one of them as a giveaway might be an idea. Put a subscription form in the back and maybe the guy turns up six months later at an airfield informed and eager without having to shell out on a membership. If you've got to join before you can take an interest, then you won't. If you get a chance to develop an interest, you might.
    Maybe an ad in an Aeromodelling mag offering a free copy of MF might pull a few in. As for the name of the game, we cannot change the description that the CAA appends to our aircraft. If the flexwing makers were to call the aircraft "Sportsplanes" for example it would have a sexier ring about it to Joe public. A Sportsplane is obviously a thing of high performance, not a converted lawnmower.
    I have workmates queueing up to fly with me in the Ikarus because they have seen the pictures and know it is an aeroplane that you can fly on a microlight licence.
    Rebranding ourselves as the Affordable Recreational Sportsplane Enthusiasts Society might be a great idea (although the actual name may take a little fine tuning :-) )

  3. #3

    BMAA Membership

    [quote=Tom Sheppard]
    Rebranding ourselves as the Affordable Recreational Sportsplane Enthusiasts Society might be a great idea (although the actual name may take a little fine tuning :rofl:

  4. #4

    BMAA Membership

    Unfortunately the initial problem for anyone starting a new sport is money as in disposable income and the typical "newbie" who we are trying to attract will probably be a middle ager with a lesser mortgage and kids who may have flown or are about to fly the nest.
    There are always exceptions of course but I think that bikers are a good target because there may be some who are giving up simply because the roads are too busy and dangerous but they need something to give them a thrill and if introduced into microlighting they possibly already have the funds for a machine/training via the sale of their bike.
    The BMAA advertising microlighting in bike mags and on bikers forums with links to flying schools in the country would be a way of initially getting some publicity but I believe that if the flying show at the NEC was (if possible) in conjuction with the bike show would also be a step forward.
    Throwining in a curve ball perhaps it could be that it is not the BMAA's resonsibility to use any funds promoting microlighting but that of the individual school who will primarily benefit from the student, however the BMAA is in a win situation because the student (depending on aircraft choice) will more than likely become a BMAA member.

  5. #5
    Senior Member 500 Club
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    BMAA Membership

    The starter to this new thread is a thought provoker.

    a) Re local rep's/groups, might be heresy but it's a Chinese copy of the PFA (now LAA) 'Struts', which have run for years. Perhaps with the economics and excellent performance of F/W "microlights" we should do better joining with their meetings as really our interests do overlap so much. It might draw a few of them over to the BMAA or by a bigger mass start attracting other fliers or potential members - whatever their preference.

    b) I cannot see why we need worry that that CAA have a specific name 'microlight' for our range of flying machines. They can well be popularly re-named to meet a more acceptable modern idiom and merely retain the CAA specific for documentation or where essential, so the headline 'name' could be 'Light Plane' ...... The French have ULM which we at least recognise so why not change to something that isn't a joke ?

    c) The LAA also -against many oldies protests, inc. mine I'll admit - rebranded from the old fashioned Popular Flying Association and it really has made a difference in public perception and in their dealings with the many CAA & Eu elements etc., & significantly for its members' benefit. Perhaps the BMAA despite it's hard won status could rebrand to the BAA and drop the M word ?

    d) I too drop off my magazine early each month into Dentist, Dr. or hairdressers waiting areas. I doubt it does much for us but if several thousand members felt they could pass their copies on too, it would have a positive effect and all for free !

    Maybe an advert of a size that can be seen in one of the paid for flying mag's seen in Smiths etc, is too expensive, but perhaps some sort of deal could be brokered as by attracting folk to be members of the new BAA, those same magazine's would tether their readers to flying rather than remain fringe or casual purchasers.

    My penn'orth,

    mike hallam

  6. #6

    BMAA Membership

    Dave, as for the BMAA being in the Bike show is a cost beyond feasibility, For instance, At the Bike show we could expect to pay around a hundred pounds a square mtr so for a stand big enough to show a Flexwing and a 3 Axis plus desk space would need at least 20 mts x 6 or 7mts giving a cost of 14,000. That is not a viable proposition at all and could never be recovered. even a small stand of say 5 x 3mts would cost 1500 plus the expense of time setting the stand up and time at the show, don't forget that the bike show is spread over 5 halls and is over 10 days, We couldn't afford that anyway whatsoever.
    I shall be traveling with a colleague to various shows and flyins this year with the Flexwing simulator but that involves a heck of a lot of time and expence, to and from the show, staying overnight, even camping cost overnight fees, Question, where does all this money come from with under 4000 membership on an extremely low spare money margin. most of these expences we paid ourselves.
    If there are any volunteers by the way that would like to contribute a stand and man it for and on behalf of the BMAA at the Bike show or any other show come to think of it then please contact us at the BMAA and we would be very pleased to accept you donation and offer.

    TV

  7. #7
    Diamond geezer 500 Club
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    BMAA Membership

    I've moved the quotes to ,ake comment simpler.

    Dominic Connolly wrote:
    There exists a gap between the public perception of modern microlighting and its reality. Of this I have no doubt. But for the public, perception is reality.

    Other than the odd documentary, and we all know what I'm referring too, microlights only make the news when there's been an incident.

    The reality in this world is that bad news sells newspapers, good news doesn't.

    The public's perception of microlighting is stuck in the 80s when they last heard about them. They are blissfully unaware that your average fixed winger these days is buzzing around in an affordable Skyranger, with ultra reliable 4 stroke engine, running on mogas, while keeping a casual eye on his new ipad with built in GPS. A similar story exists with the beautifully designed modern flexis. Rotax engines may be expensive but they have played a major role in the transformation of microlighting into a relatively safe sport.

    Membership expansion will happen by making the BMAA an organisation that people want to belong to, not by targeting specific groups like bikers.
    I think we do nee to look at our PR a much better. I know of journalists within local news who are sympathetic to sport aviation, and such a story tends to break up the usual run of traffic issues, the dd murder or Crown court triel, but it's up to us to get them stuff they can use. Helping by providing high quality stuff that just needs editing and a set of contacts and a clear synopsis of what has happened/is happening/is going to happen.

    Dominic Connolly wrote: What would these ROs do? Well, they would develop an intimate knowledge and interest in their region and have responsibility for promoting the sport in their region.
    This is a long term project and not one that will yield immediate results, but really is a nettle we must grasp. Starting with local newspapers and radio, then local TV. It would also involve pitching events at TV - a friend of mine was a Red Bull X-Alps competitor and the BBC in Scotland made a 1 hour documentary about the competition following him and his wife. It was a big coup for PG in Scotland. it's not possible to set up but must not be missed if the opportunity presents itself. Similarly Flight of the Dacron Eagles did good things for HG and microlighting.

    Dominic Connolly wrote: The first question is would we welcome more members? For me it's an emphatic yes, it seems natural to want to share something as enjoyable as affordable flying. Some are aghast at 'membership numbers potentially tripling', I would suggest there is no danger of that.
    There is no danger of that. Agreed. We need to arrest the slide and look for at the very minimum a small amount of growth. I think we also need to acknowledge the prejudice to some extent and feature more of the 3 axis stuff.

    Dominic Connolly wrote: MF Magazine & website
    My suggestion is that we look into geting a number of copies of the magazine to the companies who are sub contracted to supply magazines for waiting rooms. I know several places no longer accept donated mags. We should also look to provide access to the magazine in electronic form for free once it has been in print for more than 6 months.

    If the web site runs on a CMS, then we should look to establishing sections for the different areas of the country, where we can put photos and contact details for those prepared to liaise with interested newcomers. Maybe with case studies to illustrate the affordable. nature of microlighting.

    Interms of new members, I'd be interested to see how effective the Flying Show is as I see it as something for the already converted. I think the big stumbling block is the offer of discount on the door, would we be prepared to allow nike show ticket holders in at a massive discount or free? Might I be tempted to abuse this if it were offered? But to be honest, I don't see the overlap between biking and flying.

  8. #8
    Diamond geezer 500 Club
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    Dominic, that was fabulous. Respect.

    Typical negative restriction on none members being prohibited from viewing the online magazine. Spot on suggestion if I read it correctly, to release this to the wider public; no cost, potential benefits, no potential losses.

    Someone Googles about us, gets a link to a free magazine, reads intelligent stuff, effectively an advertisement. As it is, someone at the BMAA always seems better at restricting/saying NO, than freely offering something as a attractor.

    I give tons of free advice-it results in business

    Cheers

    Kev

  9. #9
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    FWIW - My thoughts

    1) Perception is always more important than reality
    2) This is mainly a mans hobby - get the name right - men like to be associated with strong, manly pastimes. Microlight sounds like one step before impotence and sterility
    3) Stir up the spirit of adventure and gung ho - men respond to this
    4) Encourage/sponsor more inter-club fly ins - get dates in the diary
    5) Create a line between the BMAA Ltd and a Members Association, allow the Members Association to be controversial and to ask pointed questions, allow them to push as a representative body whilst not having the official blessing of BMAA Ltd

    In essence bring something exciting, fresh and new to the arena. Even the biggest Companies rebrand from time to time and I have always felt that men generally do not respond to things that are small, safe, controlled, tiny and a bit of a mouthfull to say. Men like to be associated with manly things and whislt our aircraft are strong, capable and exciting - the name microlight should have been consigned to the scrap heap years ago as it does not convey that image.

    Cheers

  10. #10
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    Tom, I assume you made the quote "Rebranding ourselves as the Affordable Recreational Sportsplane Enthusiasts Society might be a great idea" with your tongue in cheek......ARSES ??? I* know there are a lot of those flying around but not all of us please.

    Steve, there is definately an overlap between bikers and microlighters, just take a straw pole at your local club and I would put money on more than half are bikers or ex bikers.

    The LAA have certainly hauled themselves into the 21st century from the fuddy duddy facade that the old PFA used to portray, there has been much discusion on here why we don't amalgamate with the LAA.

    The e magazine is I think a great step forward, maybe getting it linked to other e mags could be a way to promote our cause.

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