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Mike Roe

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  • Mike Roe

    When a founder member of an organisation makes the effort to write an open letter calling for a change of name it's time to sit up and take notice. [Dave Thomas July MF p15]. It's unusual too, as normally it's the old guard that like to cling on to the status quo with the new generation agitating for change.
    I too would like to see a vote on a proposal to change name, although of course we need a suitable alternative to be proposed first.

    John Evans raised this issue of Organization Title in his very first question in the article 'BMAA-The Future' MF June 2015.

    Geoff Weighell's response was "The term microlight has a legal definition, so the aircraft that our members fly will always be called microlights, not ultralights. Would it not be better to continue to educate non-microlighters rather than distance ourselves from a class of aircraft that we should be proud of?"

    This is a weak response. Firstly, legal definition and organization names are two entirely different matters, they should not be confused. Image is important, billions are spent on branding and PR by corporates globally, we don't have that budget so we have to make sure the name sweats and works for us. Can you imagine a group of Airfix enthusiasts insisting that their club is called the "Plastic Injection Moulded Scale Model Club" or Winnebago Owners club CEO insisting that they be called the 'Class A Recreational Vehicle Club'. Do you regularly say "I'm off to the automated teller machine to withdraw some money"?

    Nobody is suggesting that we 'distance' ourselves from anything, it's about appropriateness. The LAA recognized some time ago that the 'PFA' name had become outdated and changed it and have not looked back since, it's not difficult, it's only inertia stopping us. A key test is if you were to start from scratch now, would you adopt BMAA, I very much doubt it.

    It sounds admirable to talk about educating non-microlighters but the enormity of the task is beyond us all, and there isn't even a budget, nor should there be. In this month's MF, Alex Story talks about 'another converted and educated punter". Admirable effort indeed but at 1 per week it would take 12,000 years to 'convert' just 1% of the population.

    In the real world, the unfortunate reality is that the main reason the word 'microlight' appears in the news now is when there is an accident. Let's take the primary point of entry for almost anything these days - Google. What does a search on 'microlight' throw up? And let's face it, if you're not on the first two pages of a Google search you're nowhere. Well the BMAA is top of the list, that's good, then some of the schools, Netherthorpe and Caunton, well done to them.

    Then it gets ugly 'Father and son killed" "watch the terrifying moment a microlight engine suddenly cuts out" and we even have "Microlight trike crash". This has to be seen to be believed:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUvZeWmFyHU

    These are legacy issues that you are not going to be able to shake off anytime soon. Contrast with Googling 'Light Aircraft Association'.

    You don't have to have a name that reflects the legal definition, far better to have a name that reflects the ethos of the current membership. Not something that was made up off the cuff over a fag and a warm beer 30 odd years ago.
    subscribe to Microlight Flying eNews here : http://dm-mailinglist.com/subscribe?f=c4198184

  • #2
    Mike Roe

    I have no personal issues with the m word, however I think a rebranding exercise may be a good thing. Shame the Laa got in there first with the ideal name for our association.

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    • #3
      Mike Roe

      Yes, it is. Perhaps the two organisations should merge...

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      • #4
        Mike Roe

        Yes, why don't we do what the much admired hang glider and paragliding chappies have done? They have not looked back since changing the name of their organisation to British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

        Oops!

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        • #5
          Mike Roe

          I'm currently conducting a non scientific poll of my Facebook friends to gather non flying people's opinions of the m word and what image it creates.

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          • #6
            Mike Roe

            Donald Walker wrote: Yes, why don't we do what the much admired hang glider and paragliding chappies have done? They have not looked back since changing the name of their organisation to British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

            Oops!
            The BHPA changed its name as a result of an amalgamation, which saw its membership numbers as a combined single body more or less double compared to either of its predecessors as a single entity, depending which side of the fence you were. Prior to that I think the BHGA and BAPC had 3,900/2,500? members respectively.

            This had immediate effects in economies of scale in the office, and the insurance became more affordable. Current membership levels are about 6,500 to 7,000 but this is a guestimate based on a figure I was given last year.

            Without wanting to appear disrespectful, I'd point out that with regard to one big day to day issue, insurance, the BHPA is doing a very good job for the microlight fraternity, and especially for SSDR owners, who are joining for a tangible benefit.

            So as not to upset Paul Dewhurst, I would accept his point that the the BMAA offers/has offered long term tangible and intangible benefits, SSDR being the more tangible and the continued defence of Class G airspace being the more intangible.

            But the best way forward is for the BMAA to raise its game if it can rather than pointing out perceived shortcomings of the BHPA....

            To get back on topic, if we could find a better, more descriptive name (shame we missed the boat with LAA and they got it first because it would have been ideal) we should adopt it.

            The big issue is that people connect the M word and older flex wings, and a inaccurate tabloid opinion of the same. Three axis does not feature in their perception. Safe and affordable aviation does not feature in that mental image. Being a 1/8 share holder in a C42 and having a whale of a time does not come up on the radar. The abilities and safety of the modern flex wing are not accurately represented.

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            • #7
              Mike Roe

              An interesting debate on something I hadn't given much thought to.

              One thing I had noted though is that I seem to spend a lot of my time when both our school aircraft (GT450 and C-42) are displayed together explaining that both aircraft are microlights. To the vast majority of the public there is only one type of microlight and it's weightshift and their flawed perception is that all microlights are flimsy and unsafe. They're usually quite pleasantly surprised by the GT450 and frankly don't understand how a C-42 can even be a microlight!

              I'm not on a crusade for a name change, but I do think the word microlight itself is generally viewed in a negative light by people with little or no knowledge of aviation and I honestly doubt that re-education will change that perception. With that in mind, the problem isn't so much the name of the Association but the name of the aircraft.

              Despite best efforts over a couple of decades, the reliable modern aircraft that most of us fly are still stigmatised by a few ropey aircraft from 30+ years ago...

              'Ultralight' isn't different enough to warrant the effort, so perhaps a short phrase which describes what we do rather than what we fly would be better? The Americans use 'Light Sport Aircraft' which works well; maybe we could call ours Light Recreational Aircraft if we want to be different :smilewinkgrin:

              I'm sure there are better names out there but I honestly think that as long as we fly 'microlights' a lot of people will be put off taking up our sort of grass roots flying or decide to fly 'real' aircraft - and that's a real shame.

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              • #8
                Mike Roe

                Steve,
                You quoted my post but obviously missed the sarcasm. I was merely pointing out tha the BHPA manages very well with a name that accurately describes the aircraft it covers.

                I realise that the microlight in BMAA may not satisfy the aspirations of those members who are under the illusion that the aircraft they fly are something else.

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                • #9
                  Mike Roe

                  Donald Walker wrote: Steve,
                  You quoted my post but obviously missed the sarcasm. I was merely pointing out tha the BHPA manages very well with a name that accurately describes the aircraft it covers.

                  I realise that the microlight in BMAA may not satisfy the aspirations of those members who are under the illusion that the aircraft they fly are something else.
                  But there was a name change, and it was successful... so not sure about how the sarcasm is supposed to work there....

                  Does the name describe the aircraft being flown?

                  When the amalgamation went through, under Tom Hardie's stewardship, there was a section of the BHGA that said that we did not need a name change and could use British Hang Gliding Association (BHGA) for everything because paragliders are actually Class 3 hang gliders - that is, hang gliders with no rigid primary structure. This is the correct technical definition.

                  This argument did not last very long because it meant that association didn't really describe for the PG element what it was about.

                  When Walter Neumark invented paragliding in the UK, he called it paragliding very early on, but the name parascending was adopted because it described what they did which was flying a parachute that ascended, or an ascending parachute. This stage of the sport saw parachutes towed behind land rovers or boats, but there was very little gliding involved, more like a parachute descent after the tow. When foot launching arrived from hills, we called the foot launch ones parapentes for a while, but then paraglider took hold.

                  What's in a name? Parascender, paraglider, parapente, class 3 hang glider? The last is the most technically correct and is almost never used.

                  Despite the accident rates being almost the same for hang gliding and paragliding, the public perception of paragliding is that it is much safer, it's a parachute after all, isn't it? Must be safer... that's partly why we get more people trying out PG or learning to fly that way.

                  So it's a good point - public perception and PR are not to be ignored.

                  To reinforce Dominic's point the BHGA was originally called the "National Kite Soaring Association". That's a very long way from an Atos rigid wing hang glider.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Mike Roe

                    Kev Armstrong wrote: Well Mr Connolly, much as it pains me to admit this, but you've hit several nails on the head.

                    First, over-adherence to legal issues means that advances and improvements can be denied above common sense; this is not Geoff's fault but a mindset that soaks into anyone constantly swimming in that sea, even the excellent Mr Dewhurst, David Bremner and colleagues on council have defended current state of things when a reasonable point can be made for change. Check flights for example.

                    I'm happy for my SSDR to be known as a Microlight, but am baffled after riding down to the SSDR Rally in the back of Mike Wallis' GT explorer light aircraft, skimming the clouds at 8000 plus feet, with a full panel of instruments and the ability to traverse continents, why the manufacturers tolerate it being called 'Micro' anything...

                    A Tipsy Nipper single seater aircraft or Cri-Cri weighs less and isn't a Microlight. How is that appropriate?

                    Cheers

                    Kev
                    1. I am not on council
                    2. I have petitioned for change on the check flight issue - NOT defended the status quo.

                    Paul

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                    • #11
                      Mike Roe

                      Gary hits the nail on the head when he says the name of the association isn't important - it's not at the forefront of any visibility to the outside world and doesn't at present engage in any marketing or promotion outside, so what it is called doent really affect any public perception or recruitment. It's a back room support organisation. It gets its members from those who have already entered the community.

                      I don't really buy that the BHPA name helped any more people take up paragliding or hangliding, or that the PFA rebranding to LAA got more people to get their PPL.

                      The visible elements to the outside world for our sport are the schools and clubs. They are free to describe themselves and the craft as they think fit - rather like Steves point about paragliders / Parapentes / Paracsenders / class three hangliders all being individual descriptions of the same thing. Lots of our schools sell what they do as ' Airsports', some light sport aviation, and some stick to microlights. Their websites show the aircraft, the capabilities and the license category and name gets the small print or abbreviation treatment if they want to play down the M word.

                      What we don't have at present is any concensus for a new category umbrella name. Until we have one that is snappy and descriptive and hasn't been taken already we are a bit stuck and can't really move forwards and collectively market a new brand.

                      This debate comes up like clockwork every few years since inception 35 years ago, and no one has yet come up with a good alternative name.

                      So put you thinking caps on and come up with a good one, or this is all just pointless.

                      IMHO it needs to avoid diminutives ( like micro, or small) and should avoid reusing anything that already is in use and has a different definition ( like Light Sport Aircraft) and shouldn't be so close to an existing category name as to be confusing and diminish building a clear identity.

                      Paul

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                      • #12
                        Mike Roe

                        My poll amongst some of my non flying friends seems to suggest that the m word isn't too important. Microlight to many simply means flexwing by the look of it, three axis machines are light aircraft not microlights aren't they? Seemed to be the majority view. Predictably most people are more willing to have a go in an ikarus c42 type than quiks thrusters and dragons as I presume they look more flimsy (I posted 4 pictures of microlight types and asked which they'd have a go in).
                        If going on name alone then light aircraft sounded more appealing than a microlight, presumably because of its more sturdy sound.

                        I fly a microlight and I'm rather proud of it.
                        Jk
                        .

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                        • #13
                          Mike Roe

                          Paul Dewhurst wrote:

                          1. I am not on council

                          Paul
                          Well, in the words of that well known Eagles song, ...

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                          • #14
                            Mike Roe

                            "...You can check out any time you like...."

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                            • #15
                              Mike Roe

                              ;-)

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