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Gliding club may be brought down; European red tape threatens future of airborne sports.

Byline: Brian Daniel

ANORTH East gliding club fears it could be forced to close if proposed European red tape become law. The Northumbria Gliding Club has raised major fears about the impact of the European Union proposals which could see airfields like its own closed down.

Bureaucrats in Brussels want to force on to the clubs a series of Standardised European Rules of the Air (SERA) which will create new health and safety rules.

The changes would mean specialist medical practitioners have to provide medical declarations for those wishing to fly gliders.

And a flight plan for all flights would be required even for weekend hobbyists, as well as a ban on flying below 500ft above ground level.

The Northumbria club, based near Chopwell, has voiced concerns that one proposal in particular, the closure of all unlicensed airports, would force it to close.

The club has been going 30 years and has around 80 members from as far afield as Durham and Carlisle.

But its airfield is not licensed and it believes it would have to invest in equipment such as a ground-based radio system to rectify this. Club spokesman Frank McLoughlin said: "I do not think there is any way we could get a licence.

"The amount of equipment we would have to get, it would be quite beyond our means."

The club has raised its concerns with Martin Callanan, Conservative Euro-MP for the North East, and claims that the new regulations will mean it having to discard its satisfactory existing arrangements.

Mr McLoughlin added: "Our current arrangements with local Air Traffic Control work very well and contribute in no small part to keeping the sport affordable and accessible to young people. Many of the proposals in the SERA regulations will damage the sport.

"A glider really is not an airliner and these additional regulations are superfluous, costly and do not improve safety at all. The new regulations are not proportionate to the requirements of the 70,000 glider pilots in Europe."

The club says the 500ft restriction is bad news for gliders and paragliders who fly below that figure.

It also says the requirement for flight plans will mean it having to inform Newcastle Airport of every five-minute flight, as opposed to the current arrangement whereby it is given an area in which to operate and which planes will avoid.

Mr Callanan is supporting the club and fears the additional cost and bureaucracy threatens the future of gliding clubs across the North East and beyond.

He is to raise the matter in the European Parliament.

The Euro-MP said: "While we all accept it is important and necessary to have rules for the sky, I do not want to see general aviation damaged.

"The new proposals will not be acceptable if clubs such as Northumbria Gliding Club suffer as a result.

"Applying large aircraft rules to airfields, including those used by general aviation and sports and recreational aviation, is disproportionate, unnecessary and will be highly damaging. "I am concerned that gliding will not be able to continue as a sport without significant changes to the proposed Standardised European Rules of the Air." Members of Borders Gliding Club at Milfield, near Wooler, Northumberland, were only alerted to the proposals yesterday when they were mentioned on its internet forum.

The club is to discuss the proposals and send its comments to the British Gliding Association, which is inviting views on the matter by August 23.

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CLOSURE FEAR Northumbria Gliding Club fliers may be grounded due to EU rules
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2010
Words:589
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