Monday, October 1, 2012

US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Rich Hass is our current USHPA president, a member of the NWPC, an excellent paraglider pilot, and a skilled mediator who has worked tirelessly to ensure the future of flying in the Northwest and the entire country.

Member Chapter Importance and Cooperation
by Rich Hass

Rich Hass at the 2006-2007 NWPC Awards Gala
photo Chris Amonson
NWPC is one of more than a hundred chapters in the US affiliated with the US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Through the chapter affiliation program, USHPA is able to provide chapters with a number of member benefits ranging from site and special event insurance to providing help in developing new flying sites and protecting the ones we already have. Chapters are independent and are, for the most part, free to manage club affairs and local flying sites as they see fit.
Due to a recent spike in claims activity, the USHPA insurance program has been under close scrutiny. In 2012, the London-based syndicate providing USHPA’s member and site insurance told USHPA to find ways to reduce claims through an active risk management program if it wants to continue offering insurance as a membership benefit. Since USHPA doesn’t manage sites, this effort requires close cooperation between USHPA and its chapters. After several months work, substantially all of the chapters have evaluated the sites they manage (insured or not) and developed plans for reducing risk. These plans are now being implemented.
USHPA’s ability to offer site insurance and third-party liability insurance is dependent on reducing accident claims. Notwithstanding the importance of risk assessment plans, the best way to minimize claims begins with every pilot taking responsibility for not only looking after their own safety but the safety of other pilots, spectators and property owners as well. This is an important mindset. So far, this initiative seems to be working—time will tell.
The insurance program is available in part because USHPA members agree to waive certain rights to sue for damages. It’s the waiver that enables USHPA to secure site insurance and without a members-only requirement at USHPA-insured sites, site insurance wouldn’t be available. The second reason for the members-only requirement is, site insurance only insures landowners against claims involving USHPA members. When chapters secure site insurance through USHPA, landowners expect those chapters to limit access to USHPA members; otherwise, they aren’t insured. Chapters and USHPA need to act in good faith by limiting access to those who are insured.
Rich Hass on Chelan Butte 2007.
photo Chris Amonson
The question often arises, how best to deal with pilots who refuse to support the sites we fly? Chapters are only expected to do so much. More often than not, when pilots understand how their actions may jeopardize a particular site or jeopardize USHPA’s ability to secure insurance nationally, they cooperate. Chapters are expected to make reasonable efforts to enforce the members-only requirement. This is best accomplished by educating pilots to the importance of keeping site insurance available. Chapters use signs on launch and in LZ’s, helmet stickers and printed lists of authorized (and not authorized) pilots. At Tiger Mountain, where NWPC subsidizes the shuttle operation, limiting access on the shuttle to those authorized to fly seems like a reasonable request. Circumstances vary and it is up to chapters to determine how best to satisfy these requirements.  
Some say chapters or USHPA have no right to prevent pilots from flying on public property. That may be technically true, but does anyone doubt the right of a public agency to ban flying from a particular site? Unfortunately, there are numerous examples where sites that have been lost. Landowners expect the flying community to self regulate. It’s far easier for a landowner to close a site than police it themselves.
Rich Hass at Woodrat Mtn 2005.
 photo Chris Amonson
Given the challenges USHPA is experiencing with preserving its insurance program, USHPA is asking chapters to help by working through the risk management plans and adhering to the members-only requirement at insured sites. In 2012, USHPA’s insurance premium doubled after USHPA was able to get the program reinstated. It’s unclear what lies ahead. What is clear is, USHPA needs the support of its members and chapters in developing a culture where safety comes first. This initiative can succeed if every pilot participates and shares in the responsibility for maintaining safe flying conditions and complying with the insurance requirements at insured sites. The responsibility of enforcement shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of chapter officers or the shuttle operator alone; every pilot is a stakeholder and every pilot should pitch in and help. Rich Hass.

1 comment:

Suhas Kelkar, Pune, India said...

Wow. Great news Rich! Congratulations!