Report from the 2015 CIVL Plenary, Belgrade, Serbia 19-22 February 2015

by Hamish Barker

(Australian CIVL Delegate, also assigned to use the NZ proxy vote at this plenary).

The 2015 CIVL plenary took place in Belgrade, Serbia, from Thursday 19 Feb
to Sunday 22 Feb 2015.

Although by default the CIVL plenary is held in Lausanne, Switzerland, for 2015 a bid was received and successfully voted on at the 2014 Plenary for the 2015 plenary to be held in Belgrade, Serbia. Notable among the bid's good points was that the national aero club of Serbia had managed to get an EU grant, which made it possible for them to cover the accommodation and food for delegates and CIVL bureau members.

This meant potential savings for the federations of each attending delegate, so of course it was voted in. For this plenary, I arranged with the New Zealand Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association to carry also the New Zealand proxy vote in addition to the Australian vote (as Australian delegate), in exchange for the NZHGPA paying a portion of the airfare to the plenary.

Due to work committments at a new job, I wasn't able to book the airfare until fairly late, so although I didn't have (hardly) any hotel and food expenses (which when the plenary is held in Switzerland are usually about 180+ AUD /day, but can be reduced if one is willing to walk further from the normal plenary venues), the airfare was expensive, and the overall cost about the same as other years.

I have been Treasurer of the CIVL Bureau (the board, in French), for the last three years (or is it four?), and so I had also prepared to present the CIVL accounts at the plenary. CIVL's accounts are not as complex as one might expect for an international sporting association. Income is limited to just a few categories: sanction fees for continental and world championships (category 1 events), sanction fees for category 2 events (eg. national and other hang gliding and paragliding competitions each pay a sanction fee of one entry fee to CIVL in payment for the official CIVL sanction, giving a place on the CIVL calendar, and (most importantly for competitors) WPRS (world pilot ranking system) points for participating competitors.

Additional CIVL income comes from selling blank IPPI (International Pilot Proficiency Information) cards to national federations. For further details on IPPI cards, see the CIVL website. There are a few hundred category 2 events held per year, spread over the disciplines of paragliding (xc), hang gliding (xc, note there are several HG subcategories), paragliding accuracy and paragliding aerobatics. The majority comes from paragliding events. The full agenda (and when they are compiled, the minutes of meeting) for the plenary are available on the CIVL website. I will not reproduce them here but rather concentrate on the items which are of likely importance to Australian and NZ pilots
(and that I can remember without the minutes in front of me...)

1. Altitude measurement. The bureau made a decision during it's mid-term meeting that for future category 1 events, altitude measurements recorded in tracklogs must be based on barometric pressure, and not on GPS altitude as has been common for a number of years. The main reasons for the change are that airspace boundaries are defined in terms of barometric altitude, not GPS altitude, and GPS altitude is not accurate enough, especially when pilots are being penalised for being close to or over airspace limits. Also, if there is ever to be a chance to re-implement altitude-based bonuses in the scoring (to encourage less hazardous final glides or other situations) as was abortively and unpopularly trialled at the 2014 European championships, GPS altitude is not accurate enough. An important factor in the implementation by instrument manufacturers must be that it must not be possible to recalibrate the barometric altimeter during flight (or at least not without clearly showing any such recalibration in the track log), so that nobody cheats at airspace height limits by just readjusting their instrument.

2. WPRS ranking equation changes. Three proposals had been variously discussed in the paragliding subcommittee, but unfortunately were not documented clearly enough nor completely worked through, so they were withdrawn. The proposals were to increase the amount of time until a pilot's earned WPRS points start to degrade (good for Aus/NZ pilots who probably can't afford to go to the big-WPRS-scoring euro comps every season, to decrease the number of required pilots for a fully valid comp (also good for Aus/NZ pilots whose comp fields are not as big as some european events, and to change the pilot quality weighting factor on amount of points available to a comp. Also would have been good for Aus/NZ pilots since the high quality euro comp fields get more and more wprs points, while our home comps don't get much, then the pilots are lower ranked, and the wprs points available to be earned at home comps spirals down. So it was a big disappointment for me (and other non-european country CIVL delegates) to not get these proposals through. But we simply have to do the work to implement the changes in a test formula, run the modified WPRS calculations and compare the resulting rankings with actual competition results of later dates to PROVE that the changes will provide a more accurate (and fairer for us non-euro nations) wprs ranking system. I have a few people to work with on this from various countries, so have good hopes for it to be achieved in time for the next plenary with rock solid votable proposals.

2a. Changed WPRS ranking/points criteria (minimum) for world or european championship entry, paragliding: the plenary voted to reduce criteria for entry to Paragliding world championships and european championships (which I'm pretty sure all the relevant pilots have already heard about) to top 500 WPRS ranking or earned 40 WPRS points in a single event, in the past 2 years. The original proposal was to extend this to three years but that part did not get enough votes. Three years would have been beneficial for Australian and New Zealand comp pilots who might be able to make a big effort to get a season-worth of qualifying events in europe every second year or so. The proposal was strongly criticised by Switzerland and Germany and UK delegates as a big watering down of safety. But there were plenty of contesting arguments that there is not a great deal of evidence that using WPRS ranking is a good measure of safety. Rebuttal to this was that it's currently the only measure (arguable either way). Anyway, reducing the threshold qualification criteria is good for improving the possibility for Australia and New Zealand to field a full team to future championships.

3. World Championship Bids. There was an unprecedented number of bids for world championships. 1 for hang gliding worlds 2017, for Brazil, (with goals in Brasilia, in the middle of the capital!), was successful since that was the only HG worlds bid. 1 bid was for 2016 HG european champs to be held in Kruschevo, Macedonia. By all accounts a stunning place to fly, a huge open valley about 30km across, with mountain ranges each side and big potential variety in task setting. 1 bid for paragliding aerobatics, to be held in Annecy, France. Not sure if any Australian or NZ pilots are potential entrants, but something to think about if anyone is. 3 bids for paragliding accuracy, from China, Germany and Albania. The Albanian bid was successful. They were ecstatic. I don't know of any Australians or New Zealanders doing paragliding accuracy, but the winning bid is mostly free (i.e. entry fee, accommodation, probably parties etc.), so if by any chance someone feels like going, it's probably a good idea to organise a couple of home events first. Seven (7!) bids for paragliding xc worlds 2017. Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Brazil and Slovenia. There were three rounds of voting, and neither of the bids which the Australian comp committee instructed me to vote for (Portugal, knocked out in the first round, and Turkey, got through to the third round but was pipped by the Italian Bid) was successful. The New Zealand competition pilots hadn't given strong preferences except perhaps Slovenia, but it was knocked out in the second voting round (which was between Italy, Turkey and Slovenia). The location for the 2017 paragliding world championships, Feltre, Italy, is close to Bassano, and should still give an excellent championship, although of course with more alpine conditions than our Australian pilots are usually flying at home, it might be a good idea for prospective 2017 team members to think about planning trips to the region for training up in the two european seasons available before the 2017 meet.

4. CIVL Competition Class Paraglider weight ranges When the CIVL competition Class paraglider definition ruleset was voted in by the 2014 plenary, the top weight of the smallest size was set at 100kg, with a scheduled reduction down to 90kg for 2015. A proposal from germany was put forward to extend the delay in bringing down the 90kg limit for another year. On the plus side, this would make CCC glider development and certification cheaper for manufacturers. But a big downside would be that it would be throwing away one of the key original goals of the CCC project, which was to ensure that competitive gliders be available for the widest possible weight range of pilots. Failing to provide the smallest sizes is considered to be particularly bad for participation of women in top level paragliding comps, since they either can't get a competitive glider in their size, or have to fly with maximum ballast, risking injury in any less-than-perfect landing situation with nearly half their body weight in ballast. Thankfully, the proposal was defeated and new CCC gliders must provide a smallest size with a top weight no more than 90kg. There is a risk that one or more of the current manufacturers might decide that the cost of CCC certification is now too high and drop out, reducing the range of manufacturers' gliders for pilots to choose from. But personally, I think CIVL has to take that risk in order to serve the sporting interest of having competitive gliders available to a bigger range of pilot weights. If we have a problem of manufacturer diversity in the future, maybe other ways can be sought to fix that rather than just giving up on the light (and heavy) weight pilots.

5. Task Setting Project A meeting was held which attempted to draw together the experience of a number of international meet organisers present at the plenary and to begin to put together a set of guidelines for task setting to be published by CIVL. The aim being to promote good task setting not only for the sportive aspects, but also because it is recognized that task setting including meteo, terrain, and pilot experience factors is of no small importance to safety in top level competitions, where the pilots will fly where (and when) they are sent. Copious notes were made, a draft is being put together, and will be circulated (I will personally make sure that it also gets to Australian task setters for their input, since I have been appointed as chair of the working group) for revision before hopefully becoming a useful resource for future competitions.

6. New CIVL President and new CIVL Bureau members. The CIVL Bureau is now elected on a two-year cycle. Outgoing CIVL president Agust Gudmundsson was recently elected to the FAI Executive Board, which is a great thing for our sports of hang gliding and paragliding, to have a "friend in high places", but on the down side he is not allowed to remain as an airsport commission president and also sit on the FAI Exec. So Stephane Malbos, tireless CIVL Vice President with a prodigious work output, was elected president. Vice presidents Igor Erzen (Slovenia) and Goran Dimiskovski (Macedonia, and also President of the paragliding world cup association) remained on the bureau, as did Secretary Jamie Shelden (USA) and new treasurer (formerly CIVL Vice president) Zeljko Ovuka (Serbia). New bureau members were Adrian Thomas (UK) and Wahyu Yudha (Indonesia). I was treasurer in the previous term but did not stand for re-election because it's a lot of work and I have a new son, new job and new career demanding a higher priority of my time and attention. The new blood on the bureau is anyway a good thing, hopefully they will bring good outcomes for our sports.

The above are the main issues which I can recall from the 2015 plenary in Belgrade. It was a tough one for me as I had the 'flu from day one right through to and during my return flight. Further details will be available in the full minutes of meetings when they are finished and published on the FAI/CIVL website.

My sincere thanks to the HGFA Committee and Competitions Committee, and to the NZHGPA executive and paragliding competitions committee for the continuing support and no small amount of our associations' precious finances to ensure that Australia and New Zealand votes have continued to play their part in CIVL's now 40 year history.

Hamish Barker CIVL Delegate, Australia

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