Instructors sacked at club in crisis

The Nelson Aero Club has laid off both its instructors and is threatened with extinction as a result of what appears to be a meltdown within its governance ranks.

The club, which celebrated its 80th birthday in style last year, is rallying current and past members in a last-ditch attempt to stay alive.

Former vice-president Steve Rule has put out a call to members for enough signatures to call a special general meeting. The threshold has now been reached and an urgent meeting will be held within weeks.

Mr Rule was notified last week that both club instructors had been given redundancy notices and were to finish on April 7, and that the club's vice-president had resigned with immediate effect.

Chief flying instructor Martin Voice confirmed that he and his colleague had been given notice, but they were hoping the situation could be reversed.

"What's been done is not in the best interests of the club. Members are now pulling together to try and help.

"We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best," said Mr Voice, who was appointed to the position last December, but has been with the club for two years.

He said the redundancy notice issued by the club president on behalf of the committee was unexpected.

"It's a bit of a shock that they went to such drastic measures in one go instead of trying something else. It's pretty serious action," Mr Voice said.

Mr Rule, who resigned as vice- president a year ago, described the situation as "very bad". It appeared to be the result of excessive secrecy around club operations.

He said the special meeting had been called with the aim of seeking explanations over some of the decisions.

It would also provide an opportunity to invoke a rule giving members a chance to cast a vote of no confidence in the club president, if that was considered an appropriate pathway.

Club president Maurice Tighe, who has held the title for six years and has been a committee member for 20 years, declined to comment because he said members had not yet been informed.

"There'll be no public announcement until such time as negotiations are complete.

"I am prepared to make a statement once these things - the plan - transpires. It's the most progressive thing that's happened in the club in 20 years. That's what the trouble is about.

"We wish to move on from this stalemate."

Mr Tighe could not comment on why the two flying instructors had been laid off.

The Nelson Aero Club is a not- for-profit organisation which offers training for pilots seeking private and commercial licences plus instructor ratings.

It was formed on September 28, 1932 and first operated from what is now Saxton Field. The club moved to Nelson Airport in the late 1930s, and went into recess during World War II.

The club moved to its current hangar in 1996. Former president Kevin Allport told the Nelson Airport newsletter Flightpath in October 2007 that the club had trained several commercial pilots who had gone on to have successful careers. Foundation members included the late Sir Jack Newman, Ian Neale and Reg Kingsford.

One of Nelson's earliest aviatrix, Thelma Bradshaw, earned her private pilot's licence through the Nelson Aero Club in 1955 and her commercial licence a year later. She later became an aero club captain.

Mr Rule said a date had not yet been set for the special members-only meeting, but he expected it would be held within a month.

The Nelson Mail