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UK ownership dispute

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UK ownership dispute

Old 13th Oct 2017, 17:47
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UK ownership dispute

Hi, I wonder if anyone could advise me in this ownership dispute.

University Flying Club was a part of University Sports Union. In 2008 Flying Club bought an aircraft, funds came partially from Sports Union partially from private donations. Final invoice came to Flying Club. Flying Club has also nominated two Trustees to become registered owners.
In 2014 Sports Union made a decision to close Flying Club and Executive Committee of Sports Union decided that all assets of Flying Club will be transferred to Sports Union (process is not specified in Sports Union constitution). This decision was not communicated to Trustees (they've only learnt that this week) and Sports Union has failed to meet its obligations to notify CAA of change of ownership so aircraft remains registered under two Trustees of a Club (that doesn't exist).

Recently Trustees together with former members of a Flying Club started to make enquiries about this aircraft but have been told to step back because it belongs to Sports Union.

My question is who is the owner of this aircraft (and on what grounds).
And is there any chance for Trustees to get this aircraft back?

I will much appreciate your help

Many thanks
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 18:50
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Have the trustees signed off their responsibilities?
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 19:13
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I think that you need to dig out and read the constitutions of both the sports union and the club that existed - which if you don't have it, should presumably be held by the SU.

But, I would put a small bet on that aeroplane now being the property of the SU; , and that the trustees technically (although not seriously) have failed in their duty to ensure that the ownership of the aeroplane was handed over to the SU more formally - and should do so now. They were certainly never owners of the aeroplane - the key is in the phrase "trustee" - it was in their trust, it wasn't theirs.

Presumably the flying club was wound up because it was no longer a viable club anyhow.

G
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 19:19
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Trustees have never had beneficial ownership of the aircraft.
In what sense do you mean 'get it back'.
If they never owned it, how can they get it back ?
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 20:26
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OP gives Edinburgh as his location. Is this mess under Scottish or English law? Or maybe it's not clear which it is under, allowing for legal action to decide this first.
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 20:42
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Originally Posted by mrangryofwarlingham View Post
Trustees have never had beneficial ownership of the aircraft.
In what sense do you mean 'get it back'.
If they never owned it, how can they get it back ?
Sorry maybe I've used wrong words. We would like to get Flying Club back on its feet and in that sense we would like to get aircraft back to be able to fly it again
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 22:16
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Would not normally suggest this but I think you need legal advice!
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 22:32
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I would also bet that the Sports Union has claim on ownership. I would also not advise spending money on lawyers. Guess who will be the only winners. So, it would be better in my view that if you wish the use of the asset, sit down with the SU and come to an amicable agreement. Talking is always better than fighting.
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 23:14
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All seems a bit smelly here!

Apart from Edinburgh University, where there is a hot-air balloon club, and some gliding clubs I wasn't aware of any other university flying club in Scotland.

If the aircraft hasn't flown for since 2014, where has it been and who has been paying for the hangarage? And if stored outside and not used, it will be well corroded by now!

I have often tried to get Glasgow and Edinburgh-based students to think about setting up a flying club - we could do a good deal here at Strathaven, I am sure. But never found any takers.

I would be very surprised if the Sports Union hadn't made certain clauses in the flying club's constitution a part of the original funding deal. This would then specify where the aircraft ownership and right to sell would ultimately lie.

As a not-for-profit, we have such clauses in the articles of association for Strathaven Airfield Ltd, so any surplus cannot go back to the landlord or to the members or users.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 09:38
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Silly question, but have you spoke to the CAA Aircraft Registration department? In my experience, they tend to be one of the best organised and helpful departments within the organisation. Just beware that sometimes their hands are tied with regards to legally what information they're allowed to give out. Contact details on the link below:

https://www.caa.co.uk/Aircraft-regis...ice-standards/

It is my understanding that even a registered "Trustee" must have an ownership claim on an aircraft when they register it, and so unless the CAA made a mistake (or were given false documents) then at some point the "Trustees" have declared an ownership stake. This is unlike the DVLA where you are simply a "registered keeper" and so not necessarily the owner of a vehicle.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 09:38
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Only thing smelly here is trustees that don't understand what being a trustee means and claiming to claim something that is not theirs.

So if the trustees want to chase someone else's property and throw money down the legal drain in doing so, I say go for it.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 10:33
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Originally Posted by Madball View Post
Hi, I wonder if anyone could advise me in this ownership dispute.
Unless you can sit down and agree this amicably you will need to get lawyers involved, because much of this doesn't seem to make sense. Just taking what you said:

University Flying Club was a part of University Sports Union.
So the flying club was a "part" of the Sports union. OK.

In 2008 Flying Club bought an aircraft, funds came partially from Sports Union partially from private donations.
In what proportions? Were any charges, conditions or coveneants attached to the funds?

Final invoice came to Flying Club.
So was the flying club a separate legal entity, with its own directors, company secretary and annually-filed accounts, or was it just a named group within the Sports Union? Was the Sports Union itself a legal entity?

Flying Club has also nominated two Trustees to become registered owners.
To be registered owners of an aeroplane the trustees need to have at least a partial ownership claim of some sort - otherwise this was an illegal registration. Was this claim as directors or shareholders of the flying club, or officers of the sports uniion or what?

In 2014 Sports Union made a decision to close Flying Club
On what basis? Was the flying club a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the sports union? If not did the directors of the flying club concur?

...and Executive Committee of Sports Union decided that all assets of Flying Club will be transferred to Sports Union (process is not specified in Sports Union constitution).
Well if the flying club was wholly owned by the sports union then they probably have complete freedom to do this restructuring unless it's explicitly prohibited in the Sports Union constitution or violates the terms of the original donations.

This decision was not communicated to Trustees (they've only learnt that this week) and Sports Union has failed to meet its obligations to notify CAA of change of ownership so aircraft remains registered under two Trustees of a Club (that doesn't exist).
This bit is rather strange, but then if the trustees' ownership claim only sprang from an appointment/post in the flying club then when the SU restructured that claim would cease to exist (unless the trustees were re-appointed to new posts in the sports union). There is a technical violation in not informing the CAA, but then as I understand it the registration does not denote ownership - it merely registers an ownership arrived at through other means.

Recently Trustees together with former members of a Flying Club started to make enquiries about this aircraft but have been told to step back because it belongs to Sports Union.
As you've described it I suspect they have a good claim, but if you can't agree it amicably then you will need lawyers to scrutinise all the documents and come to a decision. How long had it been between the flying club being "absorbed" back into the SU and the "Trustees together with former members of a Flying Club starting to make enquiries about this aircraft"? Days/weeks/months/years/what?

My question is who is the owner of this aircraft (and on what grounds).
And is there any chance for Trustees to get this aircraft back?
Where is the aeroplane? Is it under the control of a subpart-g organisation? Who has been maintaining it? Who has been paying the subpart-g organisation for maintenance and storage? If not then how far out of airworthiness currency is it?

If it's been unmaintained with no controlling CAM for a year of two, especially if it's just been tied down on an airfield somewhere, then it's almost certainly junk anyway - only worth scrapping for parts because the cost of returning it to airworthiness will well exceed the value of the aeroplane.

0.001 supplied,

PDR
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 10:46
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According to the CAA registerm the University of Edinburgh Sport Union are the registered owners of three gliders and a hot air balloon is owned by two trusties of the Hot Air baloon club. In relation to the powered aircracraft G-GEOS the registered owner is as follows:

UNIVERSITY COURT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
FINANCE DEPT, CHARLES STEWART HOUSE
9-16 CHAMBERS STREET
EDINBURGH
EH1 1HT

The above doesn't sound like the sports union have a claim. If Scottish law is similar to english law, I would have though any third parties who contributed to it could claim a beneficial interest in law.

Finally to add, if you google G-GEOS under images, there are several photos of this aircraft, will School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh written on the side, with Edinburgh University logo on it, also two very large electronic underwing pods. I suspect this aircraft is purely for academic research and I doubt that the university would allow it to be used for recreational flying based on the xpensive kit attached to it.

If anyone has the ability to put a photo of G-GEOS on here, please do so.

To further add this comes from Edinburgh Univesity website:

The Facility operates a Diamond HK36 TTC-ECO aircraft and a sophisticated suite of scientific instruments to help us support researchers in their studies of the lower atmosphere, its interactions with the vegetation below and the processes that shape our planet’s surface. The aircraft enables us to make atmospheric measurements up to 10,000 feet (or above) and to produce images of the Earth’s surface using sensors similar to those carried onboard satellites. We are able to directly measure the exchange of gases between the earth’s vegetation and the atmosphere while flying low above the ground, which is a vital tool in understanding the effect of natural processes on human emissions in the atmosphere (and vice versa). The ECO-Dimona platform is also very suitable for the testing and development of new sensor technologies for environmental research.

Diamond HK36 TTC-ECO Aircraft
Our new aircraft is of a type described as a self-launching motorglider and was made by Diamond Aircraft in Austria. Its type is an Eco Dimona MPX and the registration number for the aircraft is G-GEOS

UNLESS I HAVE THE WRONG AIRCRAFT!

Last edited by Homsap; 14th Oct 2017 at 11:58.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 11:06
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You need to get the advice of a Lawyer, not a forum, yes there are people here who will have some or a lot of knowledge but unless they see the paperwork related to the aircraft then they really can't help.

I can't stress the need for you to get a lawyer to look into this, you could be opening a whole can of worms into not only the ownership of the aircraft bu the operation of the club, especially if it's registered under OSCR.

Fats
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 11:38
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It could all be very simple.

Start with the actual value of the aircraft, today - where is, as is.

1. If that is zero or a very small figure then they might just give it to you (whether it is already yours then becomes a moot point).

2. If it is a small figure then you might negotiate an even smaller one and decide it's worth paying (or even negotiate down to zero, selling a plane can be hard work).

3. If it is a large figure, then head happily off to eBay/Controller/Planecheck etc. and get yourself whatever you want/can afford.

My 2p.

Sam.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 12:02
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You need to get the advice of a Lawyer, not a forum, yes there are people here who will have some or a lot of knowledge but unless they see the paperwork related to the aircraft then they really can't help.

I can't stress the need for you to get a lawyer to look into this, you could be opening a whole can of worms into not only the ownership of the aircraft bu the operation of the club, especially if it's registered under OSCR.

Fats
Totally this.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 13:47
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I would add that on forums there is a wealth of experience, including people with personal experience of the law, simply rushing off to a lawyer for an opinion is not the best way to start. From my experience lawyers opinions are not only correct.

The logigal way forward is:

(a) Photocopy all the paperwork and make two paginated bundles, and cross reference to the evidence, with a skeleton argument.
(b) Request an informal, without prejudice meeting with those who claim to have a beneficial interest.
(c) Suggest that all parties enter into ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) in terms of mediation or arbitration, this (in England may protect you against a costs order, but not always.
(d) If a, b, c , fail that is the time to take a legal opinion, say a solicitor at 220 and hour and barristor by direct access probably 400 for an intial opinion, and to decide if he or she wants the case, of course paid up front.
(e) A cheaper alternative, some solicitors will give an intial 30 to 40 minute opinion for a little as 48, and for those of limited means, most universities have a free legal advice clinic, likewise in England the Pro Bono Bar Council is an option.
(f) Further to point d, check if you are insred for your legal costs through your personal, company or club insurance.

The concept of simply running off to a lawyer is completely flawed as many legal disputes can be resolved without reference to lawyers who are fueled by avarice.

Simple example, a dispute develops between A and B. B disputes a property boundary with A. A prints out the deed plan from the Land Registry and sends A a polite letter and copy of the deed plan to B that they need respond as to the basis of their claim. B takes legal advice, solicitor states B doesn't have a claim against A, B wastes 350 on legal advice, A wastes 4.00 on a search fee. The moral of the story is that A, never needed a lawers advice, because the deed plan clearly established the boundary.

I am unclear, why people running off to a lawyer at the onset will solve the problem, there are other options.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 14:51
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Many thanks for all views and suggestions. I've started this topic as I'm awaiting CAA opinion on this. There will be no legal battle and we will try our best to find an agreement but your suggestions gave me some new ideas. Cheers
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 18:19
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Madball - I would suggest also having a chat to the university gliding club who have had "their own" (Quotation marks because it might - as you have seen - not be) aircraft going back many years. You may find precedent there.

Good luck.

Edited to add - just had a look in G-Info. Interestingly the EUGC aircraft were owned by a "trustee" of Edinburgh Uni Gliding Club until 2011, and are now owned by the SU. It's a similar case with the Hot Air Balloon - though this won't have flown since 2015 so not beyond the realms of possibility that they have a similar issue.

Ultimately whoever has the logbooks and registration certificate has the bargaining power...
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Old 16th Oct 2017, 14:32
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I don't see why this is a 'dispute', unless there's more to it than the OP is letting on, and it probably shouldn't need lawyers or legal advice to resolve amicably, assuming the Sports Union is on side.

Personally, I'd be trying to ascertain why the Flying Club was closed in 2014 and, leaving the question of assets aside for the moment, whether the SU has any objections to the establishment of an another one. Separately, I'd be trying to ascertain the airworthiness (or otherwise) of the aircraft - as others have mentioned, it may be beyond economic repair (so to speak). As long as the SU aren't irrationally prejudiced against flying clubs, and the aircraft can be made airworthy at a reasonable cost, the administrative matter of ensuring up to date ownership information should be relatively easy to resolve.

I assume the OP thinks it's an issue due to the chicken and egg problem most clubs encounter when trying to establish themselves: members won't join a flying club that doesn't have an aircraft, but a flying club can't buy an aircraft without members. While it's an understandable issue, the prospective new flying club committee probably need to understand that the mere fact that a flying club used to exist doesn't give them an automatic right to exist too, or any automatic claim to support from the SU.

Instead, the proposed new club should assume they'll need to go through all the usual steps (hurdles) of setting up a new sports club, getting it registered with/affiliated to the SU and having a financial model which doesn't pre-suppose ownership of an expensive asset such as a aircraft. But if you can do all of that, you ought to be able to amicably resolve the issue of the current aircraft.

The sad fact of university sport is that aside from the rowing club, the big clubs (football, rugby, hockey etc) don't have massively expensive equipment requirements, but get the big budgets due to their large membership numbers. The clubs with more expensive kit requirements tend to have lower membership numbers, and get smaller budgets accordingly, making it doubly hard to get established.

There's a reason why there aren't too many university flying clubs, and that's the same reason as there aren't very many student yacht, or formula one clubs either...

Last edited by yellowperil; 16th Oct 2017 at 14:43. Reason: typo
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