• The GAAN strategy envisages a more vibrant future for GA. (Steve Hitchen)
    The GAAN strategy envisages a more vibrant future for GA. (Steve Hitchen)

The Department of Infrastructure and Transport has published a key strategy paper that it has kept under wraps for nearly 12 months.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Barnaby Joyce's key GA think-tank, the General Aviation Advisory Network (GAAN), created the strategy for the recovery and future of GA in November 2020, but other than a few details submitted to the Future of Australia's Aviation Sector Issues Paper, the contents of the strategy have remained largely confidential as it formed advice given to the minister.

The strategy, now public via the department's website, outlines GAAN's vision for GA and contains eight strategic initiatives, providing issues, solutions and actions for each one.

GAAN's vision for the future is: A critical aviation sector contributing to the national economy, job creation and the well-being of communities, strengthened by government policies and cooperative regulation underpinned by deep engagement with industry, that is fair, risk-based, responsive to cost and innovation and which promotes the value of the sector.

"In order to attain this vision, the unique characteristics of the General Aviation sector are examined, identifying wide diversity, limited political influence, high sensitivity to market influences, over-regulation and lack of incentives to investment," the strategy paper states.

"The extensive economic, environmental and social benefits to the Australian economy have been listed with a view to further study and analysis.

"Nevertheless, it is clear from the listing provided that General Aviation is an over-achiever in terms of national contribution, yet too often ill-considered in national policy formulation and related settings."

The eight initiatives are the result of condensing the 10-point plan submitted to the Future of Australia's Aviation Sector Issues Paper and were presented to the minister for practical consideration. The initatives cover:

  • economic review of the GA sector
  • a world-class regulatory environment for GA
  • review of the Civil Aviation Act 1988
  • training pathways to ensure the ongoing availability of skills and competencies
  • airports and infrastructure facilities and policy
  • airspace for GA operations
  • aviation design, manufacture and export
  • early adoption of technology and a facilitation process.

The strategy paper sets out a definition of general aviation that somewhat controversially includes low-capacity charter, which CASA removed from the regulatory definition in 2014 to bring it in line with EASA.

Among the actions recommended in the strategy are:

  • identify and quantify the size of the GA industry in Australia including support services
  • review classifications of operations in line with risk profiles
  • establish an independent review of the Civil Aviation Act 1988
  • provide funding and recognition for CASA-authorised technical training schools
  • holistically review Parts 61, 141 and 142 competencies
  • review the independent review criteria for assessing airport development proposals
  • develop a bold and innovative approach to revitalise regional airports
  • initiate a review of the Australian strategic airspace model
  • ensure Western Sydney Airport airspace architecture accommodates the needs of all of Sydney Airport, Western Sydney Airport, Bankstown and Camden
  • harmonise regulations and practices for the design, certification, manufacture and export of Australian aeronautical products.

"A healthy, innovative and well-regulated GA sector is fundamental to the Australian national interest," the GAAN states in the strategy.

"General aviation does not exist as an end in itself, but rather serves a variety of downstream purposes including rural and regional freight and transport, community safety, tourism, recreation, training and education; as well as executive and specialist mobility for primary and secondary industries, along with many others.

"The national and local economies, job creation and communities–both rural and city–benefit from the facilitating and services roles played by general aviation.

"To maintain the benefits of a safe and viable general aviation sector, a strategic plan is needed that establishes a long-term vision and identifies initiatives that can be taken to secure the sector’s viability. The GAAN recognises that these necessarily extend to economic considerations, across the whole industry.

"There is also much to do to improve the effectiveness of safety regulations and the efficiency of the regulator and while they are not the only imperatives, they are critical to the sector’s long term success."

The full GAAN strategy is available on the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website.

Who are the GAAN Members?

Andrew Andersen (Chair)

Catherine Fitzsimons – Ward Air

Marguerite Morgan – GippsAero

Phil Hurst – Aerial Application Association of Australia

Michael Monck – Recreational Aviation Australia

Peter Gash – Seair Pacific

Phillip Reiss – Yowie Bay Pty Ltd

Paul Tyrrell – Australian Helicopter Industry Association

Grahame Hill – Airsport Australia Confederation

Reece Clothier – Australian Association for Unmanned Systems

David Bell – Australian Business Aviation Association

Marc De Stoop – Falconair



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