A contingent of government representatives fronted the general aviation community at a rally in Tamworth last Friday, a meeting which was at some times very heated and passionate.
Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester, CASA Chairman Jeff Boyd and CASA Board Member Anita Taylor met with around 150 aviation people determined to get the message across that over-regulation is killing the GA industry.
The Aircraft Owners and PIlots Association (AOPA) and Aviation Advertiser's Ben Morgan organised the event ahead of the coming 2 July Federal Election to reinforce the issues put forward in AOPA's Project Eureka and The Australian Aviation Associations Forum 2016 Policy document.
Several of the most pressing issues were discussed, with most time given to the Automated Dependant Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) mandate, CASR Parts 61 (Licencing), Part 142 (integrated training), problems at CASA, a desire to see the CASRs replaces with the US FARs and the general costs of regulation.
From the outset, Barnaby Joyce seemed determined to get across to the gathering that the government was on their side.
"I didn't come to this meeting because I didn't want to do anything," he said. "I organised for the Minister to be here, I talked to Ben [Morgan] and we organised it all so that we could do something. We want to be doers; we want to achieve something.
"The place that all of us are going to reside is the future, and if we can work with you, hopefully, god willing, we can bring about a better industry that takes some of the weight off your shoulders, lets you get back in the air, lets you make a buck and helps this economy go a lot better."
Present among the general aviation community were AOPA's Phillip Reiss and Spencer Ferrier, Dick Smith, AMROBA's Ken Cannane, Pel-Air ditching pilot Dominic James and flight nurse Karen Casey, Bankstown identity Aminta Hennessy, GA stalwarts Sandy Reith and Bill Hamilton, flying school owner Glen Buckley, aeroplane makers Sue Woods from Jabiru and Paul Goard from Brumby Aircraft, and architect of the Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR) David Forsyth.
CASA Chairman Jeff Boyd wore a lot of heat over his position on the February 2017 ADS-B mandate. Boyd admitted that he thought introducing ADS-B three years ahead of the USA was a stupid idea, but reinforced that he thought the mandate could not be rolled back, and indicated to the group that CASA would deal with some of the issues by exemption. His comments attracted derision from the gathering with one person saying it "sounded like garbage."
Boyd reiterated that changes within Airservices made it impossible to push the mandate further out, which did not placate the audience.
The question and answer part of the day was also punctuated with a statement sent to the gathering by independent senator Nick Xenophon, which read in part:
"I am sorry I could not be there today to support you and your industry in your fight for a fair go. Just last night in the senate committee I asked the CASA Director of Aviation Safety why the ADS-B requirement could not be delayed until 2012. The Director of Aviation Safety said it would not be delayed and went so far as to say that it may well be cheaper if we do it earlier ... I do not accept the position.
"I will not stand by and see general aviation destroyed in Australia with a measure that will have counter-productive effects on aviation safety as more pilots will be forced to fly visually because of the costs involved."
Boyd also conceded that problems with CASR Part 61 were having a significant impact on the training industry.
"You can't defend Part 61, it's a mess," he said, before indicating CASA would deal with more pressing issues with exemptions until a major amendment to Part 61 comes in near the end of 2016.
Pointed arguments from the audience were put forward regarding the cost of conforming to CASR Part 142 for flying schools wanting to offer the 150-hour CPL and the problems with leases at capital city secondary airports.
Minister Darren Chester has further meetings with both AOPA and TAAAF on 25 May, but indicated that the GA community could expect little to change in the interim as the government would be in caretaker mode pending the federal election.