• SA RAPAC says that GA operators have not benefited from government hand-outs as many aircraft have not been flying. (Steve Hitchen)
    SA RAPAC says that GA operators have not benefited from government hand-outs as many aircraft have not been flying. (Steve Hitchen)

The South Australian Regional Airspace and Procedures Advisory Committee (RAPAC) has recommended a special government grant scheme aimed at assisting general aviation operators impacted by COVID restrictions.

The SA RAPAC (now called AvSEF) made the call in a submission to the senate inquiry into the GA industry published this week, saying that goverment assistance programs for the aviation industry have benefited the airlines but not GA operators.

"Although Covid and its accompanying travel restrictions have devastated the aviation industry at all levels, Federal Government support has focussed almost exclusively on the airline / RPT sector," the submission states.

"The general aviation sector has not had the financial support that has been so generously supplied to the airline sector, regardless of the airline’s financial viability prior to Covid 19."

In the submission the RAPAC notes that several schemes to alleviate the impact of COVID have been put in place to ensure airline survival, including:

  • Aviation Services Accreditation Support Program
  • Domestic Airport Security Costs Support
  • Retaining Domestic Capability Program
  • Tourism Aviation Network Support Program
  • Domestic Aviation Network Support (DANS)
  • Australian Airline Financial Relief Package (AAFRP)
  • Regional Airlines Funding Assistance (RAFA)
  • Airservices Australia Fee Waiver.

SA RAPAC also believes that the measures that do apply to general aviation have been ineffective, especially the fuel excise and Airservices Australia fee waivers.

"General aviation has been eligible for a fuel excise of 0.035 cents per litre as part of the Aviation Support package," the submission notes. "This works out to 2.1 cents for every 60 litres burned – the average fuel burn for a general aviation single engine piston aircraft is 60 litres per hour.

"The cost in staff time to prove the fuel has been burned and to apply for the refund far exceeds the amount received.

"The GA sector has been eligible for a waiver on Air Services fees. Both the waiver on Airservices fees and the fuel excise rebate require aircraft to be flying and earning revenue before the claims can be made. In the past 18 months, GA operators have experienced significant business down turns.

"As a result, general aviation operators have had to rely on other support packages for small businesses. These packages may well be enough for businesses such as cafes and shops. However the unique nature of aviation meant the support fell well short of what was needed for general aviation operators."

The submission also stated that scenic flight operators in SA were reporting down-turns of 70-80% and that routine maintenance scheduled on calendar time had to go ahead even though aircraft weren't being flown.

"The recognition that the aviation sector at all levels needs support is wide spread," SA RAPAC says. "Given the vast
amount of money distributed to the aviation sector, it is devastating to see how little has trickled down, or been available, to the general aviation sector."

SA RAPAC recommended that the Federal Government "make available as soon as possible a grant scheme for affected GA businesses (including maintenance organisations) similar to the scope of the Exceptional Circumstances scheme eligible to agricultural businesses affected by drought."

The full submission is available on the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) GA inquiry website.

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