• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

Steve Hitchen

It has been said that no-one has invented a new way to crash an aeroplane in 80 years. That's a witty way to say that pilots keep making the same mistakes over and over again despite having years of second-hand experience to draw on. The ditching of VH-FEY in the ocean off Perth is an example par excellence. If the ATSB conclusions are right, the pilot simply forgot to change tanks to the left one, which contained the fuel. Forgetting to change the tanks in a Piper is possibly the #1 cardinal sin in general aviation, it happens so often. Not long ago poor fuel management plonked a Cherokee Six into a golf course in Melbourne. Fuel in the tanks is our lifeblood once we're in the air, but too often we treat it like an after-thought. We fill the tanks with enough to make the flight plus a one-hour reserve and off we go slipping surly bonds. But did we take into account that an O-360 at 100% throttle during a climb will use around 56 lph, nearly double the 32 lph most pilots plan on? By the time you level out in to the cruise, you already have less fuel that you planned to have. It's that easy to have a variation on the planned fuel, which is why pilots have to keep on top of it all the time. We have enough examples through history of what happens when you lose track of the remaining fuel; we don't need any more.

It's a small story that could be the largest one of the year: GippsAero is wholly Australian-owned once again, lancing one of the most painful boils on the backside of general aviation in Australia. When Mahindra bought a controlling interest in GippsAero in 2010, it was to inject capital to develop the GA10 SETP. Unfortunately, big corporate thinking often goes down unwell in an industry where everything is largely still hand-made. Engineering changes for the worse were foisted on the manufacturing plant, and development of the GA10 was driven off the rails when corporate wishes over-rode customer requirements. Eventually, Mahindra was scared into stopping GA8 production and refusing to fill GA10 orders. It was panic management that showed a lack of consistency with general aviation paradigms. With George Morgan back in control again, GA8 demand can finally be fulfilled and Australia has back a great company that has aspirations for even greater things. That can only happen once the company has shed the last of the Mahindra influence and manufacturing is revitalised down at Latrobe Regional. There's more to come on the story of the new GippsAero, and most of it is bound to be good news for Australia.

ASTRA this week published the guidelines for the SouthPAN SBAS system that will go live for aviation some time in 2028. Yes, that's a lot of years away, but there's a lot to digest in the guidelines for aircraft operators, IFR pilots and airport operators. Much of it may be familiar already; other people may be reading some parts of it for the first time. SBAS brings incredible accuracy that enables Australia to adopt approaches with vertical guidance, the value of which IFR pilots both GA and RPT will recognise immediately. There's a long way to go before an SBAS with SouthPAN is available for safety-of-life operations like aviation, but these guidelines show there is progress in the background.

Australian Flying print edition is on sale for Christmas 2023, with the price of a 12-month subscription slashed by 40%. That means six issues for $34.00, or only $5.66 per issue! That's superb value for Australia's greatest GA magazine, and you get access to the digital version via Zinio at the same time. Get onto the Great Magazines website soonest you can and make sure you're not the mug who misses out.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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