– Steve Hitchen

In a moment known as "the prestige", the illusionist steps to centre stage, doffs his hat and bows. The audience breaks into applause worthy of a king's retirement and whisper words of amazement amongst themselves. He had them totally fooled. They know it was all an illusion, but they still can't figure out he did it. Right now, we are going through a prestige moment for the Federal Government. With the changes to the Civil Aviation Act 1988 now law, the government is stepping into the spotlight to take the acclaim of having made good on their promise to do so. They have presented us with a momentous achievement that is nothing but a grand illusion: the changes to the Act will cause no changes in the aviation community. With the primacy of safety still in place, CASA retains legal ground for imposing anything they want and ignoring cost. Copying and pasting the requirement for them to consider cost from the Statement of Expectations to the Civil Aviation Act is paper change only. At the Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) convention this week, Shane Carmody said "This was recognised in the second reading speech in the House ‘Existing regulatory practice is already based on this approach’." So it has been spoken in the house and it has been highlighted by the regulator: nothing is going to change. What CASA was doing before they will continue to do. However, the government is still stepping up for the prestige. "Applause please! See how we made you think we were on your side when we really did nothing?" Master illusionists at work.

In the same speech, Carmody aired an observation that people who criticise CASA seem to end up in serious accidents. He believes that attitude is the tether than binds the two things. Most of us didn't need to be told that attitude is often a causal factor in fatal accidents, but the bow he has drawn here is longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Firstly, I don't know why he brought it up at all. The same effect could have been achieved from simply mentioning that pilot attitude is a problem. Secondly, linking it back to criticism of CASA and Facebook posts is a dynamite statement that is not easily understood. Is he trying to tell us that they found tin-foil hats in the wreckage? Is he trying to say that if you criticise CASA you increase your chances of having an accident? In fairness, Carmody did not state that most people who criticise the regulator have accidents and nor did he say that most people who had accidents were critics of CASA, but he did use the word "often", which means he believes these instances are regular. Personally, I believe that attitude is the biggest single threat to aviation safety in Australia, so in that respect, Shane Carmody is right. Press-on-itis is an attitude, beat-ups are the result of attitude, unauthorised aerobatics are the result of attitude, short-cut "quickie" endorsements are a result of attitude; there are so many. I think CASA would be better focusing on them rather than tying tragic accidents to criticism of themselves.

Garmin's Autoland system is a huge step forward for general aviation safety, no doubt, and is a great option for fully-spec'd aeroplanes like the SF50 and M600. But what people need to be aware of is that Autoland is an emergency function only. It's not designed for a pilot to switch on if a specific approach is a bit tricky for them; it's there to save the lives of passengers in the event of pilot incapacitation. Garmin is on record as saying the system has not been designed to be used by pilots, but passengers. It also needs an airport with a GPS approach with both lateral and vertical guidance, something that is not fitted to the average airport that might be just off the wing tip. Right now, we don't have enough information to know how usable it is in Australia. I believe the system has been tested in the USA using LPV technology, but for that to be relevant over here, we need Geoscience Australia and Airservices to get their skates on with the SBAS program. What we don't know is if the system has been tested for use with LNAV-VNAV. So many questions need to be answered before we can adopt what is clearly a fantastic development for turbo-props and light jets.

This week I was privileged to fly an SF50 Vision jet. This is Cirrus' innovative single-engined corporate jet that remains the only design spawned in the very light jet craze to have made it to market. It's had an extra long gestation process, but it was worth every year we waited. As a personal jet (which is the term now used to create distance between it and the VLJ concept), this machine is one of the best things with wings! Smooth in the air, ultra responsive and nippy, it's a serious jet that nonetheless has a lot of things in common with a hot rod. The interior has been well thought out and is easier to get into than most of its price-bracket peers. As for the landing, well, I'm not a very experienced SR22 skipper, but I think the Vision jet greets the runway more cordially than it's prop-pulled little brother does. Cirrus has designed and built a jet, but they've presented the market with a total aeronautical experience that is unique. Thanks Cirrus, and Dave at Latrobe Valley Aero Club for getting me in a great camera position.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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