– Steve Hitchen
SA RAPAC (AvSEF) is dead on track with their call for special grants for GA operators. It is galling that their argument is going to be wasted on such a hard-nosed government. In September last year, a group of 34 aviation companies including both airlines and GA wrote to the minister pleading for funding to see them through COVID. Money has come the way of the airlines, but for the GA operators the begging bowls have remained empty. The government immediately took shelter behind their $700 million industry assistance package, of which very little if any filtered down to GA. Fee and fuel excise waivers were waved like banners, but the value of those is tied to aircraft movements that just aren't happening under the COVID cloud. It gives the appearance that there's not enough money to go around and the government is prepared to sacrifice GA to shore-up the foundations of the airlines. There is no awareness that the two are inextricably linked and the death of one causes the demise of the other. The one thing that has changed between September 2020 and now is the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport: Michael McCormack hath become Barnaby Joyce. If Mr Joyce wanted to establish some bona fides with the small operators that service the Nationals heartlands, taking note of SA RAPAC's arguments would be a good start.
The results of CASA's VFR equipment survey has provided the regulator with a view of GA that they never previously had. There are several take-aways in the data that shine lights into dark corners. For instance, the proliferation of electronic flight bags (EFB) in VFR aircraft was startling to CASA, but no surprise to most VFR pilots. But one thing that has raised some eyebrows is the lack of ADS-B use in VFR aircraft. CASA mandated the system for IFR, but has consistently maintained an encouragement policy only for visual flight, culminating in the development of a non-TSO standard for VFR, known as conspicuity devices. But the data shows that around 57% of GA aircraft and a whopping 83% of sport aircraft have declined the invitation to fit any type of ADS-B. On top of that, only 8-9% of GA aeroplanes have adopted Mode S transponders and around 7% of sport aircraft. That figure will rise as old A/C transponders are consigned to the junk pile. But what it means is that there are a lot of aircraft getting around that the ADS-B system is blind to, which dilutes the efficiency of the technology. It is hard to believe that, after seeing these figures, the word "mandate" has not been uttered between the walls of Aviation House. CASA has said no policy will be developed based on the survey, but right now I suspect they are looking at looking that VFR ADS-B issue from a different angle.
Initially I was surprised that AMDA Foundation decided to schedule back-to-back RotorTechs, with a 2022 event announced this week. Large exhibitions and air shows like this one usually take a lot of planning and a lot of work, leading most events in Australia to run every two years, with some exceptions such as Wings over Illawarra. AMDA Foundation also organises Avalon, so they know the workload that goes into any major event, and may have even preferred RotorTech to stay on its two-year cadence, but the energy the helicopter and UAV industries generated from RotorTech 2021 is still resonating and a demand for more needed to be satisfied. To me that demonstrates a commitment to industry recovery that the fixed-wing community would do well to emulate. General aviation's positivity levels are low at the moment, and scheduling another event so soon when COVID is still obscuring visibility going forward will help top-up the confidence levels.
CASA today launched the beta version of their new website. According to the blurb it is supposed to be easier and clearer to find information. If you want to test that theory yourself, get onto the beta site and tell them what you reckon. The beta version is open from 1 October - 6 December.
May your gauges always be in the green,