– Steve Hitchen
CASA's aerodrome NPRM has a couple of barbs for general aviation, hidden quite well amongst the foliage of official language in which the paper is written. Firstly is the new definitions of airports as "regulated" or "unregulated": they are to be defined by whether or not they have instrument procedures. So if I get this right, if an aerodrome has instrument procedures it must be in the regulated category, and if the operator prefers to stay unregulated, then they have to surrender any IFR approaches relating to their airport. This reflects the decision taken by CASA several years ago that removed RNAVs from private airports. Around 30 airports in the country lost their RNAVs because CASA considered it unsafe, deciding instead it was safer for IFR pilots to make their own way home as best they could. It was a bewildering decision then, and even more bewildering now they have enshrined that attitude in their latest NPRM. How can it be safer to deny a technology that was designed to make the approach safe? Their arguments held little validity then, and the years have not vindicated their position.
The second issue I have with the paper are the people who wrote it. A project team from the Standards Consultative Committee is behind the paper; a team made up of representatives of major airports, the Australian Airports Association (AAA), Airservices, CASA, the department, some industry specialists and believe it or not, the Gliding Federation of Australia. Not a mention of anyone from Bankstown, Moorabbin, Jandakot or any other capital city or regional GA airport. An argument that the AAA represents their interests raises queries about why the major airports get independent representation. Are they not AAA members too? The lack of respect for the opinions and expertise of general aviation people shown by Canberra is again thrust into the spotlight, and this happens too often to be tempered by denials and soothing statements of being valued. They aren't close to being any form of consolation.
BITRE's much anticipated GA Study report is still in the works. Due no later that yesterday, I suppose it is now officially overdue. Even when it does come, it's first port of call will be the General Aviation Advisory Group, which will sit down and comb through it before handing the final version to Minister Darren Chester. What the minister does with it then is what we, the general aviation community, are really keen to find out. But we could be waiting a while. The minister still has to decide not only what the report says in real terms, but also what his government, if anything, is going to do about it. That is going to mean one of two things: taking the time to devise a committed action plan for general aviation, or constructing a response justifying why they are going to do nothing. Meanwhile, we who look hopefully up to the ivory tower have to wait to see if our pleas have been heard.
May your gauges always be in the green,