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

– Steve Hitchen

We are back to wondering about flight in the time of corona. Although most of Australia's aviators have been uncaged, there still be dragons in Victoria. So, for most of the country, the question of to fly or not to fly is is a no-brainer. Inside the beseiged state, aviators outside the restricted area are also free to go anywhere within the borders, but inside the restricted area, which includes the bulk of Victoria's private aviators, the issue is much muddier. Under the Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas), people can leave their homes to take part in recreational activities provided that activity is not on the prohibited list. A quick perusal of that list will show aviation in any form is not mentioned. However, many in the industry would rather keep their heads down at this stage than give general aviation's traditional enemies more reason to hate than they normally find. There's merit in that argument as well. So, until the Victorian government naysayers say "nay", everyone will have to make their own evaluations. For the rest of Australia, fly. Our community is still recovering from the first round of economic doom and all activity is medicine at the moment. And when you look at Victoria, remember the old saying "There but for the grace of God ..."

CASA CEO and Director of Aviation Safety (DAS) Shane Carmody is on the way out, signaling the start of the traditional soap-boxing about what sort of person should be in seat in order to fix all of general aviation's woes. For me, the strong nexus between a departing DAS and the opportunity to fix GA is problematic: the two are not necessarily connected. Career bureaucrats have been appointed, an airline check captain has been appointed, an Air Vice Marshal has been appointed; none have been able to do a lot of fixing. There are two possible reasons and I can't discount them acting together. Firstly, politically the government doesn't see anything wrong with GA; secondly, a powerful middle-management cadre within CASA has managed to block meaningful reforms in order reinforce their own reputations as experts. Consequently, changing the DAS is likely to achieve nothing as long as those two influencing forces remain in play. It is true that the DAS has a lot of power bestown on them, but in the end they have been shown to be monarchs with feather swords. The incoming DAS needs to have a sword of steel and be unfraid to wield it against the ultra-conservatives, both upstream and downstream. They need to have a horse called Hero, a dog called Devil and be a leader in the Dick Winters mould. Is such a person out there?

And there's probably no better way to angry-up the blood of GA people than to say that CASA has got more right than wrong, which Shane Carmody did in his last CASA Briefing newsletter. He was referring to the entire 25-year life of CASA rather than only his tenure. The reaction from the GA industry has been laden with guffaws. Behind the laughter is a community that has experienced the wrong end of the CASA stick too often to do anything else. The statement shows that the regulator often has no awareness that something considered "right" inside Aviation House is "wrong" by the time the full impacts are known. The result as been an erosion of faith in CASA. The authority is looked upon as having no authority; the experts are seen to have no expertise. No amount of chest-beating about getting things right will reverse that simply because that evaluation, too, isn't trusted by GA. It has amplified the feelings that CASA is out of touch and uncaring, but GA does have to ask itself if any words can ever assuage those feelings.

Enduring uncertainty has claimed two more aviation events: Warbirds Downunder and Rotortech. Both have been postponed from Spring 2020 until next year in the hope that Australia is able to de-COVID itself in the interim. This is the second time Rotortech has been deferred; it was originally scheduled for the June just gone. As a result, our Spring calendar is looking very bare at the moment, with lines drawn through everything except Wings over Illawarra. WOI is now the last aviation event standing and from all communications they are ploughing ahead. Can they make this work? It will mean the government of NSW relaxing all social distancing and isolation rules by November with no further outbreaks. If those conditions exist, the entire country will be in a much better position that it is now.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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