– Steve Hitchen

Dr Strangelove said it nicely, I think. At the end of the 1964's Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, he berated the Russians for having a doomsday weapon they told no-one about. "Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret!", Strangelove rants. "Why didn't you tell the world, EH?" The same could be said of political policies developed upwind of a Federal Election: what's the point of them if you tell no-one? Last Saturday, the United Australia Party apparently released their aviation policy in Wagga Wagga, strategically, in the electorate of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Media weren't invited, I am told, to avoid "stupid" questions being asked. Since then there has been no press releases and not even a hint posted on the UAP website. They answer no phone calls and (so far) no e-mails. To paraphrase the aforementioned Doctor, what's the point? Policies are lures to get people to vote for you, but if you keep them secret how are the voters to know? It's a bit like presenting the fish with an empty hook and holding back the bait as a prize for fish that jump in the boat by themselves. Not a way to catch fish ... or voters.

The TAAAF policy released this week is likely to be the most rational, productive and effective document ever ignored by Canberra. The keystone to the paper is that CASA needs to be reformed with the board taking greater power and responsibility, with the role of the CEO/Director of Aviation Safety downgraded. At the moment, the board is an oversight committee that doesn't have a lot of power to effect change. That position gains integrity when you consider that the paper was signed by the immediate past chairman of the CASA board Jeff Boyd. Is there anyone out there in a better position to know what the problem is than the person who was regularly blocked from making significant change to the way aviation safety is regulated? I believe what we are seeing in the TAAAF paper is Boyd's statement, backed by TAAAF, of what ails the industry the most, and it is delivered from very high ground indeed. So why is Canberra going to ignore it? Effectively it would put control of aviation regulation in the hands of the aviation industry; the very parties that the government believes need to be regulated so harshly due to their cavalier attitudes towards the unfounded fears of the general public. It will be completely lost on our elected representatives that such a move would actually bring about an increase in safety because CASA would be refocused on real issues rather than introducing problems by fixing things that aren't broken. Greater papers have been ignored before, which doesn't make me feel optimistic for this one.

What a great show Wings over Illawarra was! Plenty of noise and colour that not even strong winds and heavy rain patches on the Sunday could dull. Applause needs to be directed the way of Kerry and Mark Bright, their army of volunteers and all the pilots and operators who put on a good show. We've put up a gallery of the best things so those of you who couldn't make it can enjoy some of the sights anyway. But (of course there's a "but"), I came away from WOI with the fear that we're doing air shows all wrong. WOI featured a great military line-up, warbirds (the military line-up of yore) and some of Australia's most exciting aerobatics. So are we teaching the general public that aviation is all about danger and derring-do? I love a good air show as much as the next aviation tragic, but I feel that general aviation is being stifled by the big drawcards. Last November I flew in an air show at my home airport of Lilydale. We were determined to make sure the public knew all about what happened on the airport daily, so we put up a large formation of civil trainers and twins; normal aeroplanes used in an unusual way. Anecdotal evidence told us that it was one of the routines people in the crowd remembered the most ... and they were just GA planes, nothing special. I am not saying that we shouldn't show off our aerobatic prowess, but should use the crowd-pulling capabilities of the high-energy routines, the warbirds and the ADF assets to better effect by weaving some GA into the program pattern. Just thinking out loud.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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