– Steve Hitchen
A new chapter in the rocky story of Central Coast Airport (Warnervale) is about to be written, but it looks like a more positive start than the chapters that have made up the story so far. A quick recap: in only 2019 the aero club was concerned about their future as the local council was talking about activating a clause to restrict movements to 88 per day and wanted to revegitate about a third of the existing runway. This was after one abortive attempt to establish a business precinct at the airport that resulted in the prime tenant last year announcing they'd chosen Darwin instead. The problem, legislation that severely restricted the development of Warnervale, was repealed last year and a council survey showed that 75% of people in the sample actually support the airport. This new chapter is the development of a master plan, a key document that will outline the future of the airport and hopefully give more hope to the Central Coast Aero Club that their home is safe for the time being. And the Central Coast Council is being smart about this: they've called for information before creating the first draft master plan, which means they can draw on the expertise of the local and wider GA communities to form a base of knowledge to underpin the draft. Yes, that means it is time once again to go to the typewriters. Warnervale is a critical airport to GA and the last thing we need is a master plan that falls short of putting proper protection in place. It is incumbent on us to help the local council to understand the potential of this airport so it's future can be secured. Get typing.
The elephant seems to have snuck back into the room. Like many people in GA, I thought the Aviation White Paper the Rudd government introduced in 2009 was dead pachyderm, but the Australian Labor Party keeps resuscitating it. They've done it again this week by mentioning it in the same breathe as their response to the Coalition's Aviation Recovery Framework. They do themselves no favours; that White Paper was for many years the most despised and discredited document in aviation until CASR Part 61 came along. They'd be better off distancing themselves from it than linking future policy back to it. The White Paper had three fatal flaws: it bore little resemblance to the Green Paper that came before it, the people who wrote it didn't stick to it (how's that promise to protect federally-leased airports from inappropriate development going?) and too many of the initiatives weren't actually initiatives at all, but just promises to keep doing things they were already doing. It did have some benefits for heavy commerical, but for GA it was an empty vessel. The ALP's aviation policy–yet to be written–needs to be much stronger if it wants to stack up as an alternative to the framework and subsequent Statement of Expections of the Coalition, which are being seen in the GA industry as instruments of salvation. Labor needs to consign the White Paper to the elephant's graveyard and in that space create something more modern and relevant based on what the GA community needs. That might be painful given the White Paper was Albo's baby back then, and today's he's calling all the shots in the ALP.
After 12 years in development, Vickers Aircraft must be itching to finally get their prototype Wave amphibian in the air. But that's not the way CEO Paul Vickers works; he's about quality and safety and that's not going to be compromised to meet a circle on a calendar. There have been times in the past when aircraft prototypes have been launched perhaps prematurely, embarrassing the manufacturer when the machine doesn't deliver the goods to the extent the marketing team promised. Who remembers the Cessna 182 JT-A, or the thankfully very short-lived Mahindra NM5? Vickers doesn't want any surprises once the Wave gets in the air, either in structure or performance, so he and his team have been super-diligent in making sure the prototype is absolutely ready to go. Still,12 years is a long gestation for any GA aeroplane, so the when the Wave hits the air it is going to have to deliver first time out.
May your gauges always be in the green,