– Steve Hitchen
I got accused of being diplomatic last week.
An e-mail arrived in my inbox accusing me of not labeling the minister's call for consensus as being bullshit. "It's a dummy pass and should be seen as such. Why not say so in your column?" No, I didn't call the minister on it, and the reason why is that I don't know that it's bullshit at all. I did hint in the last LMH that Michael McCormack could be using the call as a delaying tactic, but it's just as likely that the cry for consensus is real. Within the GA community is contained the greatest wealth of knowledge about safe and efficient aviation, the problem is that different voices exhort different solutions with the same level of integrity. So how do we decide which one to follow? I am reminded of a line in the Dire Straits song Industrial Disease that says "Two men say they're Jesus ... one of them must be wrong." Mark Knopfler hinted that he didn't know which one was Jesus, and that's what is facing the department and CASA over almost every issue. Under Mark Skidmore, CASA admitted that it wasn't the be-all and end-all of aviation knowledge, and set up the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) to draw on industry expertise that it just didn't have. But a keystone to ASAP was The Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF), which CASA has relied upon to deliver non-fractured policy that the regulator can work with. It saves time, money and frustration not having to sift through and evaluate every single opinion that comes from the industry. I expect they'll be getting a bit antsy that the rise of the Australian General Aviation Alliance (AGAA) will return them to the days of multi-opinion feedback that tends to stifle progress. I empathise with them completely! I am regularly delivered information and expertise over any and every matter to hand, and find that I don't get consensus from the industry either. So, why didn't I play the "bullshit" card on the minister? Because for every person who said it was bullshit there was another who said it was genuine. Ironic, isn't it; we can't even get consensus on whether or not we need consensus.
Being a proud Victorian (sorry ... no apologies will be forthcoming) I have bleated on about my state being excluded from the Regional Airports Upgrade Program (RAUP) regularly enough. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Victoria is classified as either inner or outer regional except for two small zones far west and far east. After doing due diligence on this, I noted that only two airports in Victoria qualified for money: Rainbow and Mallacoota. And in the last round of grants, Victoria finally got some money, $250K allocated to ... Hopetoun. What? Was my due diligence not very diligent? ABS has confirmed that Hopetoun is not classified as remote, so why do they get money? It turns out that the boundaries move, and at the time the grants were assessed, the department was using old data that showed the town was remote. But more telling was a reply from the department that said "Hopetoun appears to be only some 20 kilometres from the Remote boundary. If the application were lodged now, the applicant would have the opportunity, under the guidelines, to build a case around the aerodrome servicing remote areas even where it is located in an adjacent regional area itself." To me that changes the game for everyone. Airports near remote boundaries now have the opportunity to get in on the largesse doled out from Canberra provided the can show they support remote areas. With many regional airports supporting the RFDS and firebombing operations into remote areas, there could be some very good propositions coming the way of the department. This is loophole strategy, but necessary in light of the government once again neglecting our regional airports in the budget. In hindsight, we should have expected nothing more; the Federal Government off-loaded the regional airports to the councils in the first place so they wouldn't have to pay for upkeep.
Are the Q1 delivery figures for the SR20 simply a variance or the start of a trend? The smaller Cirrus has been a bit of a journeyman in the market for the past few years; not falling down, but not leaping to great heights either. Then suddenly 20 of them march out the door in one sales quarter. If you go by numbers alone, you'd conclude that the rise of the SR20 has come at the expense of Cessna's C172SP, but why? The answer lies most likely in the G6 version. This machine has a 215-hp motor that has made the SR20 a completely new aeroplane with a new set of capability and performance numbers, and it could be that it's very appealing to the market. But there could also be some cannibal action happening for Cirrus. The capability gap between the SR20 and the SR22 may have drawn marginal buyers into the higher category, but with the gap closing, the SR20 may now be a better fit at a lower cost. The SR22 delivery figures were down for Q1 as well, which appears to confirm a possible migration of buyers to the SR20, but keep in mind that the whole large-single category was, well, a disaster. Add to that the good results for the SF50 and you could argue that the SR22's market share is being cannibalised from both ends at once. Australian Flying analyses shipment data on 32 aircraft types. In total, 242 aircraft were shipped in Q1 2018. In Q1 2017, that total was 243; virtually no difference, which means the highs and lows of individual aircraft indicate a shift in customers from one to another, not an increase or decrease in shipments. With all that on the table, we'll have to wait to see how the rest of the year comes together before we can declare it a trend.
How good is Rotortech going? When was the last time an aviation industry event let delegates in free because sponsorship and support was so high they didn't need the money? Rotortech is an event of the Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA), but is run by Australian Maritime Defence and Security Australia ... the same friendly people that bring us the Australian International Airshow. This is a step-change in the right direction that could set Rotortech up to be a major aviation event on the Australian calendar. The manufacturers seem to think so, with support coming from just about every major marque in the rotary aviation industry. Rotortech this year is on the Sunshine Coast 24-26 May. If you haven't put your name down to go yet, now is probably the time.
My 1700-km round-trip to Wings over Illawarra last week was certainly worth the drive! WOI put on a blinder of a show that rivaled Avalon in just about every way. I limit that comment to the crowd-pleasing flying displays only. When it comes to an industry event, WOI is not in the same class, nor does it need to be. With Aviatex moving to Bankstown in November, Bright Events sacrificed the industry feel of WOI in order to make things work better. Last year, with Aviatex relegated to the wasteland on the other side of the runway, crowd participation in the expo hall was low; at some times absent. Had they tried that again this year, a repeat of the disappointing head-count was on the cards. So off to Bankstown we go, which is probably a preference to being on the outer at Albion Park. The only setback is that my dream of WOI being the Oshkosh of Australia will have to go unfulfilled.
May your gauges always be in the green,