– Steve Hitchen
The collapse of Soar Aviation has precipitated a lot of good aeroplanes onto the second-hand market. Fifty-six good aeroplanes to be precise. The Pickles auction schedule reveals the extent of the Soar fleet, although to anyone who ever drove past the ranks of yellow trainers in the school's Moorabbin paddock, this wouldn't be a surprise. At a guestimate, the sticker value of the fleet as new would have been around $10 million, which was likely under finance, but still a Herculean burden for any company trying to make its mark in the flight training game. Another burden worthy of a Greek epic is the ongoing class action launched against the company that claims they failed to deliver the training students paid for. Adding both those factors together only deepens the mystery of how a flying school could acquire a fleet worthy of an air force in such a relatively short existence, then burn out. That's for KPMG to sort out. In the meantime, there are 56 good aeroplanes looking for homes. True, they are mostly yellow, but so were most of the Tiger Moths that flooded the market after WWII!
CASA has responded to Glen Buckley's allegations of misfeasance; we should expect nothing less from any regulator than to defend its people. However, the CASA response cannot be the last word. Allegations like this must be treated extremely seriously and the matter of their veracity shouldn't be decided by anything less than a court. And if my mail is correct, it may not be the last time CASA is faced with this. Buckley seems to have spurred others to start assembling documents of their own that stand to back-up what he said. I have said before that Glen Buckley is not a man to go gentle into the good night, and there are other people in the general aviation community that are shaping up to stand at his shoulders. What were once spot fires for CASA are beginning to join up into a major fire front. There is no point in second-guessing the way courts will rule, except to say that the onus is going to be on Buckley and friends to prove misfeasance. That's no easy task given that CASA has hinted that they will use their obligations as the authority on aviation safety as justification of the way they have handled themselves. We are in for a mammoth battle, and one that Buckley has no qualms about fighting in the public eye.
My e-mail inbox and my mobile phone have earned their keep this week fielding calls and texts about Airservices' Class E proposal. Among the deluge of communication, there is yet to be one person supporting the idea. That bolsters my original opinion that this is one of the worst ideas ever proposed for aviation in Australia. Not only is the concept completely unworkable, it adds more risk than it mitigates. It also promotes the ridiculous situation where an aircraft flying straight and level will pass into and out of different airspace classifications in rapid succession because the base of the Class E would be variable depending on how high the ridge below an aircraft is. But where the most angst is coming from is the secrecy that clearly surrounds this proposal. Most of the benefits listed by Airservices have been discredited and debunked, and fairly-posed questions are being met with answers that betray that not enough homework has been done. Take the issue of a safety case. When questioned, Airservices has batted that back by saying it's not their policy to make safety cases public. This is simply not good enough to say that and declare the question has been answered. Several other questions about how the concept would work have been answered with lines such as "we are developing", "we are working with", "we are investigating". What we can draw from that is that Airservices has given the industry only a month to analyse a proposal that Airservices has not completed properly themselves.
Our instructor seminar this coming Wednesday night is generating a lot of interest ... much of it from instructors themselves! The panel of experts will be talking about the instructor rating and career path, so if you have any questions at all or just want to join in the fun, get on the Australian Flying Facebook page at 1900 Wednesday 17 February for a great hour or so. If you're Victorian, it's not like you'll have anywhere else to go ...
May your gauges always stay in the green,