– Steve Hitchen
It seems almost every week there's a fresh story about another council that doesn't want its airport. This time it's Warnervale under the gun. It was not so long ago that we were reporting Warnervale as a good news story, with the Central Coast Council putting together a draft master plan for a major redevelopment and the then NSW premier himself announcing an amphibian manufacturer that was moving in. Now we're talking about movement caps, shortened runways and a council that has deep-sixed a master plan and is refusing to talk to the aero club about the future. It seems a change of councillors has brought to power an anti-airport faction intent on destroying aviation in the region. If you look at the council minutes, you'll note a green agenda has been put in place and it would appear the airport doesn't fit those desires and therefore must go. At least, that's the only conclusion that can be reached. If the council had the courage to be transparent about it, maybe we would get another story. When a government body of any type refuses to communicate, you can bet your last cent that it's because the truth could be damaging to them, and if that's the case then Central Coast Aero Club has something to be gravely worried about. Too often, prevailing government whims are used as justification for permanently destroying or disposing of infrastructure. By the time new political paradigms are in place it's too late to restore that which was lost. Airports seem particularly vulnerable to this, forcing aero clubs and aviators to fight battles that elected representatives force them into.
The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport today issued both CASA and Airservices with new Statements of Expectation (SOE). An SOE is a legislative instrument that lays out what the government of the day expects of them, hence the name. Theoretically, being legislation, it is a violation of federal law if SOEs are not complied with. But like all laws they are only as good as the determination to enforce them. The SOEs are being accompanied by bolstering statements of the government's intent to enforce, but keep in mind that most SOEs were written with the collaboration of the department to which they are issued. That sets up a situation where the SOE tends to include only those things that the agency wants to comply with anyway ... plus a few things the department wants in as PR that are written in language so grey that they are impossible to enforce. In CASA's SOE there is the ongoing statement about cost and impact. It's all very nice, but completely negated by the expectation that safety is primary. And who gets to decide what is and isn't safe? CASA. Consequently, there is virtually no way of forcing CASA to take cost into account, because they will always deploy the golden shield of safety to get their own way. Take Part 135 for example. If the department was serious they'd tell CASA to set a match to it. If adopted in its entirety, Part 135 will load significant costs on charter operators without any increase in safety. Sorry to contradict you, CASA, but that's the reality. Another: if the department was serious they would immediately instigate a parliamentary inquiry into why the regulatory reform program is still not complete after 31 years. It's not enough to expect; you need to make sure the consequences of not conforming are enforced. And that, Minister McCormack, is the aviation industry's Statement of Expectations to you.
Quite predictably, Matt Hall has said he's aiming to win the next two Red Bull Air Race rounds. I say predictably because Hall has never been one for not going for it when the hour arrives. He has displayed a tenacious fighting spirit throughout his RBAR career and on very few occasions has he left anything in the hangar when he's gone out to race. He won't do it this weekend either. You can expect to see him take the Edge to the very limit, stretching himself and his team to the end of their elasticity in an attempt to keep his championship dream alive. The thing with taking something to its elastic extreme is that you risk it breaking. Hall could play it safe and settle for a very competitive second or third in the 2019 title, but he didn't give away a career flying Hornets for the RAAF to come second or third. No, it's first place or bust this weekend. He might not get there, but he also won't be hanging up his RBAR cap wondering if he could have done more. This will be a good race to watch on Sunday.
May your gauges always be in the green,