• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

– Steve Hitchen

History has shown us that breath spent on demanding formal inquiries into aviation is largely wasted. If the energy and political patronage of the Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR) has failed to bring about any substantial change in the fortunes of the general aviation community, it's not a long bow to suggest that no inquiry will ... and that includes a Royal Commission. Dick Smith has recently thrown his weight behind pilots who are starting to get loud about an RC into aviation, using four tragic events as the supporting evidence for his call. But, Dick may be preaching to the exasperated; the battle-weary aviation community that has endured inquiry after inquiry to achieve nothing. Although there may be merit is his call to go once more unto the breach, you can't really blame anyone for wondering what would be the point. Dick points out that it took the death of only four people to bring about an RC into the home insulation debacle, but the analogy needs some reworking. That commission was put into play by the Abbott government in December 2013, three months after the Liberal Party seized power from the ALP, who instigated the home insulation scheme. As the scheme had been shut down nearly four years earlier, the RC was probably nothing more than clubbing seals to show them who was now in charge. My point is that RCs are often political footballs that are almost never kicked into play by a government that stands to lose the game from doing so. And like the ASRR, an RC's finding have no legal standing, so the government can shelve them with the comfort of knowing that the full weight of the aviation industry can't produce the damaging outcry that banking or child abuse can.

Electricial energy looks like it has leapt ahead in the race to replace avgas. The last fortnight has seen the magniX eCaravan fly for the first time and EASA issue the very first type certificate for an electric aircraft. Not so long ago, we were talking big about unleaded avgas and biofuels to replace Jet-A1, both of which promised large and delivered small. Right now, development has stalled whereas electricity projects are flying high. The surge in electric power has been helped along by the rapidly-evolving urban mobility market, which is contemporary speak for VTOLs and air taxis, many of which are being designed to use electrical power. That in itself comes from the technical success of drones, of which many run on battery power. And it is the batteries that are currently the weakest point in the system, as there needs to be a lot more development work done to bolster the endurance. Right now, power output is tied tightly to the battery weight and the need for the batteries to be light currently puts the stoppers on long-range flight. The recently certified Pipistrel Velis Electro is good for 50 minutes of flight before it needs to be put in an electrical umbilical and charged again. That means it can't be used for the next block booking in the hot-bunking way that avgas trainers are now. To keep up with the booking sheet, schools will always need one in the air and one on the charger, which means one aircraft for the price of two. Electrical power might be at the front of the field, but in the race for widespread acceptance it is still a long way from the finish line.

CASA threw the CATS among the pigeons last week when it called for consultation feedback for the transitional rules for the flight operations regs. These are called the consequential, application, transitional and savings (CATS) regulations. Basically they are regs to make sure the suite is not delayed any further past the 2 December 2021 implementation date. However, CASA has allowed only until 30 June this year for the consultation, which in the COVID-plagued times we are in is being seen as a resource-sapping demand when operators really want to concentrate on still being around to see the regs implemented. CASA has pointed out that it is asking for feedback on only eight specific points in the CATS rather than the whole document for that very reason, saying the consultation survey should take about 10 minutes. Of course, that doesn't take into account the time needed to analyse the impacts of the regulations, including trying to second guess what the post-COVID GA industry is going to look like. CASA is obviously busting their chops to make sure the implementation date doesn't get pushed back. In fact, this would probably be the best thing to do; COVID has delayed everything and aviation regs aren't really immune to that. If implementation was rescheduled for December 2022, it would give the industry a chance to concentrate on breathing and CASA wouldn't need to let the CATS out of the bag until sometime next year. From what I am hearing, there is more to come on this.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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