– Steve Hitchen
If you're confused about the way you're going to vote with only one week left to the Federal Election, you have plenty of friends; it is perhaps the tightest, most uncertain election there's been since the hung parliament of 2010. If you intend to vote whatever way you believe is best for general aviation then your path next Saturday is probably even more unclear. The Coalition is hanging its hopes for the aviation vote on the Aviation Recovery Framework, and the ALP is promising another aviation white paper as a lure. It would be difficult to measure either party by aviation credentials because neither achieved a whole lot of the aviation community when the power was in their hands. Although the Coalition instigated the Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR), eight years later we are in the midst of a senate inquiry that is raking over the same coals that were identified as problems back then. It's very hard to say that anything was done for aviation when the parlous state of the industry drags on. The best thing we can do for the ALP is pretend we didn't hear the term "white paper". It's not a good strategy to say you are going to repeat a major failure of the past ... on purpose. With the chances of a hung parliament increasing the closer we get to the polling booths, the short-term future of GA remains even more uncertain as the minor parties and independents rarely express their opinions on aviation. It's not making life very easy, and aviation lobby groups may have to adjust the way they work to account for a shift in the balance of power.
The C408 SkyCourier entered service this week; a milestone moment in aviation. This twin turbo-prop utility looks to have needs of just about every imaginable mission well and truly covered. And with two turbine dragging it along and a high wing up and out of the dust, this could be the aircraft Australia has been waiting for. We had something very like it once: the GAF Nomad, which did a pretty respectable job as a utility aircraft itself. However, the C408 has differences that are likely to bridge the gap between the struggling sales of the Nomad and the laudable success that the SkyCourier is sure to become. Firstly, the engines are P&W, not the Allisons of the Nomad and quite crucially, the landing gear is fixed. That's what comes from developing a twin turbo-prop utility starting with only a blank sheet of paper, a pencil and a list of customer requirements. These things were luxuries the Nomad didn't have. Originally, GAF designed the aircraft as a single-engined turbine (which would have been one of the first of a category that is now very healthy and growing) with fixed gear. Military requirements mutated it into a twin-engine retractable. The other advantage the C408 has is a launch customer that has ordered 100 airframes with an option for a further 100. If all orders and all options are filled, that one customer will account for more airframes that were ever produced of the Nomad. Food for thought.
You have to admire the determination of Aeroprakt to restart production under such unimaginable pressure. With the Russian army withdrawing from the Kyiv area, the company is spooling back up to one-third capacity at a time when the nation is facing a future never more uncertain. That takes a lot of guts. The factory is intact, but the aero club has been the subject of very dispiriting intentional destruction. It is being reported that "whatever the Russians can't take, they break", and it looks like Aeroprakt has been a victim of that philosophy. The company has demonstrated resilience of the highest order in the past months, and I have no doubt they'll soon be back to capacity again as one of the most important manufacturers of quality LSAs in the world.
May your gauges always be in the green,