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

– Steve Hitchen

CASA probably had no choice but to suspend their survey after AOPA published a direct link to the collector. Regardless of whether or not you believe that the regulator had designed the survey population to skew the results towards the positive, once the statistician set the methodology, a change in the population size can throw it all out ... especially if the extent of the population is unknown. Marketing surveys have become a science into their own, being rooted more in mathematics than the unquantifiable collection of opinions. Consequently, numbers become critical to the design. Quick example: with an open-ended population, there's no way of knowing what percentage of surveys were returned. The same for each category of person chosen: PPL, CPL, LAME, flying school and so forth. AOPA's beef is that they believe the 6600 chosen were done so to make CASA look good in the end report. I'm choking on this one a bit. Does CASA actually have the resources to go through every person on their list, double-check their backgrounds and affiliations to weed out those that might make them look bad? If the sample was 100-500, I would say its possible, but 6600? Would CASA actually find 6600 happy faces at the moment anyway? That's not to say some very well-known activists might not have had a red line put through their names, but at the most that would be 50-60 people, leaving a chunk of unknowns large enough to ensure the population is still representative.

AOPA is pretty flat out at the moment on a number of things; most importantly their looming AGM. The first meeting got COVID-canceled in May, but like many other things at the moment the association was granted an extension to their reporting time. We still don't know a date, but they're talking about early December. What everyone is waiting for are the financials. The last set distributed for 2018 showed an operating loss of $54,000. That sort of result is not something that an organisation as small as AOPA Australia can tolerate for very long. Their recent move out of a dedicated hangar to the FalconAir hangar at Bankstown will likely take a huge chunk out of the outgoings, knowing what the rents are like at that airport. The aviation community is hanging out for AOPA's membership numbers like they were postal returns from a US presidential election. In the last Directors report, AOPA said their membership was 3366, up an impressive 23% from 2017. Has that trend continued? If it has, AOPA could be looking at a very healthy balance sheet, but some sources in the aviation community now believe there could have been a significant drop-off. COVID might be an excuse for any loss of membership for 2020, but the figures to be presented should be for the 2019 year, which was entirely pre-COVID. So many questions. No wonder people are getting impatient for the answers.

Momentum is growing in Melbourne for a project in which I have to admit to getting myself deeply entangled. This is an adventure that comes around only once every 100 years. A group of flying clubs have banded together with the intent of creating a 100-plane air armada to fly around Port Phillip Bay next year. Think of the impact of that: 100 GA planes all in the sky at once. The motivation is to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Australia Air Force in the place that it all began. The best part about this venture is that anyone who is a licenced pilot with a formation endorsement is being welcomed into the group with open arms. And the organisers are no mugs: Lilydale Flying Club, Peninsula Aero Club and Royal Victorian Aero Club are at the core, with all three bringing a lot of experience in air shows and formation fly-overs to the table. CASA has been contacted; Airservices Australia has been consulted. Green lights are coming up all across the board and enthusiasm is building from all quarters. Aero clubs and individual aviators across the state are opting in to the project almost daily. And they're calling for you too. If you have a formation endorsmement, or can commit to getting one before late February 2021, get in contact with the RAAF Centenary Air Armada organising team at info@airarmada.com.au.

Nominations for the 2020 Wings Awards are now closed. We had a record number of nominations by a very long way! Thanks to all those that got their submissions in. It's now down to the judging panel to sort out who's who from what's what and make some important deliberations. The field this year is not only the largest, but the submissions are of very high quality, which means there is still a lot of work to be done before the winners can be announced.

Christmas is just around the corner, and if you're anything like me you'll be dreading the task of selecting the right presents for the right people. Rather than buying everyone a box of Favourites, give some thought to giving some important aviator the gift of an Australian Flying subscription instead! We've come to the party with a special deal of a one-year subscription comprising six issues for only $35.00. That's 40% less than the usual asking price (of course the person you're giving it to doesn't necessarily have to know that). Magazines are always a great stocking-stuffer and Australian Flying is bound to please the right person. Get on the Great Magazines website and solve one problem right now.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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