– Steve Hitchen
AMROBA's Ken Cannane has put forward the novel idea of freezing CASA's structure in the Civil Aviation Act to prevent successive CEOs from making changes that cause an exodus of expertise from the regulator. Restructures often do cause a loss of good people in any organisation because they are often accompanied by redundancies that act as incentive for the most re-employable to head for the door. The current structure was put in place under the whirlwind tenure of Mark Skidmore, enabling Shane Carmody to make only small tweaks to evolve the management hierarchy ... so far. Consequently, the drain of expertise from CASA has been stemmed, but there's no guarantee that if Carmody doesn't stay in the role beyond his current contract that the flow won't start again. So, Cannane has a good point, but I don't think the solution is the right one. The Civil Aviation Act is legislation that has to go through parliament and all the points-scoring rigamorale visited upon it by politicians. Making the structure part of that process would rob the regulator of flexibility. You could argue that we don't want flexibility in the regulator because rigidity provides better stability that is often a key ingredient of investment. The flaw there is that the structure would have to be absolutely right from the get-go because making changes would mean introducing a bill to the house. We need to maintain flexibility within the regulator, but find a way to make sure it flexes in the right directions.
And one great move to come out of CASA is the VFR ADS-B project. ADS-B has proven a boon to aviation at several levels with ATC able to issue proximity warnings using ADS-B paints. There has probably been very little question of the technology itself, but the cost of implementation has caused angst upon angst for about 12 years now. It was pretty obvious that, despite the benefits, those that weren't compelled by regulation to install ADS-B, i.e., VFR aircraft, weren't going to throw away good GNSS units and install ADS-B compliant ones if they didn't have to. The obvious solution was cheaper ADS-B systems that didn't have to comply with Technical Service Orders (TSO). CASA's feedback shows good support for the project within the industry, so it seems there aren't a lot of roadblocks to making this happen. As the cheaper systems will still be optional, those that don't want to play still don't need to plug in. The downsides to this are not immediately apparent, which is rare for most aviation regulatory change.
I enjoyed a visit this week to Southport Flying Club in SE QLD. This is a club based on an airport tucked away in a conservation reserve. The club has the lease on the airport and has created for themselves a very tidy little home in many ways. They have a good sealed runway and fantastic facilities that would be the envy of most of the clubs I visit. The airport provides a great community service with the local police and rescue helicopters making use of it when needed. Only the previous day I'd been at Caboolture on the other side of Brisbane, which is another club-run airport. It got me thinking about aero clubs in general and the vastly different structures they operate under. They range from wealthy for-profit clubs that may or may not have their own airports to small recreational enclaves with second-hand demountables for their club rooms. Some have been lucky enough to be handed ex-RAAF rooms abandoned after WWII and others have absolutely nothing at all except a name and an e-mail list. Many of these clubs, regardless of structure, often don't have their own futures in control because of the whim of a third party. It may be a belligerent council, a leaseholder that wants to jack up the rent or an airport owner looking to sell the land to ravenous developers. Together, clubs both great and small form a very important network that supports aviation and aviators right across Australia; a network that is there not only for the members but also for aviators who may not be a member of any club and for the public in general. The more robust the network, the better off everyone is. Not every club can be a Southport or a RACWA or a Redcliffe, but they are every bit as vital to the network.
May your gauges always be in the green,