by Steve Hitchen
CASA's MRO figures tell a story that most of us were familiar with several years ago: the industry's engine is misfiring and unless we are able to diagnose and correct the problem we can expect to glide to an inevitable collision with terrain. That, of course, presumes that the number of maintenance organisations is an indicator of industry health. I find it interesting that compulsory measures such as the Cessna SIDs program and the mandatory fitment of ADS-B has drawn large amounts of cash into the MRO industry that would not normally have been spent, but still companies are closing their doors. CASA, as expected, has come out and said there's more to the causes than just regulation. The two they cite are legitimate: business is moving overseas or into the recreational sector. However, both of these causes have resulted in the loss of jobs AOPA predicted in May last year. It is true that we can't analyse anything simply in aviation, and so CASA's answers themselves need greater examination. Why have jobs gone overseas? Why is there a trend toward recreational aviation? And those questions are just the start of it!
What I find most interesting is Ken Cannane's left-of-centre solution that the decline in MROs comes down to not having independent flying instructors. The bow he has drawn is not as long as that statement first appears. The base problem the industry has, I believe, is simply diminishing participation. Collectively, the private and training sectors accounted for more GA hours in 2013 than any other single sector, which highlights how important it is to the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, the rising cost of providing flight training has caused many schools to close over the years, and new entrants have been focussing on international students and training almost solely for airlines. Independent instructors hanging out their shingles at smaller regional airports would improve the catchment for private GA, but that would happen only if they weren't burdened with regulations that require an ops manual larger than the complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica and a quality system designed for an airline.
Has Australia has its first aeroplane-drone collision? Certainly something hit an FTA Tobago on approach to Parafield, and the ATSB stated that it could potentially be a remotely-piloted aircraft. It would have all been much simpler if there was either drone wreckage or a bird carcass underneath the flight path, but the absence of both has made life harder for the ATSB. What this incident has served to do is add weaponary to the arsenal of senators currently fuming over the drone regulations. With a senate inquiry into the industry well underway, this incident may prove vital evidence that impacts the outcome. Or, it could just be another birdstrike.
And that's it for the 2017 Wings Awards nominations! Entries have closed for the year and are now with the judging panel. Thanks to all those who send in submissions. It seems you were all listening as the quality of nomination this year was excellent, making life more difficult for the judges, but also giving every submission a decent shot at winning. Well done to all those who nominated.
May your gauges always be in the green,