– Steve Hitchen
If you want to get your point across to Airservices Australia about the back-up navaid network, you'd best get your skates on because consultation closes on Sunday midnight. This is a post-implementation review after CASA mandated GNSS as the primary source of IFR navigation in 2016, leading to a wide-spread deletion of NDBs, VORs and DMEs. The back-up network is there in case the US government ever pulls the plug on the GPS signal and we have to go back to stone-age IFR nav. That's a very unlikely scenario, provided we don't cheese-off the Americans by beating them in the pool at the 2024 Paris Olympics. A more likely situation, given the current world political environment, is that some nefarious power interferes with the signal and renders it useless. Should that happen, aviation will need to activate navigation Plan B pronto; hence, the back-up network. There is one other good reason for maintaining ground-based navaids: taking out the GPS signal will also kill the ADS-B, so the Australian Defence Force will need a method of navigation in order to respond to the threat given that ATC won't be able to help them en route. Whilst acknowledging the cost of maintaining the infrastructure, the back-up network will be a cheap out if it is ever really needed. The question of what type, where and how many is still a point of vigorous debate in the aviation community.
The process surrounding the Moorabbin Airport master plan is starting to smell similar to a 10-day old trout. Since then minister Barnaby Joyce rejected the first one in March 2022, stakeholders at the airport have been on tenterhooks over their future. A revised plan was sent to current minister Catherine King in March, but she called for more information resulting in Moorabbin Airport Corporation (MAC) withdrawing what is now called the fresh draft master plan (FDMP) and submitting a new one. But is seems only MAC and King know what's in it. MAC has said they won't be making the FDMP public until the minister approves it. That leaves stakeholders stuck between a mushroom and a dark place. Ironically, one of the reasons Barnaby Joyce originally rejected the plan was because stakeholder feedback had not been adequately considered. Now, those very stakeholders are wondering why they can't see the plan. You can't blame them for wondering what it is that MAC doesn't want them to know until after Catherine King has put her official seal on it. Why has MAC been allowed to submit an FDMP (the use of the word "fresh" implies something new) without the public and stakeholders being allowed to comment on it? Surely there is some yawning breach of procedural fairness going on that relegates the concept of transparency to the backbench. Or ... what if the FDMP contains something commercial-in-confidence? That has not been a feature of past master plans, so it's fair to assume that anything confidential is an extraordinary inclusion. Yes, that's pure speculation, but without knowing the exact contents of the plan, that's all stakeholders have left to do.
When recreational aviation was formalised in 1983, there was a very strong feeling within the aviation community that it should stick to operating from paddocks. After all, it wasn't real aviation and therefore shouldn't be in the same sky as real aviators. I could probably find a few people that still feel that way. But the two-stroke, rag-and-tube philosophy has changed in the 40 years since, and now a recreational aircraft can be more sophisticated than any "real" aeroplane and out-perform a few of them as well. The amateur Australian Ultralight Federation (AUF) has become the professional Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus), which it needed to do if CASA was going to place the amount of trust in them that they have. They are well and truly out of the paddocks and striding the halls of Canberra. That doesn't sit well with some in the GA community who argue that CASA shouldn't be farming out responsibility for any aviation sector to third parties. As each year grows, those voices are becoming fewer and weaker as RAAus increases in integrity with CASA handing over increased administration rights and capabilities. In September, RAAus is marking their 40th birthday with a gala dinner at the Australian War Memorial, and they have a lot to celebrate, with more to come, I expect, before the year is out.
May your gauges always be in the green,