– Steve Hitchen
For an industry sector that is seen to be in decline, there is a lot of organisations staking claim to being the true representatives of GA! The subject has once again broken the surface this week with AOPA slamming TAAAF because they didn't head-off CASA's medical policy that stated clearly no self-certification for GA. AOPA says that TAAAF is not properly representing GA at CASA level. AOPA has also leveled that accusation at RAAus in the past because that organisation too has aspired to be GA's voice in Canberra. The reality of it is that no one organisation has a mandate from the GA community to speak for it, and that's the ongoing problem that the government continues to trumpet as a reason for sticking its head in the sand. AOPA says that it is the best voice for GA, but there are more GA pilots in Australia that aren't members of AOPA than are. TAAAF says it represents GA and that's a line that CASA adheres to as well, but within TAAAF there are organisations that through aspiration must conflict with others. RAAus says it's the entry point and springboard for GA growth, and therefore has the best interests of GA at heart. That position is lusted after by AOPA, which is bound to bring the two into conflict; they are effectively competitors. So it falls to me to raise the point that with all this conflict and bustling for position going on, is anyone really effectively representing GA in Australia? Right now it seems not. I have very high hopes for the Australian General Aviation Alliance (AGAA), but the line between that arrangement and AOPA is very blurry, so much so that regulators in some cases can't get a handle on who is speaking for who. Perhaps if some things can get sorted there we might have a clear-cut, community supported representative.
But would any representative been able to do any better than TAAAF on the medical policy? We need to remember the active word in "Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP)" is "advisory". AOPA and TAAAF could have co-operated together to thrust the AOPA medical policy into the faces of CASA, but ultimately ASAP has no arsenal for forcing CASA to bend to its will, if in fact that will is in conflict. No self-certification was not being voted on; it was handed to ASAP as a fait accompli, so even if Greg Russell had started throwing chairs around the room he couldn't have made a change to that. Self-certification is a no-brainer given that CASA has endorsed the policy for aircraft administered by RAAus. The CASA position that training people in self-certification would be "ultimately more complex" is a very difficult one to believe. If RAAus can do it, is CASA really that out of touch that they can't? Therefore, this statement probably hides another anchor that is holding back self-certification. It could be that Shane Carmody doesn't believe in it, it could be that the legal department is dourly against it or it could be that GA getting self-certification threatens the market pull of RAAus, and the last thing CASA needs or wants is for RAAus to be under threat. The demarcation has been made clear: medical examinations for GA, self-certification for RAAus and never the twain shall match.
One of the joys of this job is that I get to sit on the judging panel for the Wings Awards. There is not enough recognition of the people who are the cornerstones of general aviation in Australia, and the ability to read their stories and correct that lack of recognition is very satisfying. This year we salute one of the helicopter industry's great stalwarts with the Col Pay Award: Ray Cronin. Ray has been the backbone of the training sector for over 30 years, and a tireless worker in the background for better training, safer operations and more effective use of helicopters. There wouldn't be too many people in the country who can match the career and contribution of Ray Cronin, so I was very pleased to add my endorsement to his Col Pay Award. Huge congratulations to Lyn Gray, who was the unanimous, undebated choice for Flying Instructor of the Year, to North Queensland Aero Club for Aero Club of the Year and to Moorabbin Flying Services for their second straight Flying Training Organisation of the Year award. Well done to all involved and a special thanks to those who put work into their submissions.
May your gauges always be in the green,