– Steve Hitchen
"In order to carry a positive action, we must develop here a positive vision." – The Dalai Lama
General aviation's biggest problem today lies in the implied inversion of this quote: that a negative vision results in negative action. I fear both sides of parliament, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, have a negative view of general aviation, which in turn results in the negative action so frequently imposed on our community. A few years ago, I approached a senior figure within CASA (no longer within CASA) and asked a simple question: does CASA consider aviation to be inherently safe? The answer was "Yes! But only because of all the regulations we make." He may as well have said "no." That negative attitude has come out again with the new restrictions placed on Community Service Flights (CSF). After a couple of tragic accidents, CASA has said that no PPL with less than 400 hours total time can fly a CSF, thereby declaring that these pilots are not safe enough to make good decisions under pressure. Mind you, by virtue of issuing them with a licence, CASA had previously declared the opposite. But again this is looking at the issue through naive-coloured glasses and ignoring the machinations behind the press releases. We are now rounding the final bend and heading for a general election, a time when political parties of all natures flee from talking about aviation safety like vampires dodging sunlight ... unless they can talk about how they're making it better. And the best way to make it better is to make more regulations, right? No, not right. It's that negative vision of general aviation that continues to drive an attitude that we must have more controls on this dirty, dangerous activity. Any attempt to look at GA in a positive light has been quashed quickly by the inherent negativity that haunts the corridors of Aviation House. Of course, by the time the spin doctors get hold of the press release it sounds like they're saving the world. "Look, Sire! With my sword I hath slain the windmill."
And on a more positive note, I was able to spend yesterday high up in the air taking photos of the Guimbal Cabri G2 over Melbourne. The G2 is a very interesting two-seat training helicopter that looks the goods both on the ground and in the air. It represents a new generation of certified helicopters that are challenging the established marques, such as the Robinson R22 and R44 Cadet. I first saw a Cabri in New Zealand around five years ago, an since then the Kiwis have adopted the type in respectable numbers. Will the same thing happen here? As is often the case with new types being introduced to Australia, the economics will probably decide the matter regardless of how good the aircraft is or isn't. Economics are the largest reason why Australia's GA fleet has been driven to an average of over 40 years old, and that issue shows no signs of abating any time soon. As long as our industry stays repressed and the Australian dollar lags behind the greenback and the Euro, the GA fleet average age is possibly going to get older not younger. Technology and advances in design and construction are well and good, but only if the dollars can justify adopting them.
Australian Flying March-April 2019 was delivered to my desk this morning, on time and 10 days ahead of the Australian International Airshow at Avalon. There is one particular feature in it that warrants a warning to readers: Kreisha Ballantyne's guide to aviation social media. Social media use has spread throughout the world like a virus, and in many cases can be just as damaging. We've all heard stories about the degradation of privacy and civility through the use of social media. Teenagers are bullying others from the relevant safety of anonimity and pictures meant to be intimate are being flashed around the world to all and sundry. Aviation is not immune, unfortunately. Despite cries of "we're all adults here", a quick check of social media shows the petulant nature of many posters. Social media has given everybody the chance to be a critic or analyst; to put forward their own opinions as fact and react to opposing views with gutteral vindictiveness. It has had the effect of undermining the value of social media and wasted a lot of people's time desperately trying to neutralise lies posted as a form of payback. On the flipside, many social media streams still have a lot of value and actually bring the aviation community closer. You will know them very quickly by the tone of their posts and the type of posts therein. These streams, whether they be Facebook pages or Instagram feeds, are what social media was always meant to be. Embrace them, but shun the many anonymous "Eddie the Experts" whose input often doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of reason.
May your gauges always be in the green,