– Steve Hitchen
The shackles aren't off, but at least we can hear the jailer rattling the keys. With state governments relaxing social isolation rules, our freedom to fly is tantalisingly close again. As it is now, recreational and private flights are now definitely permitted again, but we'll regularly find ourselves chained by other pandemic-restricting measures, around which we must shape our aviation adventures for the time being, and no doubt some time into the future. Social distancing rules must be respected, which means carrying passengers who aren't in your own isolating bubble is still a no-go, unless it's a flying instructor, in which case it's education, not recreation ... provided your instructor is happy to go. And functions at the aero club are still out of bounds unless you can all stand 1.5 metres away from each other and there's less than 10 of you and you're outside. The other thing we need to keep in mind is that we now have to treat some state boundaries like they're brick walls. QLD, SA, Tassie and WA are still closed off, so flights from Grafton to Archerfield, Horsham to Murray Bridge and other border-jumping excursions are a bad idea right now. Shepparton to Wagga Wagga or Narromine to Echuca, yes. However, there is still the murkiness surrounding the phrase "unnecessary travel" that we need to navigate wherever our spinners are pointed. So, some liberties been granted, but we are largely still in the stockades until we can restore the complete freedom that underpins private and recreational aviation.
The past couple of weeks have shown us that the full impacts of COVID-19 are still to play out, which is creating more uncertainty regardless of social and recreational restrictions being eased. Three air shows–Oshkosh, Ausfly and Avalon–will not go ahead as advertised. Oshkosh has been canceled completely; a move that surprised absolutely no-one given that it was scheduled so soon after the pandemic broke. Ausfly was October, but now is planned for April next year to give some breathing space in the hope that some normality will be restored enough for the industry to start making plans. Avalon has been deferred to November for a similar reason. Uncertainty was a much bigger thorn to Avalon than it was to Ausfly, as the international component is an underlying fundamental of the Australian International Airshow. With no sign on the horizon of international travel being unleashed, the pandemic has really pulled the rug out from under Avalon. So is November a large enough deferment? It's about as far as it can go. The show is intertwined with the 100th anniversary of the RAAF, and that can't be pushed out past 2021 or it's not in the centenary year anymore. Plus, every month Avalon 2021 is pushed back takes a month-sized bite out of the preparation time for Avalon 2023. Whereas Oshkosh and Ausfly would survive on domestic attendance only (Ausfly is purely Australian anyway), Avalon needs a reliable supply of international oxygen in order to breathe. Lets hope they get it as soon as possible.
CASA has converted the much-loved and much-read Visual Flight Rules Guide (VFRG) into a free PDF download to save us buying hard copies. I'll give this the nod: it's a valuable document that contains most of what's needed to fly safely and fly well and anything that can save us some money is greatly appreciated. I had to have a laugh at their statement that the PDF version can be used in exams provided the user prints off the VFRG in its entirety ... all 466 pages of it. I can't see too many people doing that on their home printer and carrying it into an exam. Still, it will be a great resource in the learning phase and a handy reference to have on your laptop. Download it from the CASA website next time you're in there.
Have you completed our COVID-19 impact survey yet? This is a short questionnaire to try to get a measureable handle on how the GA industry and community has been traveling during the pandemic. Thanks to those who have already contributed some very valuable information. If you're an instructor, CPL or AOC-holder, we're particularly keen for your input. We'll keep it open for another two weeks or until the collector hits the upper limit.
May your gauges always be in the green,