– Steve Hitchen
For a few weeks now, I've been dropping hints about a potential split in the GA representative groups, and this week the rumours and speculation became the matter of hard fact when the the Australian General Aviation Alliance (AGAA) was announced. The three founding member associations are AOPA Australia, AMROBA and the SAAA. But even the term "founding members" hints at ambitions of expansion; expansion of member associations, of numbers and of influence. That will mean targeting other associations as potential members, but to get them on board, AGAA will have to have a decent product to sell them. The quandry is whether or not an association can be a member of both AGAA and The Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF). AGAA was catalysed by dissatisfaction with the way TAAAF was presenting the interests of GA in Canberra, so you would have to presume the two have differing philosophies, which would make it nearly impossible to be a member of both. AGAA is therefore faced with the task of poaching members from TAAAF in order to expand. But will they come? TAAAF is a very well respected group in Canberra with a seat on CASA's Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), which AGAA will have to aspire to if they want to have the influence they were born to have. There is, however, no compulsion on CASA to give AGAA a seat at the table, which will mean defector groups could find themselves at a greater distance from the decision makers than they were if they'd sat pat with TAAAF.
No sooner had AGAA been announced than people were asking about the intentions of RAAus. RAAus went through some sword fighting with both AOPA and the SAAA over AirVenture Australia last year, so it would take some serious kiss-and-make-up overtures for them to sit comfortably with each other. RAAus is pretty solid with TAAAF, and they'd need a damn good reason to jump ship. If they don't we'll have clear battle lines drawn in the struggle for the hearts and minds of the general aviation community: AGAA/AOPA verses TAAAF/RAAus. It would be much better for the GA community if that were not the case, but it is indicative of the passion that exists for GA in Australia, and also of the fractured nature of the representation. Depending on who you talk to, there is a lot of condemnation around for both AOPA and RAAus over their troubled relationship, and this representative division does nothing to solve that.
The ATSB indicated last year that they would likely examine the approval process for the Essendon DFO that was involved in the fatal King Air crash in February 2017, and now they've announced a separate investigation that will go on even after the final accident investigation report is published. They say where there's smoke, there's fire, and I suspect the ATSB has found an inferno. If the planning process had played a negligible part in the crash, I think the ATSB would have folded that into the accident report. That they have elected to run a separate report tells us that the building location played a significant role in the tragic outcome. The results of the investigation may have ramifications right across the country, as there are many other buildings on federally-leased airports that have the potential to find themselves occupying space that an aircraft in an emergency might need one day.
In the January-February print issue of Australian Flying, writer Philip Smart got into the nitty-gritty of using aircraft as a business tool, and found that largely the business world has a misguided perception of the way they are used. Rather than be the luxury transport of executives, they are a tool for the whole company to maximise use of their time. The business aviation world is coming to Essendon Airport next month with an International Standard for Business Aircraft Operation (IS-BAO) workshop dedicated to laying out the best principles of operation so companies can make sure their aircraft is used as a weapon and not just a vehicle for jaunts. This workshop is good for Australia, because despite the large distances between work places and potential customers, Australian businesses still seem shy of adopting or hiring company aircraft as a day-to-day tool.
May your gauges always be in the green,