There is revolt fermenting among the peasants. Whilst the Minister sits pat in Canberra doling out edicts, the angry villagers of the aviation community are getting themselves organised and sharpening their pitchforks. It would seem that enough is enough, and open rebellion can no longer be discounted. The trigger to start the war is the Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC). Designed to make our RPT airports more secure, the ASIC has failed to do that, but has succeeded in sucking a lot of money out of general aviation. And, as most panic-stricken bureaucracies tend do, the department has brought in more stringent rules that apply from 1 August. From then, you will have to present your ID documents to the Issuing Body in person, not by mail and not over the internet. And as good bureaucrats do, they have not let the fact that this is nearly impossible get in the way of declaring it a great idea. The concept is so rubbish-riddled that RAAus has decided to stop being an Issuing Body. So let's get this straight. We now have to have our ID papers authenticated in person by someone who is acceptable in the eyes of the federal government (police, JP, lawyers, pharmacists ... there's a long list), then we have to front up with those papers to have them authenticated again by someone who is NOT accepted by the federal government to do so. To err is human, but to make a monumental blunder you have to have a bureaucrat! To make matter worse, the current Issuing Bodies are in real strife, because most of them just had their business catchment restricted to their local area, and those pilots not in the local area of an Issuing Body are, well, stuffed. For example, AviationID Australia is in Merimbula, NSW, which is very convenient for the pilots at Frogs Hollow. If AviationID can't get agencies right around Australia by 1 August, from where to they get their business now? And have you looked at Victoria? I would count the number of ASIC Issuing Bodies in the state on my fingers, but I could be accused of making a rude gesture.There is one: Melbourne Airport.
The result is that a significant number of pilots around Australia are starting to talk boycott. Boycotting the ASIC also means boycotting any airport that has RPT. This is a move the industry needs to think carefully about, especially when it comes to getting fuel. I am sure the airports don't want to become collateral damage in a war between general aviation pilots and the federal government, but when you think about it, what other weapons do we have? Personally, I will not renew my ASIC when it comes up again, if for no other reason than I have no idea where my Issuing Body is based. They are talking about getting Australia Post to act as agents, which will be fantastic, except Australia Post won't be doing it gratis, so we can all expect the sticker price on an ASIC to increase and even more money will flow out of general aviation.
On a much brighter note, the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame (AAHOF) has found a home at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Illawarra Regional Airport. Obviously there is great synergy between the two, and HARS does appear to have the weight of activity and finance behind them to make for a great partnership. I do feel sorry that we couldn't make this happen in Wagga Wagga, given that the council there has been a great supporter of the concept almost from Day One. However, sometimes practicalities have to carry the day, and a AAHOF/HARS marriage can do nothing but bear fruit.
It's pleasing to see that the issue of training space for Bankstown and Camden is already under the noses of the Forum on Western Sydney Airport (FOWSA). The momentum to build Badgerys Creek has bulldozed general aviation into the dust as the clamour for economic benefit takes precedence. It has been left to Regional Aviation Association CEO Mike Higgins and Bankstown CEO Lee de Winton to play Arthur Dent and throw themselves before the bulldozers to make sure GA's needs are taken into account with appropriate import. There are some in the industry that are concerned that the RAAA may have a conflict of interest, given that most of their members are regional airlines that stand to benefit from Badgerys Creek being built. However, the RAAA also has an interest in the health of flight training in the Sydney basin because many of their current pilots would have trained at the very schools that are now facing the threat, and it can be expected many of their future pilots will do so as well.
Now is the time to panic, and don't hesitate! There are now only two weeks before the 2017 Wings Awards nominations close. If you haven't already got your candidate all sorted and the submission down to the polishing stage, you still have time, but you won't be able to linger. Remember, it is not good enough just to put a name forward; the RAeS wants to see how well your candidate fits the criteria, so get your head down and get that submission in!
May your gauges always be in the green,