– Steve Hitchen
Aviation has lost a piece of its soul with the death this week of Senja Robey. A classic character that contributed so much to aviation, Senja launched the careers of countless pilots and probably contributed in some way to hundreds more. Senja was a foundation member of the AWPA, and the organisation they built in 1950 is today arguably the strongest aviation association in this country in terms of unity, participation and passion. Much of that is owed to the women that forged the path so many others coming after them would find a smoother road ahead. When it comes to memories of Senja, the constant from everyone seems to be one of a passionate, empathetic person who was always ready with a helping hand, especially when it came to fostering younger women in aviation. Her impact on general aviation can't really be measured except to say that women's aviation in Australia would look very different today had Senja Robey not caught the aviation disease over 70 years ago. Australian Flying extends its condolences to Senja's family and all her flying mates at the AWPA.
Another chapter has been written in the controversial story of Tallawarra B power station. CASA has now approved the aviation impact assessment put forward by Energy Australia, which outlines an engineering solution to keep the critical gas plume velocity below 6.1 m/s at 700 feet. This has not impressed AOPA Australia, which made calculations that arrived at a figure of 4.3 m/s to be safe. Naturally, AOPA has asked CASA to show their working. The issue is that the gas plume will rise into the circuit area of Shellharbour Airport (Albion Park) and has the potential to disturb the stability of light aircraft that encounter the plume. AOPA is also concerned that there seems to be no plan for auditing the actual plume velocity once the power station has been commissioned. As the NSW government has now issued the planning approval for Tallawarra B, it's unlikely that there is any other course of action that will result in a different outcome. GA, we're going to have to live with this plume and the man-made wind shear it may be capable of producing. Mathematical calculations are all well and good, but it's what really happens in the air that will show whether or not the situation is actually safe.
COVID-19 has introduced to our lives a great contradiction: amorphic rules. These are rules that are so broad that the people who decided upon them really don't know the extent of the rule, leaving them open to almost limitless interpretation. You can think you're operating within the rule and not understand that you're in breach until you meet someone who tells you that. In ways, aviation should be coping with this situation better than any other industry or community because that's the way the CASRs have been working for years! A case in point has arisen with the issue of running engines. Leave an aeroplane engine for any length of time–especially tied-down in the open–and all sort of evils can befall it. Naturally, we want to get out there and run the donk to banish any form of moisture that can creep in, and to keep other bits lubricated. In our world, that's necessary. But will the police officer that pulls you over on the drive to the airport see it that way? They have the power of interpretation at the moment because the restriction laws were put in place so quickly that there wasn't even time to set boundaries. AOPA has done exactly the right thing by asking the Prime Minister for a ruling on the engines, but there is so much else, and each state is permitted to apply the restrictions as they see fit, creating even greater confusion. So, to fly or not to fly? Who decides what's "necessary"? There is clearly some GA still going on out there, which in itself if attracting commentary. That only proves the problem with interpretation: what chance the police when we can't even work it out for ourselves? And there's still quite a ways to go yet.
May your gauges always be in the green,