– Steve Hitchen
I am currently reading Richard de Crespigny's new book FLY! Richard is best known of course as the skipper of QF32, which did its best to self-destruct near Singapore in 2010. Rather than another recounting of the incident, this book is about decision making, management and critical thinking; a self-help book for dealiing with crises. At one stage when talking about public relations, de Crespigny says something along the lines of "if what you release to the media has a hole in it, you'd better fill it yourself or someone else will." Very, very good advice; advice that just about every government department needs to heed. In our case, it's the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. Despite the minister coming across as all keen to help and looking forward to receiving the outcomes from the AGAA summit in early July, the industry has heard nothing about what's going on. With approaches to the department going unanswered, the general aviation community is left to wonder if everything the minister said was nothing but electioneering. It certainly sounded like it, and if the minister wants to refute that, going quiet is probably a poor strategy. I presume the papers will make their way to the General Aviation Advisory Group (GAAG). Having been charged with working up some answers in the GA Flight Plan, you would hope that GAAG would be including the AGAA feedback in their work. If in fact there's no intention for that to happen, are we to read that the department has decided to ignore GAAG and come up with their own ideas, or is it that they are using silence to mask the fact that they want the whole thing to go away? That's my speculation anyway. Please go ahead and add your own ... the department has left us with a large hole to fill.
Talk about the Kings of Mixed Messages! CASA has sore lips from blowing its own trumpet over medical reforms, in particularly the Basic Class 2 and the DAME-assessed medicals, so we couldn't be blamed for presuming they support wholeheartedly their own reforms. But this week, the Principal Medical Officer has shown his support in a very strange way: by putting the frighteners on DAMEs over DAME-assessed medicals. The message, in bare-bones terms, seems to be that DAMEs need to be meticulous in their processes or they risk being sued. Those of us whose memories are on the long side will recall that this very argument was used to delay DAME-assessed medicals for years, and now it has finally been implemented, it seems CASA is using the same argument to hobble their own reforms. It's a bit like desperately trying to reach V1 but making sure the co-pilot has their feet on the brakes: you have to question whether or not you really want to take-off. I think the aviation community would much rather CASA get behind the new reforms completely and encourage DAMEs rather than whisper cautious words in their ears.
Jeff Boyd's tenure as chairman of CASA comes to an end today, with Tony Mathews taking over the mantle on Monday morning. Boyd came to the post in 2014 hailed as the great saviour largely because of the high regard in which the general aviation community holds him. Everything was going to be alright now ... Jeff will fix it all. The pressure of expectation placed on Boyd was probably unfair and displayed a naivety in the GA community that I suspect has been stomped on by now. That everything at the end of his four years in not alright as predicted is, I believe, not for want of trying or commitment on Boyd's behalf. We have to remember that legislation puts the power of regulation in the hands of one member of the CASA board only: the Director of Aviation Safety. Boyd was definitely a pro-active chairman, but as the DAS actually reports directly to the minister, the chairman has limited ability to disrupt the flow. That's not to say that they can't influence, but if political will is against the chairman, they face the same uphill battle that the rest of the general aviation community do. I feel that Boyd probably understands now the full extent of the struggle perhaps even more than he did before he got the gig. But to be fair, a lot of change happened during Boyd's tenure, most of which is yet to trigger much difference to the aviator in the street. Hopefully, legacies of his work will be obvious in the near future.
May your gauges always be in the green,