– Steve Hitchen
One of the most interesting things I will do in the next 12 months is write this column at this time in January 2020. That's because I believe we are in for a 2019 that will bring about significant change, both good and bad, to the general aviation industry. There are some fascinating new aeroplanes set to grace our shores for the first time, some new regulations that will have to be thrashed out before implementation and the political landscape in Canberra is set for change. The upshot of all that is that general aviation is set to be a very different prospect in January 2020 from what it is in January 2019. I almost can't wait to write LMH one year from now.
And it started in late December when CASA put forward its proposals for applying regulation to community service flights. Our regulator is defining "community service" for the purpose of these regs as being those flights where PPLs ferry private citizens to and from medical appointments. The target here is most certainly Angel Flight, but the intent of the rules gets very wobbly when you stare at it for long enough. CASA's argument is that greater regulation is needed because the passengers are "uninformed participants" and because the pilots are subject to "get-there-itis" pressures that are rarely applied to PPLs. Firstly, Angel Flight passengers have to sign waivers and watch videos before they are allowed on a flight, which completely collapses the "uninformed participants" argument. I would argue that Angel Flight pax are more informed than a perfectly healthy person going for a jaunt around the local mountain range with their pilot mate, which CASA has no issue with. Secondly, Angel Flight leaves the conduct of the flight in the hands of the PIC, who CASA says is ultimately responsible for it anyway. Yes, some pilots have made tragic mistakes, but no amount of regulation (or flying hours) can stop poor decision-making. The lid is further loosened on this can of worms when you take into account that CASA may have no power to tell a PPL who they can and can't have in their aeroplane. If John needs to get to a medical appointment and Jane is happy to fly him there and back for no money, CASA declares this a private flight and applies no extra regulation. However, if Angel Flight introduces John to Jane then significant regulation is needed to keep the flight safe ... even though nothing about the conduct of the flight will change. Could this be the harbinger of intense regulation applied to GA to satisfy nothing more than a political imperative? I fear so.
It's not everyday the Deputy Prime Minister deems regulation announcements important enough to get involved in, but that's what happened in December when the much-heralded "six-pack" of aviation regs was presented to the world. These are the rules by which we fly, covering most aviation operations and the air operator's certificate (AOC) regs. You could call them the centrepiece rules about which all the other aviation regs orbit. So they are very important ... perhaps too important to be left to the very end of the 30-year reform program. Admittedly CASA has said that there have been a few false starts over the years, and they dole out a bit of credit to the new consultation systems for getting them over the line. So what are we to take away from this? We could state that CASA clearly wasn't able to make these regs without industry input, which really doesn't say much for the credibility of some CASA staff. Or, we could say that it was co-operation between the industry and CASA that brought about the resolution. I prefer to believe the latter, but won't rule out the former. We will know sometime in the next year; it is one thing to write a regulation, it is another thing to implement it. If implementation proves as problematic as Part 61 (please, Huey, don't make it so!) it will be patently clear that the industry consultation did not penetrate the bureaucratic brick wall as much as CASA has credited it with. And as for the DPM's involvement; right now the government is stuck in traffic behind the Labor Party bandwagon and they will take every opportunity to convince the electorate to clear the road for them to stay in power.
The Australian Aviation Hall of Fame (AAHOF) is out of the blocks quickly in 2019, sending out a call for nominations almost straight away. AAHOF has inducted nearly 50 individuals, affording them acclaim that for most part escaped them before AAHOF was founded. Although Australia has had its share of high-profile aviators over the years (Kingsford Smith, Hawker, Hinkler), which have rightly found their way into the AAHOF, the institution is also for those who underpinned aviation without building public profiles along the way. There are many of these types still to be recognised and AAHOF needs the aviation community to put forward names who deserve to be up there on the walls alongside the more famous faces that Australia knows so well. Nominations can be done on-line at the AAHOF website www.aahof.com.au.
May your gauges always be in the green,