– Steve Hitchen
That Airservices would come back to the aviation community with a revised proposal for Class E airspace on the eastern seaboard was predictable. Their original plan to lower the 8500-foot bases to 1500 AGL was a disaster that so few in the community supported. The new idea is to revert to an AMSL reference (smart move) and now bases of either 4500, 6500 or 8500 depending on the terrain below. It's a better idea, but still has some cracks in the welding. The revised concept will still result in some pretty funky airspace design, with polygons of Class E tacked onto the airspace design that will make VNCs and VTCs look like Picasso paintings. For example: most of the airspace west of Melbourne will have a A045 base to the E, except that sitting over the Grampians, where the E base will be lifted to A065. And if you're tracking Albury to Canberra, you can expect to have an E base of A045, A065 or A085 depending on your heading. It seems a complex answer to a problem that is really yet to be defined. Reading between the propaganda, it seems Airservices wants to make the changes simply because they now have the technology and want to use it, not to solve any identifiable safety issue. That would certainly account for the ongoing absence of a safety case.
CASA needs to understand that BRM Aero and Edge Aerospace are not going to go away. These two companies have been fighting CASA's decision to apply operating restrictions to the Bristell LSA for over a year now, and they are constantly reinforcing their arsenal with new weapons. The latest is an independent opinion that the Bristell complies with the standard even though CASA has continually said there is doubt. So, what would remove the doubt if not an EASA-approved testing company and the Federal Aviation Administration? From my own analysis, it would seem to be that CASA's doubt hasn't been defined very strongly except in their own minds. They have agreed in writing that there is no evidence that the Bristell doesn't comply with the spin requirements, but they say they also don't have enough evidence that it does. Then they've countered by saying they don't believe BRM is capable of certifying the aircraft. This would be a manufacturer that has just had an aircraft certified to CS23, which is much more stringent than the LSA standard. Now there is independent opinion that the aircraft complies, issued by people with more experience at doing so than CASA. So now we wait whilst CASA mulls over what to do next. They've been backed into a corner slightly and now either need to find a good reason for rejecting the independent opinion or they must rescind the safety notice. This has gone on too long and hurt too many good people.
Angel Flight was back in court in Melbourne this week in its own long-running battle with the regulator. After a couple of fatal crashes, CASA applied restrictions to who could and couldn't fly community service flights. To name a couple: a minimum of 400 hours or a CPL, and increased maintenance for the aircraft. Ironically, neither of those would have prevented either of the accidents. So, Angel Flight wants the restrictions struck out arguing that CASA acted ultra vires, which is to say outside their power. The question is one of whether or not CASA has to power to tell you who you can and cannot carry as passengers in your aeroplane. Unfortunately, this week's court case did not wrap up the matter as the legal arguments are deep and many, extending as they will to examine the very perimeters of CASA's head of power. In the meantime, the industry is left to examine the motivations of an action that CASA has admitted will have no impact. We'll keep you updated on when the matter returns to the Federal Court.
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May your gauges always be in the green,