– Steve Hitchen
Is the CASA Satisfaction Survey Report really worth fighting over? Is any poll really worth fighting over? We have issues with CASR Part 61, Part 66, Part 135, Part 141 and just about ever other CASR reformed in the last 10 years. These things threaten our industry's viability and this is where I believe we should be putting our energy. AOPA has latched on to the results of the Colmar Brunton survey as being an indicator of CASA trying to hide the truth for political reasons. They believe the people surveyed were selected to ensure a positive result, and therefore the results aren't valid when compared to the 2015 results. The issue I have is that you could argue that with just about any poll or survey ... even the 2021 survey that is still to come. CASA's response, naturally, is to deny any attempt to skew the results. Pursuing this argument is going to take a lot of breath and in the meantime Rome continues to burn. There is no chance of the poll being revoked or repeated; it is what it is. We're better off judging CASA by what impact they are having on our lives than on those eternal damned liars: statistics. AOPA has said that they're ready to launch their own poll, which they believe will be a more accurate measure of CASAs performance. However, it is widely recognised that happy people tend not to tell you what they think and unhappy people never hold back. If that is true, how will the AOPA poll hold more validity than the Colmar Brunton survey?
Regardless of surveys, what CASA shows us consistently is that they may not be a learning organisation. For five years we've been arguing over what frequency we should be using for airspace that doesn't require radio because someone inside Aviation House took it upon themselves to make an arbitrary change. Now it's happened again. On 8 November the altitudes of the VFR coastal route around Port Phillip Bay will be reversed. The trail again points back to one person making an arbitrary decision without consulting anyone then trying to sneak it through by simply changing a document. There are so many weevils in this flour that we should simply throw it out, but it's too late now. The altitude changes, apparently, were because someone was concerned about the gliding distance to land ... ignoring the fact that no matter which way you are flying the purple dots don't get any further away from the coast. This is what happens when you fail to consult! Playing deities with peoples' lives is a very serious matter, and nothing CASA does should ever be the result of one person's actions or opinions. So now the pilots of Melbourne have to sort out CASA's mess, which they will do. They don't want to fly unsafely and will do what it takes to make the changes work where they can. In the meantime, CASA needs to head for the Hall of Mirrors. If nobody could see a bunyip in this process, then how can we trust them to see other bunyips in the future?
But there's another monster due to emerge on 8 November: the new fuel rules. For those not up to speed, CASA's new regulations state that VFR pilots must now carry a mandatory 30 minutes reserve that cannot be be consumed on pain of prosecution. Add to that, you must now calculate remaining fuel in flight and if the calcs show that you'll get home with less than that 30 mins, you have to declare a MAYDAY FUEL. This is still the subject of a lot of merriment around aero clubs. What is CASA trying to do with this? Fuel emergencies are usually the result of bad planning or simple disregard for good practice. The new rules won't fix either of those things; you can't regulate for cowboys. And another way to interpret this is that CASA thinks it's OK to land with only 30 minutes of fuel in your tanks. The standard practice has always been 45 mins, with some schools teaching as much as one hour. Most pilots will continue doing what they have always done and pay very little heed to this rule whatsoever. For the cowboys, this simply changes the rule that they prefer to ignore. In five years time we can look at fuel-related incidents to see if this really has had any impact.
Kudos to Airservices Australia for thinking about how ADS-B can make positive change to operations. The idea of restricting some Class D towers to 4500 feet rather than 8500 has real merit. This means traffic will remain with the en route controller and the towers can get on with what is their Number One priority: arrivals and departures. But of course that got me thinking: what else could ADS-B do for us? Several years ago Airservices trialed Class E airspace over the top of Class D, and despite the raging success of those trials, refused to implement Class E anyway. Could that all change now? If ADS-B goes virulent through the VFR fleet, we may be in a position to consider re-instating Class E above Class D. What this would mean is that VFR flights could overfly the airport without needing a clearance, with ATC keeping the IFRs away from the VFRs using ADS-B. Will that work? We'd need to test it to make sure, but one thing I do believe is that after all the argument, name-calling and cost of implementing ADS-B we'd be real mugs not to use it to the best affect we can.
The latest Australian Flying and Flightpath magazines are now available. They both make great reading and packed with all sorts of stories of aviation and aviators. A couple of publications to make your day!
May your gauges always be in the green,