– Steve Hitchen
The aviation industry's collective MAYDAY call to the Federal Government last week has been a long time coming; perhaps too long. With COVID restrictions damaging the health of cash flows and viability, the industry has pleaded for help to stay alive and continue their support of the larger aviation infrastructure. So far, all government responses point to the $1.3 billion package of largesse the minister doled out early in the year as if that should be enough to save the industry. That, of course, ignores the limitations of the package, which has advantaged few and certainly is not worth even close to $1.3 billion in real terms. The package has become a shield for the minister to hide behind. But there is something more in the industry letter that is not represented by words on pages: unity. With airlines, flying schools, MROs and assocations all putting their names to the call, it reveals, finally, some recognition that general aviation is a keystone of the wider aviation industry in Australia. Without GA, Australian airlines would have to source their pilots from overseas, fuel companies would suffer from a major loss of revenue, as would airports, avionics houses, engineers and even the regulators. This is a concept that has either somehow managed to escape the Federal Government or been left to gather dust on a shelf marked "inconvenient truths". It would be a shame if the unity displayed in this letter extended no further. My first reaction on reading the list of signatory organisations that this could form the genesis of a decent industry association, one that could deliver a greater punch that other representative groups that have, by the narrowness of their focus, catalysed a splintering of general aviation in Australia.
And speaking of which ...
You have to applaud the chutzpah of the SAAA in their submission to the senate RRAT inquiry into general aviation. Their officially stated position can be summarised as saying that ASAOs, particularly RAAus, shouldn't be allowed to exist as self-administering organisations. I say particularly RAAus because the submission does focus a lot on CAO 95.55, which pertains solely to them. Despite their underpinning reason as a need to reduce complexity, a ring around today has found some sympathy, but little agreement. There isn't a lot of support for one association telling others that they should have to surrender their freedoms and raison d'etre. Consequently, the SAAA could find themselves somewhat isolated at the barricade. Sympathy may be absent, but empathy not necessarily. The submission also contains a statement that the SAAA doesn't believe RAAus should get their new 750-kg MTOW limit. This move could be forcing the SAAA to fight for their existence, given that pilots of home-built, two-seat aircraft up to that limit will soon have the option to forego SAAA membership and sign-up with RAAus under the 19-reg category. With that comes lesser medical standards, lesser training standard, lesser maintenance standards. The potential for a membership drain from SAAA to RAAus is too serious to be ignored. This is not the first time SAAA has vocally fought for equal rights for their members, but it is an escalation in the battle.
The time has come, the Walrus said, to think of ASIC things ... And for many aviators that time comes around every two years. I received my "renew or surrender" note from my ASIC provider just yesterday and as always it has me considering my position. Do renew, or simply fall back on the AVID? The AVID is mandatory if you don't have an ASIC, and gets you access to absolutely nothing. However, it's a lot cheaper than an ASIC ($126 compared to $250+) and the hoops are less onerous. What many of us battle with is the philosophy: the ASIC has very little value in real terms because it fails to perform its core task of increasing security at airports. Therefore, why should we pay for something that actually does nothing? Yes, that argument can also be applied to the ASIC, but if you're going to pay for nothing, it's always best to pay as little as you can. In my position, I often need tarmac access to regional airports for testing aeroplanes and taking photos. I still need permission to be there (ASIC is not a guarantee of access), so for me the answer to the conundrum is clearer. That's no comfort to the many PPLs slugged by this white elephant. Even worse is that the Department of Home Affairs has not offered any COVID extensions even though large numbers of pilots have been unable to fly or use regional airports due to restrictions.
You have one more month to get your 2020 CASA Wings Awards nomination finalised and submitted. COVID-19 has dictated the program run a few months behind previous years, so there won't be any extensions to the 4 November deadline. Some people have asked about the lack of activity this year and how it might effect nominations. Remember, we opened the nominations in May, which means your submission needs to be around the May 2019 – May 2020 period. There was still plenty of action in the GA community up until the unwelcome arrived of the coronavirus in March 2020, so keep your focus on what your group/company/individual did in that period and don't worry about the enforced inaction. You weren't Robinson Crusoe.
May your gauges always be in the green,