– Steve Hitchen
Forty-nine years ago today, two men named Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. It was (and probably still is) the pinnacle moment of all the world's space programs. It was a long time ago. I was six years old, and many of you reading this were probably not much older, or perhaps weren't even born. Two years before, Australia had launched its very own space mission. WRESAT blasted into orbit from Woomera Rocket Range in November 1967, and no doubt at the time was thought to be the launch not only of a satellite, but also of Australia's space industry. Nearly half a century later we are finally starting to wonder if we should get into this game. The intervening 50 years since WRESAT can be counted as lost opportunity, which Australia has really made a career out of doing. All you have to do is look at our aircraft manufacturing industry to see that ... any manufacturing industry if we're being honest. Now that the federal government has bowed to commonsense and taken steps to set up a space agency, the time is ripe for general aviation to leverage this sudden attack of awareness and show them how they are bound to continue this endless cycle of lost opportunity unless they act now to save general aviation. Further more, they'll have to spend far less doing it than they will setting up a space agency!
But it does seem that the general aviation industry is determined to force some changes after the success of the GA summit earlier this month. The trick will be to keep the energy in the effort and show the government that it's time for real change with positive outcomes rather than the political rhetoric and lip services that has made up the responses of the past. The associations seem to be on the same page as well, with many of them signing up for membership of the Australian General Aviation Alliance (AGAA). This is great news, because it signifies and ongoing determination to drive change and acceptance that the only way to do it is if the industry gets together. Never before has the old saying "united, we stand; divided, we fall" been more apt in the history of aviation in Australia. Hopefully, the substance these new members have given to AGAA will be noticed in Canberra and taken very seriously.
I read with great curiosity the letter sent to the Minister from the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). Among other things, it laments that students seem to be unprepared for airline life because they haven't been exposed to new technology enough. It is true that an airline flying career will be all glass cockpits and flight directors, but the general aviation industry regularly complains that graduates, particularly from the academies, are exposed to too much technology and don't have the steam-gauge skills required to fly the majority of the GA fleet. To me it highlights two things: the division in needs between the airline operators and the charter operators, and the schism evident in our training industry: academies (Part 142) teach to airline standards and private schools (Part 141) prepare CPLs for a career in GA. You could argue that this is a great arrangement because operators know where to go for their best fit, but there are two serious issues with that. Firstly, Part 142 schools tend to have VET FEE HELP and CRICOS and other acronym-inflicted funding programs, whereas the Part 141 schools don't get access to that as a general rule. Consequently, students with airlines in their eyes tend to take the fast route and put themselves well into debt to get it by signing up with an academy. Secondly, the airlines don't take the full output of the academies, leaving those without a seat to seek work in a GA industry they have not been adequately prepared for ... but they still have the debt. The RAeS rightly points out that the gap in needs between the airlines and GA is widening and says that professional academies are likely the answer. True enough for the airlines, but the GA world still gets left out in the cold because academies will tailor their training to their prime market, which is young people aiming to fly Embraers, Boeings and Airbuses, not Pipers and Cessnas. That issue is still to be dealt with.
Submissions for the 2018 Wings Awards are now closed. The job is now up to the judging panel to sift through the nominations and identify the best submissions in each category. At first glance, we have a job on our hands, particularly when it comes to the individual people, because some of the most well-known names in the aviation industry have been nominated, and selection of the winner is often down to how well the nominator addressed the criteria. We're due to make the results public in the November-December issue of Australian Flying, which is a good thing because it gives the judging panel plenty of time to consider each one carefully.
May your gauges always be in the green,