– Steve Hitchen
I flew a Caravan. A big one. Now many pilots out there will be saying "big deal ... everyone's flown a Caravan" and they'd be largely right in their derision. However, tootling around behind an 865-shp Pratt & Whitney PT-6A turbine is not something the average Piper driver gets to do very often. They are legends of the sky and even some of Textron's representatives are surprised at how many there actually are in Australia. These kings of the short-haul RPT and freight games are magnificently suited to our country and my personal experience (all of one hour) is that they are very tolerant of pilots whose skills need a little bit of bedding in to such a powerful machine. In a 25-knot northerly, I managed a rather respectable landing at Essendon first time, which goes to show how easy they are to adapt to and how responsive they are to mug-pilot control inputs. In other words, they'll look after you whilst you're learning how to command them. Huge thank-yous go to Hawker Pacific and Textron Aviation for a great flight.
Redcliffe Airport is the latest of a growing number of airports around Australia that is falling victim to local councils. Morton Bay Regional Council has proposed new hangar lease rates that are–if the airport chamber of commerce is correct–based on commercial lease rates with no recourse to the impacts and influences of an aviation environment. Time after time, councils expose themselves as having little care or interest in aviation other than the revenue they can get from their airport. Basing hangar rates on standard commercial leases disadvantages operators because commercial leases are subject to competition; if you don't like the rates you can always go somewhere else. Not so with aviation companies; there is nowhere else to go other than an airport. Normal economic factors that prevent charges from skyrocketing are not in place, which means that airport operators are at the mercy of local councils that simply have no grasp of that. Councils are not great listeners and very often are not expert enough to make decisions on their own, leading to a waste of money and journey forward that is best described as stumbling. Yes, I am assuming that the intent of many of these councils is not to force the closure of the airport, in which case their actions amount to cunning (albeit transparent) disguises. If their intent is to close the airport, then that's a battle that's too big to sum up in one paragraph.
Senator Rex Patrick created a bit of a stir this week when he withdrew his motion to disallow the new community service flight regulations. Patrick has been a champion of CSFs since this whole thing kicked off, and is the driving force behind the senate inquiry, so it was probably right that the industry's eyes went wide when he withdrew his motion only one day before it was due to be debated. However, it looks to be a procedural thing. Patrick had both Motion 1 and Motion 2 in play, withdrawing Motion 1 and postponing Motion 2 until 16 October. Questions to the senator have not yet been replied to, but I am confident that Angel Flight's hero has not deserted them. The senate hearing is still open and the matter of the legitimacy of the data CASA used to justify the new regulations is still to be tested in the Federal Court. The latest there is that the matter has been adjourned to a date yet to be announced.
CASA's new CASR 91 Plain English Guide is progressing. I am an unashamed fan of this project and want to see CASA do it right, then spread it out to all other legislation. The issue I have at the moment is measuring whether or not they have achieved the goal of making the rules clearer. I will repeat my pet peeve: when CASA called for people to go on an expert panel to do this they demanded one of 13 qualifications, but the ability to write in plain English was not amongst them. Admittedly, the language in this draft document is certainly better than it is in the base regulation, but can it be done even simpler? Simplifying language means using the least number of words possible to convey the message. Often decried as "dumbing down" the language, plain English is actually a skill that many people don't have. My current evaluation of the CASR 91 guide is showing that there is still some officialese creeping into the document, but it might be the best we're going to get given that final approval will fall with a legal department somewhere.
AirVenture Australia, Parkes, this weekend. The weather is looking good enough to neutralise any excuses for not going and the air show and exhibition line-up is enough to satisfy anyone's aviation addiction. But, in the spirit of "be there or be square", I will be looking somewhat cube-shaped as domestic duties will keep me at home. However, Australian Flying's Senior Contributor Paul Southwick is up there with the new Vulcanair V1.0. Make time to go an have a chat with Paul and give us feedback on the magazine, aviation issues and, of course, what you think about AirVenture Australia. And what the hell, give the V1.0 a good looking over whilst you're at it.
May your gauges always be in the green,