– Steve Hitchen
This weeks disaster near Mangalore will prove a watershed moment in general aviation in Australia. Four people died in immensely tragic circumstances that, had you asked me a week ago, I would have said was impossible. Procedures and systems in place somehow failed to prevent two aircraft carrying very experienced Grade 1 instructors from coming together outside the circuit area of an airport. Despite the input of many self-appointed experts, we really have very little idea about what unfolded, except to say that trusted safeguards failed to keep four people safe. It's the inevitable examination of those safeguards that I suspect will result in some changes to aviation in Australia. Until the ATSB releases its preliminary findings in a few weeks time, we know only that the world has lost some very good people and that simply shouldn't have happened.
It's great news that someone is planning to build electric Pipistrels in Australia. This is the sort of innovative thinking and entreprenurial courage that general aviation needs. It will bring jobs to South Australia and develop the industry's understand of electric propulsion. All of that is fantastic, but nothing succeeds in business without demand. The Alpha Electro is limited to the training market only, given that it has a range of 75 nm and an endurance of 60 mins plus the mandated 30-minute reserve. It also has a useful load of only 182 kg, so there's not a lot there for someone wanting to do cross-country work. It's a low-cost training solution, but will it be adopted in the numbers needed to make this venture a success? Recreational training is the prime market for the Alpha Electro; not such a bad hunting ground when you consider the growth rate in this area compared to private GA. So there are pillars in place to shore up the success of this venture, provided the industry is ready to adopt the technology. In business, timing can be everything, and obviously Eyre to There believes the time is now for wide-spread electric propulsion.
CASA's safety notice warning people not to stall Bristell LSAs should have taken no-one by surprise. The regulator has been focusing on stall and spin characteristics a bit of late in the lee of the ATSB findings on a DA40 crash in Queensland. Two accidents in Victoria involving Bristells appear to have been the result of failure to recover from spins. Add to that a couple of crashes overseas and that's more than enough to get CASA out of their chairs. What did surprise me is that they didn't bring out the truncheons on the Bristell the way they have for many other aircraft issues. Not that I'm complaining; so far the response has been well measured. However, CASA's attitude will probably turn darker if the manufacturer is unable to come up with evidence of proper spin testing on the design. As to whether or not there is a real issue is impossible to evaluate at the moment, given the number of times Bristells have been stalled without ending up in the mud. The story isn't over, so let's not skip to the last page too soon.
The Australian Light Aircraft Championships are on in Taree in May. Held in conjunction with the Royal Federation of Aero Clubs Australia (RFACA) training conference, the ALACs are a great fun gathering of aviators with a bit of friendly competition thrown in. It's all on this year 1-3 May and includes forced and spot landing, streamer cutting, aerobatics and formation flying. If you think your crew is up to the standard needed to be ALACs champions, get your nominations in before all the accommodation is sold out. Have a look at the RFACA website and clear some space in the club trophy cabinet.
Our latest print issue is now out. Australian Flying March-April 2020 is a wide variety of topics and interesting stuff that we've packaged together for you in one magazine. Highlighting the features is Part One of Mike Smith's epic journey from Russia to Australia in his new amphibian, a close look at what it takes to be a HEMS pilot and a Cirrus TRAC flight test. Thanks to Mike Smith, Jock Folan, Murray Gerraty, Jon Clements and Avalon Approach all of whom worked together to get us one of the great cover shots of the past 10 years. If you haven't already got this issue, what are you waiting for?
May your gauges always be in the green,