- Steve Hitchen
I find it most interesting that everyone loves the quote "Lies, damned lies and statistics", yet although it is possibly one of the most quoted phrases in political history, no-one has ever claimed to be the originator. Mark Twain said that it was Benjamin Disraeli, but nothing has ever been found in Disraeli's papers so most people attribute it to Twain. To me it reflects the problem inherent with statistics: the world needs them but they can be interpreted so many different ways that the very same set of numbers can be used to support just about any argument. Consequently, their true value can never be established. So what are we to think now BITRE has released the 2015 aviation activity figures? For sure they show a decline in VH-registered GA hours of 2.4%, but those figure appear not to include "non-scheduled commercial air transport", which the industry tends to call "charter" (either open or FIFO) and considers an integral part of GA. The drop-off in that category is only 0.9%, which dilutes the GA decline to 2% total. That's the way BITRE has traditionally reported GA trends year-over-year. Also, the "Sport and Recreational" sector figures can be somewhat rubbery as well. Although it hints at a growth of 0.2%, closer inspection shows that the "recreational" bit has registered a 3% drop in hours. Yes, the gyro people showed growth and the vario on the glider industry's panel is making a 3.8% happy sound, but in real terms these two groups are not the future of this sector if we are measuring for economic recovery. That's RAAus, and by 2015 standards, it would appear they are in the same malaise as their VH-registered counterparts. Of course, that's the way I read the stats; you're free to make up your own lies.
Sometimes, when you're good at reading between lines, you start to understand something that you really hope you've got wrong. In the past couple of weeks, I have had a persistent thought that general aviation representation in Canberra is on the verge of being rent asunder. AOPA and AMROBA have been feeling very unloved after being left off the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel, despite the inclusion of TAAAF, of which both groups are members. It caused me to air the thought that TAAAF might not be as united as we think they are. Now it seems that itch in my brain cells may be correct. I suspect we are about to see some of the TAAAF members taking their own path of advocacy rather than allowing TAAAF to speak on their behalf. This is not good at all. The reason TAAAF was taken onto ASAP is because CASA needs that united voice to be able to consult effectively. It has been said many times before that GA is not united in what they want, and that has always provided CASA with the ammunition they needed to justify ignoring calls for reform. You've all heard the old saying "divide and conquer". It refers to dividing and conquering the enemy, not dividing your own troops in order to win the battle. Should GA advocacy divide in Canberra, winning the war for reform will become a whole lot harder. No-one wins a civil war except the common enemy.
I just love Matt Hall's attitude towards racing. In spite of an ordinary year that has him in 11th place in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, the Aussie appears to have no qualms about being prepared to lose in order to give himself the chance of winning. He managed to disqualify himself in Budapest by deliberately taking the aeroplane into a zone he didn't know much about. As a result, he exceeded the g-limit. If he got it right, he was in with a shot of a great performance, but he had to make the mistake in order to learn how to get it right. With Kazan on this weekend, you can be sure he'll be out there on the edge again as he seeks to find the performance limits of his plane. That could mean a blinder of a race for Hall, or another big lesson learnt. For sure he won't be playing it safe; he's done that before and came off second best.
May your gauges always be in the green,