– Steve Hitchen
Minister for Transport, Infrastructure, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King last week issued CASA with her list of expectations for the next two years. The Statement of Expectations is a legislative document that CASA is obliged to comply with; anything in there is not negotiable; most of the negotiating would have been done before the first draft. If you thumb through it, you'll develop the impression–as I did–that this minister expects similar things of CASA that the previous minister did ... right down to the Key Initiatives, which I would argue can't be initiatives at all if they were initiated previously. You can only initiate something once. There are some minor differences in language and the occasional new expectation that weren't in the 2022 SoE, but largely it's the same. Except for one stand-out: the requirement for CASA to co-operate with the white paper process. That was to be expected; the white paper is concreted into ALP policy and all agencies–Airservices and the ATSB included–will be required to contribute as experts in the aviation field. Whether or not the white paper reflects any of that expertise when it is published can't be answered yet. The same goes for the experts within the aviation community. The last white paper ignored the expert input to the extent that the white paper and the preceding green paper were totally unrelated to each other. It's one thing to expect co-operation, but when it comes your way you really are obliged to take note of it.
Aviation people who understand what the MOSAIC project means are very excited right now. They know that this could be the watershed moment that propels general aviation in Australia into a prosperous future. MOSAIC is the FAA's program to redefine Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) to take advantage of technology developed over the past 20 years. It paints a picture of new aircraft build to fly at 1360 kg with retractable gear and turbine engines that don't need to be type-certified. This is a complete removal of the onerous and costly requirements for type certification under FAR Part 23. It comes after 20 years of proof that the LSA category is safe and efficient. MOSAIC unlocks a lot of potential, but it is very easy for people to misunderstand. Firstly, it doesn't mean that your LSA can suddenly be flown at 1360 kg; the factory limitations will still apply. Secondly, it doesn't mean that you can re-register your Piper Warrior as an LSA just because you want to. It is still a type-certified aeroplane. Thirdly, it doesn't mean that RAAus automatically gets an MTOW increase to 1360 kg. Under the ASAO rules, RAAus will still be limited to 760 kg. For RAAus to take advantage of the new LSA definition, CASA has to be happy to increase their upper MTOW limit again. That may never happen. An LSA can be registered with CASA as well, so we could find ourselves in a situation where LSAs over 760 kg may need to be on the VH register and not with RAAus. That could all change a few years downrange from now, which is the most exciting bit about all this: the potential for revolution within GA that we haven't seen in 40 years.
The Federal Government has been meeting with the UK over the Jet Zero Council, an idea that mimics something similar set up in the UK three years ago. Given that, and the net-zero ambitions for 2050, it's no surprise that both countries have shared ambitions. However, I see a bigger one here: the UK could become a very good customer of ours if we come up with a desirable product. Key to net zero is the widespread adoption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and for that you also need the widespread manufacture of SAF. The world's inability to produce SAF in serious volumes is holding back the industry, but it's a problem for which Australia could be a potential solution. SAF manufacture relies on space and sun, two things the UK is not flush with that we have on our side. If the Australian government's Jet Zero Council and $30 million investment in a local industry are successful, Australia could be a major supplier of SAF to the UK. I'd almost bet the idea was bought up at those meetings, even if only fleetingly.
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May your gauges always be in the green,