– Steve Hitchen
I have come to understand that when CASA releases new regulations it is not necessarily the end of the matter. Part 61 needed a lot of post-implementation work; Part 66 has been under review for over a year. Even with the medicals reforms instituted in July, CASA has left wriggle room for further reform to take place. Yes, things like IFR, aerobatics and formations may be part of the Basic Class 2 in the future, but right now we've got what we've got. I have also come to understand there are several reasons for this phenomenon. Initially it was a culture of bloody-mindedness at CASA that dumped junk regulation on the industry that then became completely unworkable (Part 61), but in some cases CASA has wanted to avoid mass change by making progressive small changes that are easier to handle. This, I suspect is the case with the medical reforms. The latest set of regulations that govern the charter and small RPT industry are likely to be also heavily modified post-implementation because the industry is already saying the drafts are unworkable. The last thing we need is for another regulation to be thrust on general aviation only to have to spend time and money beating it into a shape that it should have been in the first place. It would be a huge step forward in the relationship between CASA and the industry if CASA was to present the NFRM in a form that is immediately workable.
CASA's VFR ADS-B proposal is likely also to change shape if it is implemented as written. Firstly, CASA needs to be commended for pursuing a great idea that has a lot going for it. ADS-B is proving its mettle as a separation tool, and if we're honest, the controversy that has dogged the program from the start was never really about the technology as it was about the way it was going to be implemented. However, a certified ADS-B system is costly, but if you combine it with an IFR panel upgrade you can justify the expense because of the other added capability a new system brings. If you're not IFR, it's harder to justify the expense, and given there's no fitment mandate for VFR, why would you bother with it? Having a low-cost system available for VFR is a carrot that aircraft owners might find appealing enough to join the ADS-B revolution and therefore increase overall surveillance. But why not CTA in type-certified aeroplanes? Again, much like the medicals, there seems to be a double standard being applied. Low-cost ADS-B in home-builts and LSAs will be permitted to beep away like a gecko on heat in CTA, but those fitted to a type-certified aircraft may have to be turned off to enter CTA. It seems, in this case, CASA has declared that no ADS-B is better than some ADS-B. Having said that, this is probably not a reason to delay getting this important reform in place soonest, but I can see the matter will have to be addressed shortly afterwards.
This week marks a watershed moment in GA politics in Australia. It is the week that all pretence of no rift between AOPA and RAAus was washed away with the tide. AOPA CEO Ben Morgan is incensed that RAAus reportedly stood up at Cessnock yesterday and openly declared to their membership that not only are they chasing a weight increase for self-administration, but also have desires on aerobatics, helicopters and multi-engined aircraft as well. In Morgan's own words, if this is RAAus' intent, the gloves are well and truly off. According to unconfirmed reports, RAAus also stated that costs of self-administration were going up, so the organisation had not option but to find more members to increase the cash flow, or start charging more money. The obvious answer is always to find more members, but from where do they get them? Their best tactic is to draw them from GA, which they will be hoping to do via an increase in weight limit and other GA privileges RAAus will be hoping to duplicate in their self-administered environment. That's what has AOPA so narky: a flow away from GA to RAAus doesn't help the GA community that AOPA has branded itself the champions of. To his credit, Morgan openly stated that he would have expected nothing less from an incorporated business that needs to increase its cash flow. It seems no matter which way you slice the pie, it's not getting any larger, which is actually what both GA and RAAus need to happen.
Last week I found a large stick and poked a big bear with it, even though at the time I thought the bear was a baby panda. I ventured to ask who really best represents the interests of general aviation in Canberra. That sparked a response that perhaps I was out of touch, with critics saying that there was more to general aviation than just AOPA, RAAus, TAAAF and other representative groups. Most confusing for me is that I never limited GA representation to those groups. However, these are the three that have positioned themselves as the leaders of the industry, and it is around those three that I posed my question. So, in the spirit of "the leader is the one most people follow", I have created an on-line survey to find out what the GA community has to say about the matter. This survey is open to anyone in GA, not just the adherents and critics of any of the three groups involved; if you considered yourself part of GA, we want to get your input. And I have thrown in a couple of questions about how Australian Flying handles the politics of GA as well. Our magazine and website are primarily there to nuture and encourage pilots and I recognise that political reporting not only fails to do that, but can actually be a bit of a deterrent to those that just want to fly. Get on our survey here.
Disappointing news this week that Aviatex 2018 has been canceled. This was a general aviation expo scheduled for Bankstown in November, having been relocated from Albion Park where it has been previously incorporated with Wings over Illawarra. The reason for the cancelation is a bit vague, but I hope to have more news on this soon. Bright Events have said they have plans for Aviatex 2019.
Rumours flowing out of the "Parrot Party" in Tamworth are encouraging for people hoping to pick-up an ex-BAe CT-4. With the farewell to the venerable Plastic Parrot that has been in service for over 40 years in full swing, it has become apparent that not all the CT-4s are destined for the dustbin. Spar-life limits were thought to have killed-off the species, but if my contacts are correct, there are some left up in Tamworth that will be sold into civilian service. That's a real fillip for the warbird community. The CT-4 was originally greeted by the RAAF with some derision when it replaced the CAC Winjeel in the basic training role; hence the name Plastic Parrot. The "parrot" bit came from their original yellow and green livery, and "plastic" because they were seen as less robust than the Winjeel they replaced. Over the years the Parrot proved its worth, but now has to make way for the PC-21 turbine. Here's hoping the rumours are true; it would be good to see the civil Parrot population bolstered.
May your gauges always be in the green,