– Steve Hitchen

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday introduced a bill to parliament to amend the Civil Aviation Act 1988 so that CASA is bound to take cost into account. In doing so, he simultaneously won friends in the GA sector and made a mockery out of me because I predicted he wouldn't do it before the Federal Election. So, kudos to the minister, who has actually done exactly what he said he would do: enshrine parts of the Statement of Expectations in the Act, but not remove the primacy of safety. It is that second bit that hobbles the whole thing. The heart of the push for the Act change was to stop CASA from introducing onerous regulations that cost thousands of dollars to comply with and hiding behind the shield of "safety" when asked to justify. Unfortunately, the government has allowed CASA to keep its shield, and so the change to the Act is likely to achieve approximately zero. And once the minister introduced and commended the bill, it was immediately adjourned to the next sitting, which, if the calendar is true to form, is 2 April. That day may ring bells, the PM moved the budget to that day in order to clear space for a Federal Election in May. I get the feeling that debate on the Civil Aviation Act might be severely curtailed in order to spend more time espousing the budget.

CASA's new Community Service Flight (CSF) restrictions took a couple of body-blows this week when the Centre Alliance moved to disallow them. This needed to be done; the new regs are, unfortunately, junk regulation. When regulations that are written to address a particular issue actually fail to prevent a re-occurence of the issue, it is fair that the regulated start asking why. Obviously it is not to address any existing problem, because the rules don't do that, so what is the purpose behind them? And when there is a charity involved that does so much good work for the regions, it is a free kick to the opposition or the cross-benchers to rise against them. However, motions of disallowance have to be carried to have effect, so the issue is by no means dead in the water. We can only hope that our politicians see reason and throw their support behind groups like Angel Flight so they can continue their good work for the community unburdened. Senator Patrick inferred that CASA might be in for some rockets when they fronted Senate Estimates on Monday, but in that session CASA was released and called to re-appear at 4.30 pm this afternoon. There might be some fireworks happening then, although at the time of writing the program is (as usual) behind schedule.

Peninsula Aero Club and Paul Bennet Airshows have hit on a fantastic idea: Australia's own STOL championships. Pilots who own aircraft that are particularly good at short take-offs and landings tend to be very proud and precious of their aircraft's ability, and turning that into a good-natured competition should be very entertaining for all. For years we've watched videos from Oshkosh or Valdez as high-powered, light-framed aircraft have demonstrated remarkable ability. Technology and technique have now been honed to the point that there is almost no need for a runway at all! Over here we have our fair share of bush aircraft and LSAs that can almost take-off or land on the cover of ERSA, so it will be great to see them in action at Tyabb this April.

Avalon 2019 is all but here. With the finishing bits and pieces falling into place this weekend, the aviation industry bumps-in on Monday all ready for the first punters to walk through the gates on Tuesday morning. The expo is sold out, the flying program full to the brim and the weather is looking very co-operative: not a drop of rain in the forecast for the next seven days. There's not a lot more could be done to ensure the success of the show. Everything you need to know about the show, the expo and flying in is on the Australian International Airshow website, so make sure you spend some time getting familiar with it all. And don't forget there is an AIP SUP out there for the arrivals and departures at Avalon East. That's a gotta-have on your minimum equipment list if you're flying in.

May your gauges always be in the green,




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