– Steve Hitchen
Shane Carmody's corner office in Aviation House has been cleared out and his security pass turned in. No longer is he the CEO and Director of Aviation Safety at CASA. Right now, no-one is. Carmody departed on 31 December without a successor ready to move their stuff in. The man holding the reins at CASA right now is Group Executive Manager Aviation Graeme Crawford. It's not unusual for an acting DAS to be appointed in these circumstances–Carmody himself was acting DAS for eight months before getting the gig full time–but history shows the acting DAS is in the box seat to get the keys to the corner office. However, I have had many discussions with industry insiders (including some who work at Aviation House) and when it comes to ideas of who would make a good DAS, Graeme Crawford's name is yet to come up. As they do with every incoming DAS, the GA community is looking for someone to champion change, but there is some doubt about whether that's a priority for the CASA board or the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Crawford is not thought of as a change agent, but rather as defender of the status quo. That may be appealing to the board, but it is generating nervousness with the GA community.
Sudden, unexpected or just a matter of time? The collapse last month of controversial training academy Soar Aviation has many commentators taking up an "I told you so" position. Soar based its primary operations on using mainly LSAs to deliver CPL training and tertiary qualifications. Over time, complaints began to emerge about the quality of training, which led to a class action leveled by former students who said promises weren't being delivered even though money was taken. That's still to be settled by the courts, so I am not accusing anyone of wrong-doing here. The tsunami resulting from this earthquake is doubt over a system that funds CPL training for only academies and not smaller schools that offer CPL training also. Some academies conduct training in aircraft that the GA industry doesn't use (like LSAs!), so if students passing out aren't offered a seat at an airline, the GA path is a hard road for them. A CPL with 170 hours under their belt who has never landed a large single on a gravel strip is not very appealing to GA operators. More than one submission to the Future of Australia's Aviation Sector Issues Paper suggested strongly that funding be made available for traditional training to the 200-hour syllabus as well, a recommendation that I have no hesitation in endorsing.
I can still hear the twisted-syllable twang of the American pilot as he struggled to understand why he was doing another orbit trying to get into Essendon. It was a crystal clear day; he was IFR. It should have been easy, in the US it would have been easy. In Australia he had to orbit three times and was delayed at 11,000 feet. His problem was that he was GA. Sitting down the back, I was embarrased for the entire Australian aviation community. There is a perception in the world that ATC in Australia deals with GA like we are midnight mosquitos in the bedroom: pesky flying things that need to be got rid of. The tragic circumstances that resulted in the death of two people on board Mooney VH-DJU near Coffs Harbour have highlighted the problem. The pilot was refused a clearance to transit CTA because a trainee controller considered their workload was too high. According to the ATSB report, there was no risk of conflict with other traffic at the time, and the transit time for the Mooney was all of seven minutes. For some reason, the controllers weren't awake to the fact that the options provided to the pilot increased the risk of an accident, and that co-ordinating the aircraft between the Class C and Class D controllers was more work than simply issuing the clearance. There were other circumstances that contributed and ATC was not responsible for them. However, had I been conducting that flight, I would have departed presuming that a simple seven-minute transit clearance that kept me clear of cloud would have been granted.
Congratulations to all the winners of the 2020 CASA Wings Awards! With the most nominations we've ever had, it was the most competitive field since the awards began in 2013. The judging panel debated a couple of the categories right to the last minute, showing the strength and dedication of the people nominated and the passion of those that nominated. Thanks to everyone involved, but a special thanks to CASA, who came on board this year as the major sponsor of the Wings Awards as part of their efforts to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-cursed 2020.
Any pilot that doesn't have a misty-eyed story about a revered flying instructor from their past is probably a cowboy. This is the crucial role that instructors play throughout the entire career of a GA pilot, RPL, PPL, CPL and probably right up to ATPL. We never forget the wise words of a good instructor. But is flying instructor the obvious career path that it once was. In our next Australian Flying Facebook seminar, we've invited several instructors onto the panel to give us insights into their careers, the ups and downs of instructing; the highlights, lowlights and scary moments. If you have ever thought of joining the ranks of Australia's flying instructors, log onto our Facebook page at 7.00 pm on 17 February and have your questions answered by those in the know.
May your gauges always be in the green,