– Steve Hitchen
Things were quiet in GA this week, particularly when it comes to news out of the manufacturers. That's not abnormal for the week leading up to AirVenture at Oshkosh. The biggest aviation party in the world starts next week, and as an aeroplane builder and exhibitor you want some announcements in reserve as bait to attract people to your stand. Expect quite a bit of news on that front next week. But for me the biggest announcement won't come from a manufacturer. The GA industry in the USA is expecting the FAA to release the draft MOSAIC regulations before the close of AirVenture. This is a program called the Modernisation of Special Airworthiness Certification, and it aims to transform what we now call Light Sport Aircraft into something infinitely more practical that removes barriers to modern technology. So far the FAA's thinking on MOSAIC has been locked away, but some leaks talk about removing the MTOW limit, permitting turbine engines and retractable landing gear, and for the USA, no speed restrictions. MOSAIC is not intended as a vehicle to re-certify existing aeroplanes, but rather to expand the scope of what manufacturers can build without resorting to full CS/FAR 23 certification. For example, MOSAIC would enable aircraft builders to design for the new RAAus Category G, which has an MTOW limit of 760 kg. The potential for new and safer designs is huge. The basis behind MOSAIC is that almost anything goes provided the aircraft complies with a formula that ensures the aircraft handling meets a define level of docility. Exactly what that looks like is what interests GA at the moment.
This week's interim report into women in aviation is particularly damning for men in aviation. The Barriers to the Pipeline report effectively says that aviation still has a "boys' club" mentality driven by sexism and misogyny that women just don't want to be a part of. There is no escaping that this is an indictment of a culture created and maintained by men. The most disappointing part is that a large part of culture is attitude, and it is therefore attitude that is keeping very valuable people out of aviation at a time that we need them the most. As the industry digests this report, I am expecting to be inundated by a deluge of different opinions on this report and its conclusion, albeit interim. Men will often say there are no barriers to women because anyone can learn to fly, but this reflects a misunderstanding of the environments that women thrive in. They thrive in cultures that give them freedom to challenge themselves without their gender being constantly an issue. According to the report women are expected to give up their feminism in order to get along, i.e., remove the issue of their gender by behaving more like "one of the boys". The reason why men want women to behave more like them is a most perplexing one, and any attempt by me to explain will only add to the coming deluge of opinion. At the core of it all could be conservatism, it could be power, it could be fear. Or it could be because of a culture that just can't extract itself from the 1930s, a time when misogyny was considered normal rather than an abberration. The last vestiges of evidence that women can fly as well as men were proven fraudulent years ago, but the culture in which that was framed perpetuates. The change that is needed to fix this problem is actually larger than the problem itself, and it's time everyone in aviation recognised that.
Last week I sounded off at the CASA OAR about their decision to do pretty much nothing about traffic density problems at Mangalore. Despite them handling some awkward questions from me, I am still not convinced that the recommendations of education and adding some symbols to charts is any form of solution. In my research I was delivered an example of a simple solution that could go a long way towards increasing safety: a VFR transit lane. Right now, transiting aircraft fly overhead the airport where ab initio training and VOR training is prevalent. In our navigation training, we are taught to fly via airports because they are prominent landmarks and provide refuge from weather and a failing engine. But in the case of Mangalore the traffic density means overhead the field is not necessariy a safe place. A transit lane set up that directed traffic to either the east or west of the field would at least relocate that traffic to a point away from those aircraft that actually need to use the airport. It's a simple thing that could bring about a large increase in safety. Certain I believe it would have more value than a seminar.
May your gauges always be in the green,