– Steve Hitchen
Do not adjust your sets, this is in fact Monday. Last Friday we had a technical glitch in the Sydney office that prevented the weekly newsletter from going out, so we postponed it until today. Apologies to all those that may have been wondering what happened ... we are still sort of wondering ourselves!
The Federal Government released their manifesto Planning for Australia's Future Population last week, a large part of which is effectively a policy of investing in the regions to restrict the relentless march of capital-city suburbia. It talks about new roads, new rail infrastructure and jobs growth among many things. Out of curiosity, I searched the document using the term "aviation" and got NO RESULTS FOUND. Searching again under "airports" found reference to Western Sydney, a rail connection to Tullamarine, and Hobart Airport. That's it. Our industry and community gets no other mention in this tome, which can be taken squarely as a pitch for votes in the May election. Such scant mention of aviation in a policy that boasts about "better connecting regional Australia" tells the aviation community exactly where we stand: nowhere. Despite the rhetoric of successive ministers it is clear the government believes aviation plays no part in the future of Australia other than as gateways to and from the capital cities. How can a serious government honestly believe it can connect regional cities by ignoring the most efficient way of doing it? It is a depressing norm that aviation always gets the rhetoric, but not the action. This time we've even been excluded from the rhetoric, an effect of not representing enough votes to make politicians sweat at night.
Perhaps the goverment would have done well to consider Ken Cannane's position on jobs in the regions. The head of AMROBA last week outlined how he believes regulation is stifling the industry's potential to generate jobs. His plan is allow small operators in flight training and maintenance to function without having to abide by the heavy regulations that load so much cost onto businesses without returning even a reasonable increase in safety. According to Cannane, the industry decline co-incides with the death of the Department of Aviation and the rise of the Civil Aviation Authority and the CARs in 1988. The CAA became CASA in 1996, which it does appear only exacerbated the problem. In short, not all the functions and responsibilities of the DoA were picked up by either CASA or Airservices Australia. One of these was simply looking after an industry that reported employs 200,000 people in this country. Cannane is a firm believer in the concept of independent flying instructors and LAMEs as a way of taking general aviation back to the regional airports and therefore catalysing the process that turns small into medium and results in the very jobs the government says it wants to generate.
Angel Flight suffered a bit of check last week in its bid to thwart CASA's new regulations on community service flights (CSF). The Federal Court in Victoria ruled against their application to stay the new rules, which means they are now in effect. Angel Flight's battle is not lost though. They still have the option to argue in the courts that CASA didn't actually have the right to make the rules they've made, which was an argument put forward from the very beginning. On top of that, Senator Rex Patrick has promised to move a motion of disallowance when the senate sits again in April. My fear for all of this is that the collateral damage caused by such a passionate fight has wound back the clock to a time when CASA and the aviation community basically had no co-operative relationship at all. Good steps have been made since the Stakeholder Engagement Group was founded and consultation has certainly increased with the advent of the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), but any good will from those initiatives stands to be wiped-out as the aviation community sees the new CSF rules as the old CASA rising up from the ground and smiting Angel Flight with unjustified regulation exactly the way they used to.
There's been some changes to the editorial team at Australian Flying. Our Senior Contributor Kreisha Ballantyne has returned to AOPA Australia as the on-line editor, a position that will place demands on her time such that she will have to wind back her involvement with Australian Flying. However, she will not completely disappear; Kree will still be writing articles on a purely freelance basis, and we have plans for something more regular for her. You'll have to wait and see what that is. So we welcome a new Senior Contributor: Paul Southwick. Paul is best known as the former editor of Australian Pilot. With that contract at an end, Paul has returned to Australian Flying, where he wrote seveal features a few years ago. Paul brings a lot of experience with him, plus a passion for new types, so you can expect to see some very interesting aeroplane reviews coming up in the future.
May your gauges always be in the green,