• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

– Steve Hitchen

Textron Aviation announced this week that it was swinging the new Denali single-engined turbo-prop from the Cessna brand to the Beechcraft brand. The aircraft won't be changing at all except to have a stylised B on the side, but the move does add a joining link to the brand loyalty chain for Beechcraft. In the same way that Cirrus produced the SF50 to allow loyal customers to stick with the brand, the Denali will give Bonanza owners the opportunity to advance their flying without having to switch loyalties. But even so, the Denali is not really the next step beyond a high-speed single the way the Vision Jet, TBM 940 or Piper M600 are. The Denali is comparable to a Pilatus PC-12, making the gap back to the G36 quite substantial. The move could also inject some energy into the Beechcraft brand, which has been struggling below the King Air level for several years now. Whilst Cirrus are run off their feet averaging around 300 shipment per year for the SR22 and 22T since 2017, Beechcraft have sold only 47 Bonanzas since then. With no chance of hauling back the gap to Cirrus with the Bonanza, Textron will be hoping the Denali, when it comes, can swing some light back onto the Beechcraft name.

Regional airports around Australia could all use a cash hand-out, so those that have been successful in the latest round of the Regional Airports Program (RAP) will not be complaining too loudly when the Federal Government's cheques are cashed. The RAP second round closed last December and so far very few announcements have been made. To be exact, four have been made. Last night, Armidale, Inverell, Quirindi and Tamworth were revealed as the latest beneficiaries of federal funding. If those airports seem close togther, you're getting warm. They're all in the federal electorate of New England, for which the sitting member is Barnaby Joyce ... the very bloke that controls the RAP purse strings. That explains why these four airports were singled out for a special announcement when other successful candidates are still under wraps. At the risk of stuffing a pillow into the mouth of the gift horse, making the announcemnet this way does nothing to quell accusations of porkbarrelling, which have been getting very loud since the whole carparks scandal broke. These airport are in need of as much funding as they can get, but don't need the negative light that comes with such controversy.

Yes, I was surprised to be informed that a new rotary aviation association was being formed to cover all rotorcraft in Australia and New Zealand. The term "rotorcraft" has come to mean helicopters, drones and tilt-rotors, all of which is some way or another compete for shoulder room in the low-level airspace. The Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) was in the throes of morphing into something more that just helicopters; reaching out to embrace UAVs and tilt-rotors in acknowledgement that all operators have an interest in a healthy, collaborative industry. So to me, the formation of the Rotorcraft Asia Pacific Business Association (RAPBA) is doubling up. It is true that RAPBA will extend across the Tasman to NZ as well, but the New Zealand Helicopter Association (NZHA) has been serving that market well. So the reason for a new rotorcraft association that will give members something that existing associations can't is not so clear. RAPBA, however, is the child of CEO and Convenor Rob Rich, who was also the driving force behind the resurrection of a helicopter association in Australia when he got AHIA up and running, so he has the industry background and street cred to get this right. I will watch on with great interest.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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