– Steve Hitchen
A home-grown sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry is very important to the future of aviation in Australia, so you have to hand some flowers to the federal government for announcing a grant program and for establishing the Australian Jet Zero Council to get things moving along. SAF production takes space and sunshine to grow feedstocks such as canola, which are two of Australia's greatest natural assets. We should be able to leverage that to ensure a reliable, economic supply of SAF for ourselves rather than rely on importing from an international market that is having trouble keeping up with its own demand. But keep in mind SAF is not a stand-alone answer; it is likely to form a blend with traditional fossil fuels as the jet fuel of the future. That means Jet-A1 is not dead yet and will be around for some time for engines not approved for SAF. How all that is going to work, plus other net-zero initiatives, are now the domain of the Jet Zero Council. This is a collective of the major players in the aviation industry designed to guide aviation into its future. They have a critical job to do, so let's hope they can work well together and not in the fractured way that so many aviation panels have done in the past.
Problems can sometimes arise not with what was said, but in the way it was said. This week AOPA CEO Ben Morgan had a confrontation with CASA Principal Medical Officer Kate Manderson over standards for self-declared medicals. CASA is asking for an arbitrary MTOW limit to be set for the Class 5 medical, but Morgan stated that limits needed to be evidence- and risk-based. Things got heated and, according to Morgan, he told Manderson to "shove her technical working group". Regardless of whether or not an arbitrary limit is the way to go, this sort of approach to advocacy shows a deep level of frustration within Morgan, but it's doubtful that comments like this are consistent with the way pilots would like to be represented. A bridge the size of Westgate has been burnt here, meaning AOPA is currently on the advocacy outer, which may flow on to other working groups outside of CASA as well. Now that's has been said, was Ben Morgan right? Setting arbitrary limits without evidence of the risk is not the way the industry wants their regulator to operate; we want regulation based on clear and present risk in all cases. But in this case, and MTOW limit of, say, 2000 kg may be the only way we can move forward. CASA is a risk-averse organisation with strong political undertones, so for them the best way forward would be to change nothing. An arbitrary MTOW might very well be the easy way out, but it could be that the hard way out is never going to fly with CASA management. A good plan might be to set a reasonable arbitrary limit now, then spend a couple of years collecting data that justifies the removal of that limit later on. There is some support that this method works when you look at the RAAus MTOW limit and the stall speed limit for ASAOs. This issue has been going on for far too long, and now it's time to get it done, easy way or hard way.
Piaggio Aerospace administrators this week announced they were fielding 18 new suitors to buy the company. In January last year they rejected a short list of five and elected to go back to the market. In the meantime there have been significant new orders that will be very attractive to prospective new owners. Contrast that with Australia's GippsAero, which also has companies queuing before Mahindra with open cheque books, but no sale appears even close despite the Indian parent expressing a wish to get out. Why? Because there are no big Piaggio-style orders to boost the value of the company to a level Mahindra wants to fetch for it. And that's not a reflection on the company or the aircraft, but rather Mahindra's foolish decision to close the order books. None of this is news, but we are now nearly two years downrange of production ceasing, and you have to wonder how much longer Mahindra is going to cling to a company that is no longer part of their core business simply because pride dictates. Surely something has to give soon.
July-August Australian Flying is latest issue to hit the streets and add to your collection. This time we've presented two new aeroplanes in the Tecnam P-Mentor and Pipistrel Alpha Electro II. We've also examined wind shear, aviation's best books, biplanes and presented an interview with up-coming air show ace Jett Bennett. If you aren't one step ahead of us and already have it, get to your newsagent and grab a copy soonest.
May your gauges always be in the green,