– Steve Hitchen
It was probably inevitable that Avalon's airspace architecture would be questioned one day. Avalon can get very busy at times with inbound RPT, helicopter operations, GA transits and admittedly GA aircraft that don't quite understand the unique Class E procedures. Going to standard Class C does make things less complicated, but we need to make sure the GA community that live on the CTR fringes are accounted for. Most of those ALAs are outside the zone except Little River, which actually requires clearances to get to and from. ATC is very accommodating with ops in and out of LTR, and no-one wants to see the relationship poisoned by new procedures that make life difficult. But what does this mean for the future of E over D in Australia? The E over D configuration is common in the USA and is part of Airservices' ambitions for the future in Australia, but it has very few mates among the ATCs and regional airlines over here. Promoted in Tranche 3 of Airservices' airspace modernisation program, its impending demise over Avalon could be used as a weapon by powerful detractors to kill it dead completely.
To use a very hackneyed paraphrase, could reports of the death of Piaggio be greatly exaggerated? Gone for a lack of money just over 12 months ago, the Italian manufacturer has been granted a stay of execution thanks to a government order worth nearly €200 million. This is a great move by a government that understands the need to support local manufacture; such a contrast to the way aviation in Australia has been treated in the past 30 years. There once was a time when we built aeroplane for military use in this country. Mirages, Hornets, Canberras and even the mighty Lincoln – to this day still the largest aeroplane ever built in Australia. Now we build some parts and other bits and pieces, but the days when Australia supported its own industry with contracts are long gone. Attempts to get the government to look more closely at the value of the GA8 several years ago came to nothing, not helped by the apathy of MPs. With the bushfire disaster still plaguing Australia, I do have to wonder if a fleet of GA10s would have come in very handy in the relief efforts. So big kudos to the Italian government for saving Piaggio. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to say that to the Australian government one day.
The feedback on the ASAO MTOW proposal has the GA community abuzz as it seems a weight increase is now a fait accompli. However, there are some holes in the understanding of what is going to happen. I have encountered people who believe that they will now be able to carry 760 kg if the aircraft manufacturer says its OK. That is not the case if the aircraft was certified under LSA rules, which maintain the restriction of 600 kg. CASA's plan is to create a whole new category for the 760-kg aeroplanes, which means manufacturers would have to re-certify existing aircraft to the new category if it was originally an LSA. This, of course doesn't apply to home-builts and aircraft that are already certified to 760 kg or higher because they were never LSAs in the first place.
The loss of the Coulsen C130 Thor near Cooma this week is absolutely heart-wrenching and I suspect the condolences of the entire country go out to the families of those lost and all those that worked with the crew. It highlights the dangers of firebombing operations and how much the crews are putting on the line every time they run in. And it's not just the heavy tankers; the firespotting aircraft, lead-in aircraft and single-engine aerial tankers (SEAT) take the same risks as the crews of the large aircraft. This summer we have relied heavily on their dedication and professionalism like never before, and to lose the crew of Thor is devastating.
May your gauges always be in the green,