– Steve Hitchen
Mahindra Aerospace virtually saved GippsAero in 2010 when they bought a controlling share. The company was in need of cash for development and the GFC had evaporated most streams of financial support. The new Indian parent immediately announced a cash injection of $20 million, which enabled GippsAero to get cracking on the GA10 and start dreaming of Nomads. But Mahindra & Mahindra is a giant corporation and almost immediately applied giant corporation thinking to an artisan industry where it simply didn't fit. When you're turning out only two aircraft per month, each unit being effectively hand-made, the management systems and profit expectations derived from high-volume production such as automobiles has no place. Now, 10 years later, industry rumours–backed by flagging shipment figures–are indicating Mahindra wants out. How they do that will depend upon what their exit strategy is. They can sell the company for what they can get for it, or they can destroy it by selling off all the non-current assets, like tooling jigs and other production items. I have heard of at least three companies that are sniffing around GippsAero, but the word is they don't like the smell of Mahindra's asking price. If a deal can't be done, the parent is likely to adopt the second option, which will be both a travesty and a tragedy for Australian aircraft manufacture. One things has remained a constant: the Airvan 8 is damned fine aircraft that has a place in the general aviation right across the globe. If production ceases it won't be for a want of customers, but because of a lack of corporate courage.
The stall/spin characteristics of BRM Aero's Bristell LSA is one of the most controversial topics in GA in Australia. CASA has been threatening to ban the aircraft from spinning because they say they don't have sufficient evidence that the aircraft complies with the ASTM rules for LSAs. Apparently the spin test results and the manufacturers statement of compliance–which is required under LSA rules–is not enough evidence. What other evidence can there be? Countering that, CASA is pointing at several crashes and a somewhat mysterious local test as proof the aircraft doesn't comply ... which is a statement not included in the local test results and not listed as a contributing factor by the ATSB in two of the accidents. At the time of writing, the issue has not been resolved and people representing the manufacturer BRM Aero are saying that CASA has become unresponsive. For those that have had to battle CASA, that might be sounding awfully familiar: demand more information then shut-up shop when the information arrives and continue to blame the other party. Regardless of what you think of the stall/spin characteristics of the Bristell, CASA's handling of the issue has once again been poor and unprofessional. It's an LSA. It either complies or it doesn't comply. How hard should that be to work out.
Moorabbin Airport Corporation (MAC) has started the process of clearing aviation businesses out of the western end of the Northern Apron for make way for commercial non-aviation development. This is not sudden; it was outlined in the 2015 Master Plan and allowed for in leases. Goodman-owned MAC is in the business of making money out of the airport and they clearly would prefer non-aviation money over aviation money. The aviation businesses marked for eviction have nowhere else to go because MAC has not given them options. It's a case of get off my airport. Full stop. Aviation companies are not like most businesses: they need to operate on airports and if airports won't let them do that then they have no option but to close. If aviation businesses close, then aviation activity wanes. Non-aviation businesses don't have to be on an airport to operate; they can do that from any industrial estate. To add to the woes, several of the evicted companies own the hangars, which means they are obliged to pay for dismantling the buildings and rehabilitating the sites at a time when their cash flow has dried up because they've been forced out of business. Commerical non-aviation development should be restricted to the parts of the airport that aviation doesn't need and MAC simply should not be allowed to bulldoze infrastructure in the form of a taxiway that they themselves are leasing from the public.
How are you going with your Wings Awards nomination? There's still plenty of time left, but we have already been looking over some very strong submissions. The field will be a large one this year, but every category is still wide open. If you're still working on yours, don't forget to make sure you address the criteria for your category and fill in all the fields. Our online nomination system seems to be making it all a lot easier. Check it all out on the Australian Flying website.
May your gauges always be in the green,