– Steve Hitchen
It was a very happy team at AMDA Foundation that was able to announce yet another record crowd for RotorTech. The 2022 edition wrapped up yesterday in Brisbane having attracted 1980 people ... 100 more than last year. And they did it with no helicopters. The main armament used to get people through the door was a solid conference program for both the Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) and the Australian Association for Uncrewed Systems (AAUS), and a healthy exhibition that, albeit smaller than 2021, was nonetheless well supported. Each year this event has been larger than the previous one and the appetite for further growth is palpable. AMDA announced on Day One that RotorTech was going back to its two-year cycle and would relocate to Royal Pines at Gold Coast where the surrounding open ground would mean helicopters could return and UAVs could conduct demo flights. Going back to every two years will also put RotorTech on an alternating schedule with Avalon. As AMDA Foundation organises both, having them collide on a common year could prove a nightmare that would stretch AMDA's logistics and resources to the limit. I expect that RotorTech 2024 will be the best planned, executed and attended helicopter event in Australia. There is absolutely no reason why it won't be.
The good thing about Royal Pines, of course, is that there is space to land helicopters, unlike Western Sydney Airport. AHIA CEO Paul Tyrrell was dogged in his questioning of First Assistant Secretary Richard Wood from the department as to why WSA stands to be the only major airport in any major city in the world not to have a dedicated helipad. The answer that came back just poured more avtur onto the fire: you can always land at Bankstown or Camden. That presumes, of course, that the airspace architecture of WSA, due to be released next year, permits those two airports to remain practical. Even Sydney International–capacity problems at which are the reason WSA is being built–has a dedicated helicopter operating area. Tyrrell and the AHIA board are unlikely to let this one go through to the keeper. It's almost as if the rotary industry being excluded intentionally from WSA is an insult that AHIA is not going to take lying down. Affronts aside, failing to provide for helicopters displays poor future-proofing and a vision suffering from glaucoma. The design of WSA allows for an aircraft maintenance facility, but by "aircraft" they clearly mean "aeroplanes". Long-haired freaky helis may not apply. Unless the government intends to run those facilities themselves, they will be private operations that one day may want to diversify into tinkering with helicopters. Oh, well ... if they do they can always relocate to Camden, if it's still there.
The visibility study the ATSB conducted on the Mangalore mid-air is a real eye-opener in that it shows that open eyes sometimes are just not good enough. The underlying commentary (but not far under) is that ADS-B In hooked up to an audible warning would have given the crews enough advance warning to have avoided the crash. The ATSB notes that the last chance to avoid the accident would have been 12.5 seconds before it happened. At that time the two aircraft were just specks to each other. With an ADS-B In feed, there would have been ample warning. Proponents of the integrity of the see-and-avoid principle (including this writer) may now have to re-evaluate. And although this crash was between two IFR aircraft, the ramifications for VFR operations are perhaps even more stark. VFR pilots wouldn't have even been given traffic on each other if the rules had been obeyed strictly. I do know this for sure: do I think my ageing MkI Eyeballs are good enough technology to have avoided this accident? Not a chance ... and that is the key message the ATSB is trying to get across.
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May your gauges always be in the green,