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

Steve Hitchen

LMH is back after another forced sabbatical. During the last few weeks there have been many people in the aviation community checking up on me and sending their best wishes. It's been very humbling and I appreciate the encouragement I've been given and the assistance to get back to the keyboard. It is these people and their spirit that remind me why I am part of the general aviation community. To everyone that hung out for the return of LMH: here it is at last. 

Ausfly has made the strategic decision to throw-up their traditional home at Narromine and relocate to Wentworth for 2024. They've also moved out of Spring and into Autumn, joining a string of other aviation events that seek more reliable weather. According to the organisers, Wentworth is a better location because Sydney basin pilots who have been thwarted in attempts to get to Narromine by low cloud on the Great Dividing Range can now head south coastal to get around the mountains. All of that makes sense, but Ausfly is hanging its hat on weather being the only reason for poor turn-outs in previous years. Some exhibitors have described the 2023 event as "a ghost town" and that it lacked energy. The move to Wentworth should actually re-energise the event because it's a different place for people to explore that has very interesting history (get this: it was once touted as a possible capital city of Australia). For Melbourne and Adelaide pilots, Wentworth is a lot closer; not so for Sydney and Brisbane pilots. The move to Narromine has one other redeeming feature: it distances Ausfly from Flyin' for Fun, which is scheduled for Parkes only a couple of weeks later. Pilots will go to two events that close together in time, but not if they are basically in the same location. All this should give Ausfly a kick in the pants provided, as always, the organisers provide compelling reasons to go.

The GA community can almost smell Class 5 self-declared medicals. After so many years of lobbying and broken promises, it seems were are on the cusp of finally achieving a very desired goal. However, it seems what we are being offered is not exactly what we were looking for. Class 5–consultation for which has closed–lists a serious of flight activities that pilots on self-declared medicals will be barred from: aerobatics, IFR and formations are just three. But like too many things coming out of CASA, the justification for the exclusions is a bit on the nose. In some cases, CASA has proposed exclusions in dissent with its own Technical Working Group, and others have been applied even though RAAus pilots have been safely performing some of these activities for decades without the medical examination that CASA says is so important to safety. Where RAAus pilots have demonstrated safety, CASA should enable that with Class 5 based on the weight of evidence provided by RAAus. Arguments about other activities such as IFR and aerobatics are more complex, but keep in mind there are more jurisdictions around the world that permit some of these flight activities on self-declared medicals, putting them at odds with CASA. 

The Class 5 proposal is entangled with the project to give RAAus pilots access to CTA; so much so that I believe behind the walls of Aviation House that they have been considered together. With RAAus pushing for CTA, CASA was compelled to revisit their previous policy of demanding medicals in CTA. That seems to have been rescinded in the Class 5 proposal, permitting PPLs on Class 5 to access CTA. So if the CTA proposal demands medical certificates of RAAus pilots, CASA has once again created it's own regulatory contradiction. I think that's a bit much even for the rusted-on middle managers who have put up so much resistance to change in the past. In sum, if Class 5 gets up as written then CTA access for RAAus must logically follow. However, there haven't been many instances in the past when CASA has been accused of using logic. If they had, they wouldn't have applied so many exclusions to the Class 5 medical standard.

It was disappointing to hear of the departure from CASA of Rob Walker. Of all the managers at CASA, Rob was perhaps the one we needed to retain the most. That there's a controversial statement; Rob was often the face of bad news as Stakeholder Engagement Manager, but it was something he never shirked away from, and was quite capable of stating his case firmly. Behind the scenes, Rob was (still is, I presume) a GA fanatic who part-owned a Grumman Tiger. He understood that reform was needed for GA, but struggled with breaking the inertia to get things going. The last thing we need is for Rob to be replaced with someone who doesn't have a similar level of understanding of, and passion for, general aviation. As a journalist who had plenty to do with Rob, I could always trust what he said was the truth, even if it was an unpalatable one.

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May your gauges always be in the green,


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