– Steve Hitchen
It seems we can't make changes to our airspace architecture nowadays without swamping the proposal in some form of controversy. Firstly there was the five-year debate about frequencies at ALAs, then the fiasco over the change to the coastal VFR route in Melbourne, and now the concept of Class E over a CTAF (Ayers Rock) is about to kick off in acrimony also. Class E in Australia is normally en route or installed over a Class D tower such as Avalon or Broome. Airservices' plan is to use ADS-B returns to service IFR aircraft through the E as they descend to the CTAF. The controversy at the moment is more around how the proposal has proceeded. Airservices, doesn't control the airspace design, CASA's Office of Airspace Regulation does, and normally the proposal would come from there, not from the proponent (AsA) directly. Also, AsA gave the Regional Airspace Procedures Advisory Committees (RAPACs) only four days to comment before shuffling it off to the OAR. One thing I can tell you about the RAPACs is that they get very narky when they think someone is trying to pull a dodgy move on them, and right now this is the rat they can smell. There are very strong rumours getting around that the RAPACs are likely to reject the entire proposal outright until it is re-submitted via the proper channels. As for the concept itself, it does seem to effectively ban GA and RAAus aircraft without ADS-B and transponders from scenic flights around Uluru. That won't go down well.
Pipistrel has taken another step in their Uber vehicle project by enlisting Honeywell to provide the avionics and systems for the electric VTOL aircraft. The idea of quiet, compact VTOL aircraft is causing corporations to salivate over the possibilities for new markets, but is this just another example of technology leading regulation? Once a new technology is proven, there is usually a clamour to spread it as wide as possible as soon as possible in order to recover the investment cost quickly. The brick wall there is often that regulation doesn't permit it to because the regulators are generally behind the times. It was something Mark Skidmore tried to address during his brief tenure as CASA CEO a few years ago. In the 1990s and since, it was accepted that technology for general aviation cascaded down from higher echelons such as bizjets and heavy airliners. In fact, that has reversed now. With recreational aircraft and LSAs flourishing in a low-regulation environment, companies are targetting those sectors to prove the technology then push it upstream to the higher echelons once regulation catches up. The interesting thing with VTOL development is that just about everything on them will be new technology. With virtually no regulation in place for this sector at the moment, and National Aviation Authorities (NAA) still scribbling ideas on the back of coasters, will some exciting new avionics, systems and perhaps engines flow into the low-end fixed wing markets to recoup costs before the NAA's give the entire idea of air urban mobility a green tick? I hope so; there could be some great stuff coming our way if it does.
May your gauges always be in the green,