– Steve Hitchen
Formation flying is a thing all of its own. It's part science, part sport and part artwork. It's training, discipline, planning and practice all coming together to create something that is pretty amazing when you think about it in detail. It's also brillant fun and one of the most satisfying things you'll ever do with an aeroplane. Yesterday, Anzac Day, is one day of the year when we use our skills for the good of the community. On 25 April ever year, hundreds of pilots take part in cenotaph fly-pasts. Flying schools, aero clubs, the ADF, antiquers and warbirders all put in to create fantastic tributes to those who served and those who sacrificed. My part this year was as Number Five in a formation of nine doing two passes over cenotaphs in Melbourne' south east. We staged out of Moorabbin, which was challenging enough for us in a circuit filled with trainers, but it must have been very tricky for the tower. Sequencing nine aircraft departing and arriving together gave them some moments, but they did a great job in the end, driven by a desire to do their parts in the tribute as well. They even managed to slot in our pass through the zone against the flow of the circuit and onto the runway on the opposite side of the field. To Moorabbin Tower I say thank you and well done.
What has changed since NAS 2c? This was the National Airspace System introduced in the early 2000s, with the 2c part calling for Class E airspace over the top of Class D towers. It fell in a heap because the regional airlines weren't happy with their pilots and aeroplanes being forced to descend through Class E; airspace for which VFR flights don't need a clearance. Now Airservices Australia is going back down the same path with Tranche 3 of their Airspace Modernisation Program, this time with ADS-B as a justifying weapon. But is that enough to win the hearts and minds of the regionals? Even will ADS-B and the increased surveillance it has brought, pilots of Q400s and SAAB 340s have never been keen on having to watch for VFR traffic when letting down to a regional airport. Class C has always given them protection through airways clearances for VFR aircraft and they may now see this as having that safety net removed. I expect that the regional airline experiences with ADS-B since implementation will have a large impact on the feedback the regionals give Airservices on Tranche 3.
It's all quiet at the moment as the gravitational pull of the Federal Election starts to take effect. Lobbyists and activist are all scrambling to have their voices heard, whilst trying to convince candidates that they have the power to influence voting decisions. The only outcomes are promises designed to placate the angry and convert swinging voters to the cause. Over the years, general aviation has struggled to be noticed as the traditional vote cows–health, education, jobs, climate change, economic management, border security–grab all the effort in election campaigns. This time three years ago general aviation was in a precarious position and we were looking to a fresh start at federal level to give us momentum. Since then there has been quite a bit of optimism that has withered on the vine because–despite the best efforts of some people–not a hell of a lot has actually been achieved; the momentum, it would appear, was false energy. A very talented man once said that confidence is born of history. If that's true, then GA probably has no such justification for believing the next parliament will change anything. Pessimism is currently the prevailing attitude at the moment, and that too is born of history.
You may have noticed that the Wings Awards nominations didn't open on 22 April as advertised. We've delayed the opening by a week to make some changes to the process. There was some feedback that nominating was a bit onerous, which may have detered some from making submissions. The new process should be ready in the next week and nominations open soon after that.
May your gauges always be in the green,