– Steve Hitchen
Can there be a greater contrast between how the Italian government has approached the liquidity of Piaggio Aerospace and the lack of interest the Australian government has shown in any GA manufacturing company? When Piaggio went into administration, the Italian government propped them up with contracts to keep the workers working and make the company more attractive to suitors. Now there are five potential buyers circling. By contrast, when Mahindra Aerospace torched GippsAero and left it to rot, the Australian government adopted what has always been its fall-back position on GA: do nothing. To be fair, Piaggio is in administration and GippsAero is not, but it seems ironic that a company that is technically insolvent is doing better than one that is not! Credit is also due to the administrators of Piaggio, who have clearly approached the situation with some positivity, recognising and leveraging the value of the company. Mahindra could see nought but a millstone and put a very high price on it, believing other companies should simply pay what they demand. The world rarely works that way. Had the government reacted quickly when it was clear GippsAero was under threat and offered incentives to at least keep manufacturing going, the company would probably be under new owners right now and have a very healthy backlog of orders. Instead GippsAero has become a bit of a ghost, and as more time passes the less chance there is of a resurrection.
It would appear the world's "Skyhawk killers" are not doing a very good job. Now over 60 years old, the C172 platform nevertheless vanquished the trainer market in 2020 in terms of deliveries, recording a very impressive 241 shipments. You have to go back to 2008 to find better results. That this performance came in the midst of a COVID-corrupted year for GA only adds to the lustre of the performance. With Piper's Archer III and Diamond's DA40 almost 100 airframes behind each, the Skyhawk was daylight ahead. It must have rivals scratching their heads and re-evaluating their strategies to unseat the king. Technology hasn't worked; Cessna matched that. Composite construction was another sword wielded in the battle, but Diamond's DA40 has been unable to match the C172SP and Cirrus' SR20 is lanquishing well behind despite the absolute dominance of its big brother SR22/T in the large single market. Much of the C172s longevity and popularity can be attributed to the platform's ability to adopt desirable new technology, so it may be that if other manufacturers want to knock it off its perch, they need to come up with something the market yearns for, but the C172 can't adopt. Good luck with that.
World championship air racing, oh how I have missed thee! With a new competition called simply World Championship Air Racing (WCAR) set to rise from the ashes of Red Bull Air Race next year, precision high-speed, high-g aviation is back. When last we left it at the end of 2019, Australia's Matt Hall had just been crowned World Champion for the first time. But you sense that Matt is not the sort of person to settle for being a one-time champion and then retiring a'la Nico Rosberg and his dad. WCAR gives the Aussie the opportunity to show that he is a better competitor that just one title; he was, after all, runner-up more times than any other pilot. What isn't clear at the moment is the commercial potential for WCAR. RBAR started out with the cities picking up the tab as a way of promoting and attracting people, but transitted after a short hiatus to a fully-ticketed event. Somehow the business plan faltered; if it hadn't, RBAR would still be around. Here's hoping WCAR can get itself on a better footing and be around for a long time ... hopefully with an event in Australia! Lake Macquarie sounds nice.
May your gauges always be in the green,