– Steve Hitchen
When I tasked Angela at Avalon to explore the idea of a flight training association, all I had was a couple of whispers to work with. Angela's investigation, presented in the September-October 2021 issue of Australian Flying pointed to some substance behind the rumours and prompted me to start wondering why such a logical idea had never been floated before. Those whispers have become shouts, and I understand we're set to be told next week that an association to cover the flight training industry has indeed been formed. Flight training is the keystone not only to general aviation, but also the heavy commercial sector. Without a healthy training industry, planes will sit dormant for a lack of people to fly them. Many in the industry thought their concerns weren't well represented in Canberra, especially during the time that CASA was forming up Parts 61, 141 and 142. The destructive debacle of Part 61 is probably evidence that the fears were founded; ongoing struggles to get things fixed shows that the battle isn't yet won. Flight training did have a voice during this time, but it was a singular sound fighting to be heard against a wall of noise that drowned out the industry. An association is, by nature, more powerful that the sum of the same number of people acting independently, and provided they're all pushing for the same thing, can make inroads together where individuals cannot. Stand by for more news in the coming days.
CASA DAS Pip Spence has gone where other directors have gone before and stated that CASA needs to improve relationships with the aviation community. No matter how many times that gets intoned, the outcome is always the same: poor relationships. That's probably why they're always saying they need to improve. I think the issue is being side-stepped slightly here. With Rob Walker in charge of Stakeholder Engagement, relationships with CASA gained great tensile strength, but ultimately cracked and broke under impact; the impact delivered by poor decisions and personal skills on behalf of the operations team. One side of CASA builds-up the relationships; the other side smacks them down again. That caused the relationships to be tenuous, cautious and have little resilience. That's what Spence has to tackle. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say general aviation in particular would love a good relationship with the regulator, but what sort of relationship are you in if the other person doesn't understand you and you don't trust them anyway? It's OK for CASA to say relationships need to improve, but they need a good strategy for maintaining the relationships. If not, in a few years we'll be hearing Ms Spence's successor intoning the same thing.
CASA has announced exemptions for some proficiency checks and flight reviews under some circumstances through to March 2022. These sort of measures are needed to combat the side-effects of COVID, such as not being allowed to fly aeroplanes just for the hell of it. It's sobering to think that last year there was a prevailing optimism that in 2021 everything would be OK and we'd all be back to normal with aeroplanes scouring the skies across Australia. Now we're making plans for the pandemic to still have an impact after two years. Kudos to CASA for doing what they can, even though this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what will be needed to help general aviation struggle back to its feet.
If Wings over Illawarra doesn't make it to the starting blocks in 2021 it won't be for lack of effort on behalf of Bright Events. WOI has a new set of dates thanks to COVID uncertainty; now slated for the final weekend of November. Last year's event was canceled after being postponed from May to November, bravely scheduled for only two weeks before Avalon 2021, which had itself been postponed from February. With Avalon now scrubbed completely, Bright Events took advantage of the vacant slot at the end of November and moved to put more space between the current COVID outbreak and WOI. Whilst Avalon and Ausfly threw in the towel early, WOI Director Mark Bright is displaying remarkable faith and resilience by staying the course as long as he can. Not only for the aviation industry, but also for Bright Events, I hope they can pull this off.
May your gauges always be in the green,