– Steve Hitchen
Pardon or Stay of Execution? Cobden Airport looks to have beaten off a plan to build wind turbines on the hills to the airport's north-west. The turbines were going to be located in a position that would have forced the circuit to be switched to overhead the town and generated alarm for pilots approaching from the north. It seems the airport had the support of the council and the state government, who declined to issue a planning permit. Even the Southern Bent Wing Bat was on the airport's side. However, the wind farm developer is Hong Kong-owned Alinta Energy. Alinta's owner is a major player in just about every cash-cow industry from energy to hotels, jewellery, water and even aviation. Right now they're probably working out their next plan of attack to get their wind farm built. That could be an appeal or even a re-working of the development plan. VCAT noted that the issues the farm would cause were too large to be corrected by conditions on the permit, which leads me to believe they're headed for the court system rather than spending money on a completely new development. In the meantime Cobden Aero Club can enjoy the taste of victory champagne. It was a truly community effort that won the day for the airport and they deserve to bask for a bit until Alinta reveals its next move.
It might also be back to the CAD system for Essendon as well. In April we reported that Essendon Airport Pty Ltd (EAPL) had released a draft master plan that predicted Melbourne Airport's new runway would force traffic at Essendon to use runway 08/26 90% of the time, causing crosswind issues as 17/35 would become almost unavailable for landings. Yesterday Melbourne announced it was rethinking the new east-west runway and aired thoughts that another north-south runway might be more efficient. Scratch EAPL's master plan. A parallel 34L/16R at Melbourne is unlikely to have a very heavy impact on Essendon and will breathe life back into 17/35 as well. That's great news for anyone who uses Essendon often, but until Melbourne makes up their mind, EAPL will have to file their master plan in the limbo box.
Falling asleep on the job is never good unless you're a bed tester. It's especially bad when you're the sole pilot of an aeroplane. The investigation report this week into a pilot (no doubt a highly embarrassed one) who fell asleep and overflew King Island highlights the danger of fatigue, which seems to be more prevalent in low-capacity freight dogs than most other sectors of GA. It's a very lonely job most of the time, flying alone with the autopilot on droning straight-and-level into an ink-black night. It's a wonder that more of them don't doze off. And as the report shows, by the time the pilot overflew King Island, he had already been up for 24 hours. In my experience, there are many freight dogs that work a full day doing something other than aviation before signing on in the evening for the freight runs. It's a tough life that isn't conducive to rest and de-stressing. My point is this: just complying with CASA's duty-time regs is often not enough to fight off fatigue. There are many other factors that we as pilots should be taking into account before we decide we're good to go.
Wings Awards nominations have been flooding into our office since they opened a few weeks ago, giving the judging panel a lot to think about. If you have put in a nomination and the panel wishes to know more, you will by now have been asked to make a full submission addressing all the criteria. When you put together your submission, please make sure you address the criteria on the Australian Flying website. And if you haven't nominated yet you haven't missed out; there's still plenty of time.
May your gauges always be in the green,