The general aviation community could be excused for hearing the sound of Sonny and Cher's I Got You, Babe going around in their heads. It was the song that Bill Murray's time-beaten character wakes up to every morning in the movie Groundhog Day that tells him nothing has changed and he has to do everything again. Right now that's the predicament that GA finds itself in with the announcement today of a study into the state of the industry. We went through all of this with Anthony Albanese in 2009, which resulted in the pulp fiction they called the Aviation White Paper. All the data and industry input should still be with the department, yet here we are doing another study. The data from that study was good, it just got put to bad use. Add to that the Aviation Safety Regulation Review, the TAAAF policy and Project Eureka and the federal government already has in their hands pretty much everything they need to know to throw GA a lifeline.
And there's another worry; a problem that has plagued aviation in Australia for years: how do you define what is and isn't "general aviation"? According to most authorities, GA is anything that isn't regular public transport or military. That definition is too wide because it captures recreational aviation, and BITRE has a history of folding RAAus activity in with GA, which inevitably shows growth in GA when you do it that way. By all means have a look at recreational aviation, but report the data separately from VH-registered GA and plan accordingly.
However, you have to applaud the General Aviation Action Group being used as a reference for BITRE. Hopefully they will be able to keep the study on the straight-and-level and help produce a result that finally convinces the government that action is the only answer. And we, the GA community, need to leap unto the breach once more and give BITRE all the feedback they need to get a decent job done.
To our generation has fallen the lot of watching the last of the great aviation pioneers move on. Those who stretched the limits of the airframes and themselves as aviation began to flourish after WWII are reaching the end of their lives. This week, one of the truly great ones, Bob Hoover, died at the age of 94. It is to the like of Hoover that we owe the aviation environment in which we live and work today. In short, pilots like Hoover went to the edge of danger so pilots like us would never have to. He and his colleagues didn't push envelopes, they created new ones. But Hoover was more than a pilot; he was a great philosopher of aviation. When he spoke, people listened and people learnt. You get the feeling that teaching was inherent in the nature of the man. It is a pity many of us will remember Bob only for his entertainment value, swooping through the skies in a Shrike Commander with the engines shut down and not coming within an inch of disaster. Yes, Bob Hoover entertained, but it really was education in disguise. Vale, Bob Hoover. Well flown, Sir.
AOPA has extracted a promise from First State Super to sit down and parley over the future of Bankstown. This is a great win to get even this far, as attempts to talk reason with the lease-holder BAC Holdco haven't produced any concrete improvements thus far. AOPA has gone to the top; First State is a co-owner of BAC Holdco and bought the company no doubt for its investment potential. They'll be looking for solid returns, and somehow AOPA is going to have to convince them that general aviation is a good investment. Yes, there are certain things they are required to do as a minimum under the terms of the lease, but so much energy and potential has been lost from BK that maintaining the minimum probably isn't going to be enough anymore. AOPA's task is a tough one, but the current management has shown they aren't afraid of taking up the cudgels when needed, despite the size and power of their opponent.
As I write this, a powerful cold front is storming into Tasmania from the west. It's going to bring snow to the high country and Mount Wellington, low cloud, rain and severe turbulence. Guess where our annual aero club fly-away is headed? Straight into all of that! To get a better idea of what we were going to be playing against, I rang the aviation met office and asked for an expanded idea beyond the public forecasts that you get on the news. There is a specific number to ring, which you'll find on the bottom of your latest ARFOR, and they'll give you the good (or bad) oil straight up in aviation sense about the weather beyond the validity of the current ARFORs and TAFs. It's a great service that we should all use more often if there's any question over the weather. It could, literally, be a life-saver ... especially if you're thinking of flying around Tassie this weekend.
May your gauges always be in the green,