• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

Steve Hitchen

There is nothing that will put the frighteners on private VFR pilots more than telling them you're taking away their Class G airspace. Dick Smith once dubbed Class G "dirt road" airspace, but it is a happy zone for private and recreational pilots where they can concentrate on flying and navigating without the pressure of surveillance. Effectively, the Airservices Australia proposal to lower the base of Class E on the eastern seaboard to 1500 AGL does just that, and is therefore not going to get a great deal of support from that sector. Although VFR doesn't need a clearance to operate in E, aircraft must carry a radio and a transponder, both of which are not mandatory in G. That doesn't represent the larger part of private VFR aircraft, but there are still a significant number of aeroplanes that this proposal will now relegate to cruising at no more than 1500 AGL. It will make the RPT crowd happy, because now they can get a clearance down to the overfly height at non-controlled airports. However, VFR doesn't need a clearance and therefore can reject what ATC might suggest, devaluing any IFR clearance handed out. Are you really "clear" to descend if ATC can't actually clear the path ahead of you? Expect a lot of opposition to this proposal.

CASA's answers to questions taken on notice at the last RRAT hearing for the inquiry into the GA industry are so frustrating that they are giving the GA community migranes. Senator Glenn Sterle simply wanted to know how CASA approached the requirement to take cost into account when they wrote regulations. In a masterclass worthy of politicians themselves, they've provided a non-answer to the question. Whilst stating that complex regulation does have some impact, CASA dismisses the impacts as being insignificant and states they have their cost estimates checked by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. However, they avoid any mention of how they arrive at the original estimates. Do they ask the operators? How do they know the cost impact is not significant? CASA talks about time lost, but that doesn't cover the fact that compliance is not a once-only burden; it's ongoing, and so are the costs. Did CASA take into account, for example, that most Part 142 schools had to employ an extra person full time just to comply? That means wages, superannuation and payroll tax for one more person that the company normally wouldn't have had on staff. Was that in the calculations? How about lessons canceled or charters turned down because staff were working on compliance. Was that in RIS? Laying all that out was what I suspect Senator Sterle really wanted CASA to do. The other frustration comes through CASA taking the questions on notice then providing answers that they should have been able to give on the spot!

Carbon monoxide gas is the silent killer of aviation, and in the case of the Beaver crash on the Hawkesbury, it did its job very well indeed. With avgas burners out front of most GA planes, CO poisoning is not something that we can just pretend isn't there, but realistically, how often do we actually check the colour-change, stick-on CO detectors? I'll stick up my hand for one and say hardly ever. And would it do any good if we did? The ATSB has labeled them unreliable and suggested we all buy electronic CO detectors. They will warn you by alarm once the levels are on the rise, hopefully giving you time to act before you start to feel the effects. The Hawkesbury River crash highlights how easy it can happen in a classic holes-in-the-Swiss-cheese example. Had the exhaust ring not been cracked the gases may not have escaped into the engine bay. Had the correct bolts been used in the firewall they may not have fallen out and given the CO gas free passage into the cabin. Had the pilot not done a 27-minute taxi with the door cracked he might have still been below the danger level at the time of the accident. But all those things happened, and things that can happen once can happen again. We have been warned.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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