– Steve Hitchen
Whatever happened to biofuels? Not that long ago, aviation jet fuel made from products such as sugar cane and algae were the rising stars of the alternate fuel industry. Now it seems their positions have been usurped as hydrogen and electricity take over the mantles of the industry leaders. In recent news we hear that Pipistrel is working with other European companies to develop a hydrogen-powered shuttle and only yesterday a Cessna Caravan fitted with a 560-kW electric motor flew in the USA. Both of these technologies mean creating new power trains, whereas biofuels were looking to keep engines as regular as possible and have them burning new fuels. The problem biofuels had was that a lot of plant matter had to be grown and processed, which meant competing with food plants for growing space. The energy seems to have petered out in that industry at the moment as aviation corporations now look to other sources of power to fuel aviation into the future. In the next issue of Australian Flying–which should be out around mid June–we'll present you with a complete rundown on several future fuels and the state of play.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced airlines to hibernate their heavy jets, opening the way for general aviation to operate into and out of the major airports. This gives a never-to-be-repeated (hopefully, the industry couldn't cope with this again) opportunity for GA pilots to experience landing at a capital city international airport. I indulged in this myself a couple of weeks ago as part of The Wedgetails formation out of Lilydale, and the following day, air show favourites The Stooges grabbed their chance at Sydney. Back in the days when we had to share the skies with pterodactyls, you had to fly into a primary controlled airport to get your PPL and for some reason Essendon wasn't considered acceptable. Consequently, Melbourne International was plagued with Warriors and C172s wanting to play in their airspace just to qualify. I did this myself back then, although admittedly ML is a very different airport today. My point being is that opportunities like this are too good to reject and I would encourage everyone to have a go whilst they can. It will be a jewel in your logbook. Expensive? Yes; the landing fees are horrendous, but it's worth every cent to say that you did it. Hint: prepare well. My thanks to Melbourne Airport Corporation and Airservices Australia for giving this project the nod.
The 2020 CASA Wings Awards are now open and looking for nominations. Every year since 2014, the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) and Australian Flying have banded together to present a series of awards to recognise the efforts and dedication of the people that keep general aviation running. The pinnacle is the Col Pay Award for a Lifetime of Service to General Aviation, which we are very pleased to have presented to some of the most hard-working, dedicated and deserving people in GA. Now this year we're looking for more people to honour. And we have a new category: Young Achiever of the Year. We want to reward passion and drive early in people's careers, and there are so many young people out there doing truly good work for GA. If you know someone like that, tell us, tell the whole world, and give them every chance to be recognised for what they are doing. For 2020 we've instituted a new nomination system that is totally online to make it much easier for everyone to get their submission in. Have a look at the criteria and nomination forms on the Wings Awards webpage. We want also to extend our thanks to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for supporting this year's awards. CASA has been doing some very good work to help the industry during the pandemic and their support of the Wings Awards will go along way to help Australian Flying see off the impacts of the downturn and make sure when this is all over the magazine is still there for the reading.
And speaking of pandemics, we'll be leaving our COVID-19 survey open for another week. After that, we'll start doing some analysis and let you know the outcome. However, the preliminary perusal of the data is showing that it won't be pretty.
May your gauges always be in the green,