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

Steve Hitchen

Hard decisions are, by definition, never easy to make. Last week the senate RRAT committee decided to delay further the final report of an inquiry that began nearly two years ago. The easy decision would have been to simply go with what they had, but the recommendations and conclusions would have been easy meat for political carnivores that would prefer the whole thing to just go away. As it is, the senate inquiry is self-referred, which means to say that the government didn't ask for it, but the senate saw the need for it anyway. Under normal circumstances, the final report would be very ignorable. Today I am feeling the the current Minister for Transport and Infrastructure is more likely to appreciate the findings than the previous person in the seat. However, presenting a report that is less than comprehensive undermines the integrity of the whole inquiry and wouldn't help the minister understand the problems better. It is true that the inquiry has been plagued by a plague, but that wouldn't silence the critics who would be very quick to point out that the inquiry didn't probe enough to justify its findings. The only decision that could be made is to postpone the final report date and keep digging. In the end, there is too much as stake for the GA community.

Despite the news that Cessna has approved unleaded avgas for its single-engine range, 100LL is probably going to be around for a long time to come. The problems are availability of the unleaded and concerns over the octane ratings. The new fuels are 91 and 94 octane, which in fuel speak is well down on the 100 octane thought compulsory for aviation. Octane ratings, in very simple terms, are a measure of the fuel's resistance to causing knock or "ping" in the engine under high RPM. As most piston aviation engines are run at high RPM during take-off and climb, resistance to knock is a very desirable thing. Although Cessna has green-lit the fuel, you can understand a reticence among owners to adopt it, especially when the bowser tanks are still full of a tried-and-proven alternative: 100LL. And that brings us to availability. Fuel suppliers in Australia are still well away from proliferating unleaded avgas across the country, which makes decisions by aircraft owners to adopt it essentially moot. For the fuel suppliers the problem is larger. Do they drain the 100LL tanks and make it all unleaded? Do they put in another tank and bowser just for the unleaded? Do they just shandy it all in the same tank and the aircraft operator takes whatever comes out? There is thinking around the GA community in the USA that unless the government mandates unleaded avgas, the fuel manufacturers are going to keep making 100LL, which removes the need for anyone to make any decisions. However, I wouldn't put it past the US EPA to demand such a mandate, empowered by Cessna's call. If that happens, Australia will need to follow suit as demand in this country is not enough to compel manufacturers to keep producing 100LL.

I've booked my accommodation for Wings over Illawarra. The closer we get to the show date, the more likely it is that it will go ahead. There is always the chance that NSW Health will get cold feet in the days leading up to the event, but the GA community has to presume that it's going to happen. But in what form? We won't be getting a completely unfettered show like we have done in the past; it's foolhardy to think there won't be attendance caps, density limits and mask mandates applied somehow. But considering the fate of pretty much every other airshow in the country over the past 21 months, we should be very grateful that we can get this one going in any form that we can. I'm hanging out for this so much.

And then there was one ... week to go until nominations for the 2021 CASA Wings Awards close. Time to start crossing all the Ts and giving it one last read. After 5 November, the online collector will close. Those who are in it can win it, those who aren't will need to wait until 2022. We've had some very good nominations this year, and are pleased with the response. However, we're looking forward to the last-minute arrivals in the collector this week. In the past, some of the last ones in have actually won their category. So finish up and get those submission in now.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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