– Steve Hitchen
What has happened to our world? Last year the Western Bulldogs won the AFL premiership and tomorrow Richmond has its first chance since 1982; NRL's Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks won their first ever premiership last year, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series Baseball title since 1908, it looks like the "Yes" vote is going to get up and now CASA has firmly enshrined "just culture" in its instructions. Either the tide is turning for the world's underdogs or society is going to hell in a hand basket, depending on your point of view. You heard right: even though the Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR) recommended the move to "just culture" and the general aviation industry has been crying out for it for many years, there are still those who would rather it not happen. You may not be surprised to learn that most (but not all) of those are either embedded deep within CASA or have departed since the ASRR. Shane Carmody's instructions enshrine a new level of fairness from the regulator, which stands not only to establish a better system of safety, but also to revitalise engagement and even inject some respect into CASA's relationship with the industry. There are some out there, perhaps even the clipboard-and-reflective-vest type, who would prefer CASA to be more police than polite, so we can expect that there are battles yet to be fought. These new rules should be taken as a sign that CASA is looking to deal with the aviation community on a much more engaged and mentoring level, but we have to understand that there is never going to be a situation where CASA turns a blind eye. Let's be blunt: there are people and operators within GA that regularly re-interpret the rules, and over the years CASA has pulled the pin on several. These new instructions are not designed to allow them to get away with it, but rather to give the honest mistakes a chance to be rectified. For the white hats, this should result in less reticence to engage with CASA, but for the black hats nothing has changed at all. CASA is still on their tails; they are not the underdogs who stand to benefit from this new attitude.
Another harbinger of change (sort of) is the word that reached me about the delays to the BITRE study. From what I have been told, the General Aviation Advisory Group (GAAG) was not impressed with the BITRE analysis because it lacked correction for industry influence. You can take this one of two ways: either a sign that BITRE doesn't know what it's doing, or that the consultation system works! I'll opt for the second. BITRE would have buried themselves in statistics and papers, clacking away at calculators until all hours to crunch numbers until they reached what they thought was the bottom line. But sometimes the maths genuinely doesn't add up, or the crunchers don't know what the answers mean in the real world. That's where GAAG stepped in and injected some reality into the process, which is, I believe, the reason Darren Chester set up GAAG in the first place. Ten years ago or even less we would have been presented with the uncorrected drivel and dimissed it as yet another failure of the government to understand our industry. So having GAAG step in and BITRE go away and rework the analysis is, to me, good news. I won't declare it great news until the government actually recognises that reality and puts in place effective action.
Similarly, there are industry people who are hailing the Nous Group findings on the Multicom consultation another indicator of change. The report makes it clear that the aviation community prefers to use Multicom 126.7 when broadcasting at ALAs not marked on charts instead of the area VHF. The report lays out what we already knew: the general aviation community wanted one thing and CASA wanted another. The killer here is that CASA can make the determination and stick to it without any obligation to go with the majority. They have announced they'll formalise the policy by the end of October, but haven't decided to make it clear what that policy is yet. There are powerful influences arrayed against Multicom in this battle, including Airservices Australia and AMSA, so it is not a fait accompli that Multicom will win the day.
Stand-in Australian Flying editor Philip Smart has just locked down the November-December issue of the magazine. Philip took over from me for this one edition only, giving me a much less frenetic September that I would otherwise have normally had. Thanks to Philip and Yaffa Publishing for making this happen. Philip is the former editor of Aviation Business and has been writing for Australian Defence Magazine since John Monash met Ned Kelly, so he has the street cred in both aviation and journalism to ensure a great job. But this has delivered one thing to me that I didn't think it would: for the first time since March 2012, I am eagerly looking forward to my issue of Australian Flying arriving at home without already knowing what's in it and what it looks like! It's good to rekindle that feeling and be reminded of the impact the magazine has on its readership.
May your gauges always be in the green,