– Steve Hitchen
Those that fly around Victoria's north or the south-east of NSW will know that Yarrawonga is one of the handiest and most friendly airports in the area. Home to a small pilot shop, manufacturers of aircraft covers and maintenance organisations, it's a pivotal location for a fuel stop, food stop or just a quick chat. Now it looks like that could all come to an end soon. Moira Shire Council has declared that it costs too much to run and therefore is going to sell it. I would like to advise the council that it's not good salesmanship to tell the whole world the merchandise is very costly to run; it makes it very clear that to turn a profit the new owners would have to crank up the income. That means massive increases in landing fees and rents that will see the airport usage decline and the business have to move out. But, that could be the plan. If they think they can sell Yarrawonga airport as a going concern, the council must be populated by fools. It remains then that they know any new owner won't be able to make a go of it and the decision to sell is effectively a decision to not have an airport at Yarrawonga anymore. And that will have an impact on the shire that they are pretending it won't; there is a lot of money that flows into Moira Shire that is not credited to the airport's balance sheet. I can cite cases of pilots who own holiday homes in Yarrawonga that would probably sell them if they can't fly up there rather than drive. But then again, aviation-averse councils such as Moira can see only the income from development and not the benefits of connection to the rest of the country that only an airport can bring. I sincerely hope that after the airport is gone, no-one ever needs to be air-lifted from Yarrawonga to the Alfred Hospital.
There have been a couple of instances this week where interpretation has misled people to make some erroneous statements with a great deal of honesty. Please forgive me if I don't go into them; I'll probably just make the same mistakes. But for me it has put intense focus on the problem of complexity in Australia's aviation rules and the language we use to write them. CASA, the government and the Labor Party are sticking to their guns that the primary focus of aviation regulation must be safety, so how the hell they allow regulations to be written the way they are is simply bewildering. It is not in any way safe for regulations to be open to interpretation in such a way that they are regularly misinterpreted! There is an old saying in the technical writing industry: if there are two ways to intrepret what you wrote, someone will interpret it the way you didn't mean. David Forsyth touched on this in the ASRR report handed down in 2014, recommending we start talking in plain English, and it needs to happen very soon. I am pleased to see that CASA has said the Manual of Standards for the new GA maintenance regs will be done in plain English; this is a good start in what is a very long road. However, there is still the problem of complexity, which was highlighted at the recent GA summit at Wagga Wagga when hard copies of all the Australian regs were laid out on a table. There were five four-ring binders, two two-ring binders and ERSA. By comparison, the US regs were sat along side them: two books. I'm going to again quote my favourite philosophy because I think it's very pertinent here. Ockham's Razor says "All thing being equal, the simplest answer tends to be the correct one." It therefore follows that the most complex answer tends to be the incorrect one. Since when is flying under the oversight of an incorrect solution safe?
Facebook group Pilot's Lounge Australia has linked up with Bush Flyers Down Under to raise money for struggling Australian farmers. This is a great initiative and well worth the aviation community's support. The idea is to work out how much it costs you to go flying for an hour, donate that money via an online campaign to Drought Angels and go an do something else instead. It's called Trading Flight for Life. I know, what else would you rather do but fly? In this instance the cause is a great one, and if it means sacrificing an hour in the air to help out the farmers, many of whom live their lives in the dark shadow of bankruptcy, then it really is a small price to pay.
May your gauges always be in the green,