– Steve Hitchen
Wings over Illawarra was, on paper, just another air show. But in essence it was something magical: a reunion of the aviation family for the pure purpose of loving what it is we do. We'd been conditioned to expect a menu of air shows on the calendar from which we could select those we wanted to go to and those we'd pass on. There were always going to be more shows coming up; we could always go next year. Then suddenly COVID, and the calendars became very bare very quickly. Even when organisers postponed air shows to try to find air clear of coronavirus we remained sceptical that authorities would green-tick such large gatherings. In almost every instance, the pessimism was justified. One team, driven by optimism, kept plugging away: Wings over Illawarra. It was completely unreasonable for this crew to expect to get permission to gather about 10,000 people in one place when pubs were struggling to be allowed full capacity. But it has been said that all progress depends on being unreasonable and WOI 2021 was proof of that. Organisers Bright Events lept every hurdle needed to get the gates opened, and when the go-ahead came through the peopleflocked like Eloi to Albion Park, summoned by the sound of a radial engine starting. Let me say this to Mark Bright, the late Kerry Bright and the whole organising team: thanks ... we needed that!
And speaking of Shellharbour Airport. Along with contributor Angela at Avalon I was privileged to be given a tour of the inner sanctums of the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame (AAHOF) and the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) on the weekend. There are some amazing developments in the pipeline there as both organisations move from great thing to even greater thing. Coupled with WOI, Shellharbour Airport is shaping up to be somewhat of a Mecca for aviation in Australia that has almost unlimited potential. On the drive home to Victoria via Moruya and Merit Aviation, I had plenty of time to mull two questions. 1. Does aviation in Australia need a Mecca? 2. How does general aviation get in on this potential? The first question is, I believe, rhetorical. Yes, we need a place that every pilot in their career should yearn to visit; a place where the stories are told and protected, and where new stories are created. There have been several events over the years that claimed the title "Australia's Oshkosh", but claiming a title and reaping the accolades are two different things. Australia still has no Oshkosh. The answer to the second was more elusive. GA is lacking energy and momentum, making dreams very hard to achieve. But given a free-hand, what would we want? What could be established that the general aviation community would recognise as the home of GA in Australia? If you have an 800-km drive coming up, give it some thought.
CASA's "six-pack" of new regulations came into force yesterday, consolidating a lot of other rules, exemptions, approvals and so-on into larger documents. The over-arching CASR to all of these is Part 91. Part 91 is a legalese description of how we all operate and what we can and can't do. Giving way in the air, pre-flight planning, what is VMC, controlled airspace, life jackets and absolutely everything else. It is the bible of aviation. And just like many other bibles, Part 91 is written in a language only keen disciples understand. Our saving grace is that Part 91 comes with the first plain English guide to ever accompany a serious piece of legislation. The PEG (it really does need a better name) explains everything more simply in a VFRG sort of way and pilots and operators are more likely to read it than the legislation. Importantly, it is devoid of threats of punishment should we fail to comply. That's not to say the penalties don't exist, they do; they're just not laid out in the PEG. The result is a more didactic document that needs to go into broad circulation and be added to the aviation library of average pilots ... like CASRs before have never done. The concept of PEGs was a fruit of 2014's Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR) and if there is any criticism of it emerging now it's that it took seven years! However, the Part 91 PEG represents the start of a new era of the regulator understanding that what they write has application in real life and can be complied with only if it is understood. Roll on more of the same.
With Christmas now frighteningly close, it's time for us to roll-out a subscription offer to that will have your stocking stuffed in no time! Right now, you can get your hands on a year's subscription to Australian Flying at a discount of 40% off the sticker price. In numbers, that means six print issues and a digital subscription for $35 total. In non-Yule times that's worth $59. You won't find a better deal with which to deck your halls this Christmas. Get onto the Great Magazines website and get Christmas on the cheap. And whilst you're in there, look around at all the other Yaffa titles like Australian Photography, Bicycling Australia and Great Walks. They, too, can make fantastic gifts.
May your gauges always be in the green,