– Steve Hitchen
There is somewhat of a minor civil war brewing in general aviation. Sabres are being unsheathed over the perennial issue of Class E airspace over the top of airports with Class D towers. This stands to pit Australia's VFR pilots against the IFR pilots in a battle to own the airspace. As it stands, Class D towers have Class C over the top, which all aircraft, regardless of whether or not the pilots are looking out the windows, need an airways clearance. Class E would change all that, with VFR aircraft free to blast through without a clearance. Commercial IFR pilots have long railed against this and look like they are heading for the mattresses again. Airservices is talking efficiencies and enhanced surveillance, but the detail is light on, meaning proponents of both sides are relegated to taking shots in the dark. The community is divided by a lack of information, which doesn't help to inform either argument. Is ADS-B the "enhanced surveillance"? If so, does that mean Airservices is proposing to make ADS-B mandatory in Class E? That won't work; ADS-B is not mandatory in any VFR aircraft. And how is this important to OneSKY? For me this has all the hallmarks of being a fait accompli. Despite feedback over 12 months ago, the issue is now back on the agenda again. If submissions didn't kill it dead then, how are they going to ensure its demise now? This proposal could get very big on Airservices, so we can expect a lot of energy expended on lobbying in the coming months.
I've thrown a few brickbats at CASA in the past couple of months, so in the spirit of fairness, here's a bouquet. Word has reached me that aviators out Cootamundra way were being confronted at night with a flood-lit servo at the end of the runway. The lighting was apparently so intense that it destroyed pilots' night vision as they were coming in to the airport. With the council reluctant and somewhat ignorant, the matter was taken to CASA. The regulator went and checked it out for themselves and the word is that they approached the council. The lights are no longer a problem. That's what we want from our regulator: swift, direct action to sort out a blatant safety issue. Well done to the CASA team that dealt with this.
As promised, nominations for the 2019 Wings Awards are now open. We've made a big difference to the process this year to make it easier for everyone. All you need to do now is give us your contact details and the person or organisation you want to nominate. We'll do some preliminary investigation and if your submission makes it onto the short list we'll contact you and call for full documentation that addresses all the criteria. So now you can nominate initially as many people or organisations as you want without going through the whole process for each one. We're closing the award nominations on 26 July, so you'll still have to get in quick to allow us to consider yours for the short list. See all the details on the Australian Flying website.
Foxbat Australia's Peter Harlowe has written an excellent treatise on the importance of empty weight in LSAs. It has been a known problem that somewhere between the factory and the hangar, many LSAs seemed to get more portly that what was on the original data sheet. Additions like avionics and parachutes obviously eat into the useful load, but these accessories should be taken into account when the order sheet is filled out. Weighing the aeroplane once you get it is a inconvenient option, so buyers have to rely on the manufacturers declarations. As Peter points out, the insurance company will take a very belligerent attitude to your insurance claim if the aircraft is found to be overweight, so one way or the other it's best to know what it's at before you start adding the load. This is particularly important with LSAs, where the basic empty and maximum take-off weights are so close together.
Wings over Illawarra starts tomorrow! The two-day event is bringing a heap of military, warbirds and civil aerobatics to Illawarra Regional Airport, which has proven in previous years to be very popular with the people of the region and aviators from right across Australia. It is Australia's largest annual air show (I really don't know how they do it) and has gone from a small flying day to a major air show supported by local government and business. It remains a testament to the passion and work ethic of Kerry and Mark Bright, who year after year have dedicated themselves to making WOI a complete success. This show is good for aviation and good for the region, so if you have the chance to wander on down to Albion Park this weekend I would suggest you do so.
May your gauges always be in the green,