– Steve Hitchen
The senate inquiry into the GA industry is ready to get going again this Tuesday, with a hearing scheduled for NT operators via video link. The last hearing was in January and it turned out to be quite explosive; there were pointed accusations of malfeasance and doubts expressed about the veracity of some of CASA's evidence. I don't expect this one to be quite as rambuncitous, but I also don't think NT operators will be holding back their feelings. COVID has really compromised the ability of the senate committee get this done right, which was evidenced by the interim report fielded last year, which stated simply that there was nothing to report. With four months to run until the final report is due, the committee is going to have to hit their straps to make it on time. But they could certainly use some help from the GA community. Senator Susan McDonald's plea for more submissions drew only two more, which dilutes the committee's ability to state the conclusions represent the views of the wider GA community. Governments and regulators are always looking for apathy in order to justify inaction. The good news is that the most important submissions–those from the leading associations–are on the table, even if they're aren't in agreement.
When Michael McCormack announced simplified maintenance rules for private and airwork operations at Wagga Wagga in 2018, you could hear satisfaction rippling through the room. This made so much sense. People got even more excited when they heard that CASA would base those rules on FAR Part 43 and not EASA; the industry has always wanted to emulate the US system rather than the European one. But according to AMROBA, there is nothing simple about making simple rules. CASRs are like interlocking components of a system. If you change one thing in one place you have to change another thing in another place. In that context, CASRs are like the aeroplanes they are designed to govern. Although AMROBA has given the thumbs-up to Part 43 in principle, there are several in the MRO industry that aren't so keen. From complaints about loss of income and lowering of safety standards to emphatic statements of doom, the feedback covers just about every possible point of view. For every Hooray there's a No-way. The project is far from over; when the legal eagles at federal level have done their bit, Part 43 will be subjected again to industry scrutiny. Only then will we know for sure what CASA has in mind.
The helicopter community in Australia has not been backward in adopting the disruptive technology known as urban mobility. In conversations with industry leaders they often use the term "rotorcraft" in preference to "helicopter". Their industry is in for a shake-up, and rather than resist and point fingers at regulators, they're embracing a new future. This week we've seen one of Australia's largest helicopter operators, Microflite, join forces with Eve Urban Mobility (Embraer by another name) to evaluate how urban mobility will work in Melbourne. They'll be using helicopters as proof-of-concept, which will have to find a new way to make it work given that attempts to use rotorcraft for regular flights across Melbourne have risen and fallen (often very quickly) before. But urban mobility vehicles are not helicopters. The economics and viabilty will be completely different from what has been done before, and the lessons learnt from previous false starts will go a long way towards informing the future or urban mobility in all of Australia's cities, not just Melbourne.
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May your gauges always be in the green,