• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

– Steve Hitchen

Wolves are some of nature's greatest opportunists; they'll start circling you long before you're in trouble just to help things go their way. That's what's happening to Pip Spence. Only days after she was announced as the new boss at CASA, wolves in the aviation community already began questioning her credibility, even before she's had a chance to step in the front door of Aviation House. Most of the slights are aimed at her lack of hands-on aviation experience, which the general aviation community has tagged as the most important thing needed in a Director of Aviation Safety, but it seems the board and the minister don't agree. Spence is a career bureaucrat that has extensive experience in aviation bureaucracy, and her appointment seems to be a signal that the powerbrokers in Canberra believe this is more important than knowing her SIDs from her STARs. The problem the aviation community has is that we need Spence not to be that which she is: a bureaucrat. She doesn't need to be an aviation guru, but she can't be a rampart to defend the actions of progress-hating middle managers who worship at the feet of Sir Humphrey either. Spence is set to become the most powerful person in civil aviation, and her own regulatory philosophies will influence the future of the aviation industry in Australia more than any other factor right now. Our hope is that she can recognise the hollowmen within CASA and has the drive to exorcise them so trust and respect can be returned to CASA's reputation. That is the only way to keep the wolves at bay.

No matter what side of The Ditch you sit on, having Pacific Aerospace returned to Kiwi ownership is a very exciting thing! The company has been on a rather strange, rocky trajectory for a few years now, that had its nadir when it was accused of selling aircraft to North Korea. After that, the Hong Kong portion of the ownership teams seems to have lost interest, as PAL's own MD testified in an NZ court. Outlets in NZ have Neil Young and Dee Bond as the new owners. Young is listed as the owner of Waikato's Mercer Airfield. Aviation people buy aviation companies because they want them to do aviation things, so the new ownership promises hope for a bright future for PAL. Just before the company went into receivership, it announced that the Cresco ag plane was to be put back into production and new E-350 Expeditions were being rolled out, so there were some advanced plans being actioned when the flag went up. That's a good launching pad for a company that has to reinvent itself to a certain degree. The sales records show that PAL can't rely on the P-750 alone for bouyancy; new income streams will have to be cultivated and the E-350 and Cresco could be the solutions.

Michael Collins once described the Apollo II crew as "amiable strangers". After making the trip to the moon in July 1969, he, Armstrong and Aldrin were forever linked; strangers no more. On Wednesday, Collins died aged 90, leaving Buzz Aldrin as the only one of the trio left. Collins was, by most accounts, and incredible person who was blessed with unassailable optimism and an interest in everything. In the book First Man, author James Hanson described him as "easily the trio's most lighthearted member." Armstrong was professional and dedicated, Aldrin was intense and focused. Collins was "thoughtful, articulate and learned", the perfect compliment to his fellow strangers. It was fate that put Collins on the Apollo II mission; he was slated for Apollo 9 (became Apollo 8), but was taken off flight duties due to a bone spur in his back. Had he flown that mission, he wouldn't have later teamed up with Armstrong and Aldrin for the greatest flight in history due to NASA's mission assignment system. Collins was unfairly thought of as the one that didn't walk on the moon, yet he faced his own challenges in the command module Columbia as he sailed around the back side of the moon, the most isolated person in the known universe and out of contact with Earth. Collins later said his one great fear on the mission is that the lunar module engine wouldn't fire on the surface of the moon, leaving him with the unthinkable task of returning to Earth without Neil and Buzz. Now it's Buzz Aldrin's turn to find himself alone, with both Neil and Mike having moved on to other universes.

May your gauges always be in the green,



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