– Steve Hitchen
Welcome to Square One. If we were to give it a name, it would be December 2013. Back then, the aviation industry was struggling under the weight of unreasonable regulation and punitive, illogical treatment of operators by CASA. Then came the Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR), the positive response from the government, the Regulatory Philosophy, the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel and the minister's General Aviation Advisory Group. It was more progress than we had seen in years and grounds for rampant optimism. But now, almost six years later, we still have unreasonable regulation and punitive, illogical treatment of operators. Yes, welcome to Square One. It is a long road we have traveled, but it seems the entire journey is still ahead of us. The evidence lies in the treatment of Glen Buckley and APTA. The whole distressing saga is laid out in the pages of September-October Australian Flying. How can CASA approve a Part 142 company then send them a letter saying they are operating illegally? Despite regularly meeting with CASA people, asking for clarification and doing everything CASA asked, the regulator refused to lift a temporary operating restriction that prevented APTA from trading. Since then, Aviation House has shown reluctance to deal openly with the issue–interview requests from Australian Flying were declined and questions left unanswered–and is forcing Buckley to seek recourse through the legal system. That will cost money; money that Buckley hasn't got. APTA has set up a crowdfunding campaign to go back to war and at the moment it seems the swell of industry opinion is behind him. There are some in the industry that believe APTA was never legal, which helps only to make matters worse. If they are right, then why did CASA approve the Part 142 certificate, and if they are wrong, why did CASA take the action they did? This is worth taking to court if only to force the regulator to make a definitive statement on that issue alone. The problem is, CASA is in the wrong no matter what they say, and that's what they're trying to avoid having to do in public. It is an indicator that all the money and energy spent on trying to reform the way CASA relates to the industry has been completely wasted.
It looks like the Federal Government is going to make good on its promise to spend money on regional airports. First announced in April this year, it looked like an election promise not worth a empty Mintie wrapper ... unless, of course, there was some form of miracle that returned the Coalition to power. Although the floodgates on the money have yet to be opened, it is expected that regional airports will be able to stick their hands up from late September and claim their chunk of the $100 million windfall. And some regional airports desperately need it. Funding shortfalls are the norm rather than the exception, and that make local councils very reluctant to upgrade their airports ... especially those in municipalities where the councillors see houses where runways now stand. As an industry, we should make sure this grant program is fully subscribed almost from the opening bounce. There is a lot of work that needs doing out there and, realistically, the $100 million represents a shortfall in itself, so we need to present the department with unassailable arguments for the most urgent projects. There is always a pervading fear that larger regionals with RPT with soak up a lot of cash in new security screening, new fencing and parking-lot projects when we really need upgraded runways, new lighting and new taxiways. In sum, if your local airport is desperately in need of a cash injection, start making plans for your submission right now!
In further progressive news, it looks like the answers to the future of maintenance training belong in the past. CASA has announced consultation on allowing engineering candidates to self-study for exams. This means they won't have to seek out Part 147 maintenance organisations, which were very thin on the ground. Something needed to be done; there is not an engineering house that I have spoken to who has not bemoaned the sad state of affairs in the maintenance community. As AMROBA has pointed out, there is still work to be done, but Executive Director Ken Cannane is cautiously optimistic that solutions are soon to be at hand. However, he points out that the solutions look remarkably like the system of training that once worked quite well, but was dropped in favour of new regulations that did nothing but clag the engineer pipeline.
It's Father's Day on Sunday, and if you're still stuck for something to buy Dad, we have the answer. We're offering 25% off an Australian Flying subscription as a Father's Day special. Obviously, this deal won't last and has only a very short time to run, so get in fast and enjoy your weekend without having to worry about what to get him anymore.
May your gauges always be in the green,