– Steve Hitchen
RAUAG's new funding model for regional and local airports makes a lot of sense, and is something we desperately need in general aviation right now: ideas from outside the square. The concept of requiring the major airports to contribute something of the cost of running the regionals seems fair given the amount of revenue they make from the connections, but no doubt the airport operators don't see it that way. Regardless of which side of the centreline they're on, most people in general aviation would be prepared to admit that the current system of making the local councils bear the cost of running the regional airports just doesn't work. Let's get very real here: ALOP has failed. The Commonwealth hand-balled the cost of running airports to the local councils, then very generously gave them grants to help with the upkeep. That was years ago and they money is all pretty much gone now. Our aviation infrastructure is crumbling around us, and the federal government, who has caused the problem, prefers to think not. Grants are not the solution. They may solve short-term issues like fencing, lighting and taxiway upgrades, but it won't be long until we're back in the same place we're at now. Only a sustainable solution will do any good; a solution similar to that which RAUAG has put forward.
It is a shame no-one has thought to make a reality TV series out of the Qantas flight training academy story. The decision of where the Flying Kangaroo is going to put their new schools has at least nine councils and probably around 17,000 potential candidates hanging on the final announcement. It's like the councils are waiting with anticipation to see if Qantas gives them a rose. You can't blame them; the successful airports stand to get a good influx of income that will help them with the large cash deficits most of them are living with. The decision will transform airports and solve major headaches for the operators, but there is another group waiting in the wings to see if they're selected to participate: the aircraft builders. You can guarantee that Qantas will populate their flight lines with new aircraft, and if they're serious about training 500 pilots per year, some manufacturer is looking at a decent contract of sale. Cessna? Piper? Diamond? It is a shame that there really is no home-grown product that could step up here; an Australian two-seat trainer that would fill the role and further expand the beneficial reach of Qantas' initiative. Alas, Australian flying trainers were voted off the island many years ago, meaning a large chunk of Qantas' investment must go overseas.
Spring comes tomorrow, and we all know what that means: your time to convert your licence to Part 61 just ran out. For most pilots that won't be a problem. The transition period was four years, so in that time active pilots will have completed a flight review and their licence automatically updated to Part 61. If for some reason you haven't done that yet, you will now need to apply to CASA to have your old CAR 5 licence updated ... and pay a $25 fee. This firmly cements aviation into a Part 61 world; a world that got off to a very shaky start, and given the number of exemptions that have had to be written, it doesn't yet appear to be on solid ground. One of the reasons for the whole regulatory reform saga was to stop rule by exemption, but that doesn't seem to have happened given the number that have been issued. So, has the Part 61 re-write improved things or just changed things? I suppose that's something we could ask about most new regs, but Part 61 seems to have been the most difficult baby CASA has ever had. Hopefully the industry has identified most of the problems over the last four years and we can now all get on with debating the next set of new rules.
OK, so let's talk Spring more seriously. Yes, there will be birdies in our baffles and wasps in our pitot tubes, but as we will have been checking those things all year round, there isn't much we have to change, is there? There is one thing: our look-out probably needs to get sharper. The Spring months are when we get our planes out of their winter hibernation and we rediscover the joy of flying. It's also the season for fly-ins and air shows that are scheduled to take advantage of the return of flying weather, particularly in the south-eastern states. That means more aircraft converging on airports where events are held, and many of us won't have done much flying over winter, so our level of joy will be high but our levels of concentration perhaps a bit low. So let's get out there and go to as many events as we can, but sharpen your mind and your eyes when you do.
May your gauges always be in the green,