– Steve Hitchen

Qantas is still deliberating on the site of the second academy, which has a few people in the industry on tenterhooks. The nine locations on the short list and their associated councils/operators will all be very keen to have the academy contributing to the running costs of their airport, and eight of those operators are going to be disappointed. Also waiting are the potential students. With 22,000 people expressing interest, you can bet Qantas will have a floor-to-ceiling pile of applications to sort through, and some of those applicants will live closer to one of the nine short-listed airports than to Toowoomba. For them the quandry will be whether or not to apply for the first intake or wait and see if the more local airport is chosen for the second site. Wise counsel would suggest that young people should apply now and take what they are offered. Once you're in the system you're on your way, and if that means relocating away from home, then so be it. Many will be offered nothing at all and would gladly swap with you even if it does mean going to Queensland.


The loss of the Red Bull Air Race (RBAR) series is very disappointing, but I have been expecting it. Since the return of the world championship in 2014, the series has not hit the heights of popularity that it enjoyed in the halycon years of 2006-09. After 2010, the series went into the hall of mirrors for three years, emerging again in 2014 as a very different beast. The competition had looked at every aspect of its operations after two aircraft got wet and changed a lot about the track layouts. The other big change was the business plan. Originally, RBAR was run effectively as an attraction, with locations footing the bill to have the event and generally the public were invited to watch free. The new series was rejigged to be more like a genuine motorsport, where paying public covered the cost. They even got approval from the FAI. But the cracks in the system became apparent when the calendar at the start of the year was punctuated with "TBA" for some rounds, betraying that RBAR was having trouble getting venues. Additionally, some venues were not coming back in consecutive years, adding instability. So it was not really surprising that the axe fell this week. There are now only three races left, and in those three races Matt Hall has to fight hard for his ambition to be World Champion at last. There is no next year, so expect Hall to throw everything he and his team have at the final three races.

I am pleased CASA pointed out in their Class E consultation documents that there is currently two consultations on the go and they are easily confused. CASA's Office of Airspace Regulation (OAR) is taking feedback on the proposal to lower the continental low-density Class E to 12,500 feet. Currently it's at 18,000 feet. Concurrently, Airservices was consulting on the concept of creating Class E airspace over the top of regional Class D airports. That consultation has just closed. Although they will function together if approved, they are separate things and one doesn't depend on the other. The first is very straightforward and although it will have the impact of wiping out 5500 feet of Class G, it's all up in the flight levels where most Class G traffic fears to tread anyway. Ah, but the second proposal is very different. It means that IFR pilots and inbound regional airlines will have to contend with uncleared VFR flights on approach to regional Class D towers. Think Albury, Tamworth, Launy. Right now, the airspace above the airports is Class C, which means the inbounds are protected because VFR traffic requires a clearance. This proposal is controversial, and some of that is splashing over to the continental Class E debate. Quite unfairly, all Class E is in danger of being portrayed as villianous airspace because of reduced protection for IFR flights.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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