– Steve Hitchen
It's only natural that there's a lot of buzz about the GA world internationally about MOSAIC. If you're not up to speed, MOSAIC is an upgrade to the definition of light sport aircraft that will permit much heavier MTOWs, retractable gear and all sorts of engines. What this does is free-up manufacturers to design more robust and capable aircraft without having to go through full certification to FAR23. The intended and expected impact of this new standard is that manufacturers can now incorporate new technology and modern safety features without having to worry about slashing the useful load of the aircraft. So who is it that benefits the most. Private owners, for one, who will now have a selection of more capable aircraft to park in their hangars. But I believe the biggest benefits could be realised by flying schools. GA schools have faced heavy fleet-replacement decisions for years now, caught between keeping ageing trainers in the air or investing Powerball-level dollars in buying new trainers. The theory that existing LSAs could be used as primary GA trainers hasn't really been taken to heart by schools around Australia, but those built to the new definitions might be more attractive. They'll be more versatile, stronger and cheaper; cheaper because manufacturers won't be saddled with the FAR23 certification costs that are generally loaded onto aircraft sell prices. A much needed refreshing of Australia's GA training fleet may be just around the corner, thanks to MOSAIC.
Have I told you about my first ever solo nav exercise? 1989, Longwarry Airport, Victoria. The instructor dispatched me on a flight south to Phillip Island, east to Yarram, north to Latrobe Valley and west back to Longwarry. I stuffed it up. Near Wilsons Promontory, I found cloud sitting on the high ground that stopped my eastward path, so I put in a flight plan amendment and reversed my course. Much unhappiness was expressed on my return because I'd failed to complete the exercise. However, I advanced to the next stage because the nav had taught me how to assess cloud, how to make a decision that kept me safe and how to amend a plan in the days of full-reporting VFR. I also learnt that diverting around the range to the south would have been a better idea. Today, because of the competency-based requirements of CASR Part 61, I wouldn't be advanced despite learning such valuable lessons because instructors are given no discretion. If the task is not completed, the competency is not demonstrated and the student can't be advanced. The result is that nav exercises must be canceled if the instructor is not 100% certain they can be completed. To do so condemns the student into paying more money to repeat the nav. Sending a student out to have a look and make their own decision is not part of ab initio training in the Part 61 world. It creates a training environment where the only lessons learnt are those dictated by the regulations. Safe aviation takes a lot more than simple compliance, it takes ad-hoc decision-making skills that are best developed from having to use them. I still use the lessons from my first solo nav. I would have learnt nothing if I'd been told to cancel, or, indeed, if the flight had gone perfectly.
The clickers on the turnstiles at Oshkosh must have sounded like Geiger counters at Chernobyl. More than 677,000 people went through them this year, blowing away the old record by 20,000 heads. There were also 848 exhibitors (another record) and an average of 148 runway movements per hour, or 2.5 every minute. Airventure, for all the years it's been around, is still growing. That's what enthusiasm and demand give you. We've always lamented the lack of something similar here in Australia, but every attempt seems to come to not much. Of course, that's never stopped us trying. Even next year Fly'n for Fun and Ausfly are both slated for the NSW western plains in Autumn. The AMDA-backed Fly'n for Fun is on 12-14 April, but the closest we've been to an announced date for Ausfly was a teaser made by organisers that the date will be finalised soon. Other than that, not a lot is known thus far about either event. We could use some snippets of information to whet our enthusiasm soon. However, I'm going to go out on a limb now and predict that attendances will be shy of those at Oshkosh, but I guess that's not much of a strain on my crystal ball.
May your gauges always be in the green,