– Steve Hitchen
RAAA CEO Steve Campbell has reminded Barnaby Joyce that the power to reject the Moorabbin master plan lies with the minister. I am not sure he needed reminding, but a gentle nudge about sending messages in an election year never goes astray. The master plan envisages more bulldozers tearing up taxiways; taxiways that are vital to the continuing viability of the airport. Proposals such as this not only put the airport operators and the GA companies at opposite poles, but also forces the minister to choose between them. Approval of the master plan condones the airport operator and condemns the GA companies who have been Moorabbin Airport's keystones for decades. Rejection of the master plan recognises the plight of the flying schools and maintenance organisations that rely on the infrastructure, but bites the hand that relieves the government of having to finance the airport itself. It doesn't come down to who has the best argument, but whose influence has the greatest power. In an election year there is a third factor involved: what is the best decision to ensure the government gets re-elected? The crux of the RAAA letter is that a decision to reject the master plan is the best strategy to re-elect the government, but like every capital city airport in Australia, there is a public groundswell that wants Moorabbin closed and converted to a job-generating industrial park. And the general public often represents a larger voter population than general aviation does. We are going to learn a lot about our minister one way or the other when he makes his call.
CASR Part 149, which is the legislation that enables approved self-administering aviation organisations (ASAO) to exists with a CASA approval rather than a operate under a litany of exemptions, has proven itself to be very contentious within the GA community. There is still a weight of opinion that believes CASA should take back administration of everything that flies, which means death for organisations like RAAus, the Gliding Federation of Australia and your friendly neighbourhood skydivers. CASA is not of that opinion; they effectively invented the ASAO idea and is pursuing it vigorously as CEO Pip Spence revealed during the week. One of the reasons why CASA is pushing the ASAOs to get Part 149 is to make life easier for CASA. Internal sources have regularly told me that CASA wouldn't have the ability to deal with recreational aviation with the flexibility it needs to grow and flourish. If CASA was to take it all back, they'd apply the usual heavy-handedness with which they traditionally have dealt with GA. So what they are saying is the ASAO concept–be it under Part 149 or ongoing exemptions–is the only way recreational aviation can flourish. Could it be that the lack of an ASAO is one of the reasons why GA is not flourishing? That's probably a cheeky thought, but one worth airing on a Friday.
And it seems that one of Australia's larger ASAOs is showing it understands its role is more than an administrator. RAAus has put together a package of support for members and member organisations impacted by the floods in SE QLD and northern NSW. They've also said they're preparing a program of ongoing support for members impacted by disasters in the future as well. Whilst the money is nothing to sneeze at, there is bigger benefit in the subliminal text that RAAus recognises its role as an aviation community leader. Whereas CASA does not lead the GA community (which could rightly be described as leaderless) because their responsibilities are limited to regulation and safety, RAAus is hampered only by their CASA approval and their own constitution, both of which give them a lot of flexibility. But that flexibility is inextricably entwined with the responsibility to use the flexibility for the benefit of the membership base, and initiatives like this are exactly the sort of thing that shows RAAus understands that responsibility.
May your gauges always be in the green,