– Steve Hitchen
The 2019 Wings Awards are now squared away, with the announcements revealing once again the depth of dedicated people that make the GA industry go around. The Col Pay winner, Senja Robey, has been one of the rocks of GA in Australia for the past 50 years. Her contribution as an instructor has been invaluable and she herself one of the jewels that make the aviation community worthy being a part of. Our industry didn't just happen; it was created by people like Senja, and I am pleased to be part of a scheme that recognises these people. Instructor of the Year David Pilkington is another foundation stone of GA and you can throw in Tristar's Adrienne Fleming as well. Without people like them we wouldn't have much of a GA community at all. Coonabarabran Aero Club got the gong this year because they refused to give up. Faced with potential extinction, they fought and won a battle for existence. I hope their example can be followed by other aero clubs also looking for a brighter future. Thanks to all those that nominated people this year. Remember, Col Pay Award nominations are perpetual, so there won't be a need to re-submit again next year.
Last week I hinted that the regional airport upgrade grant scheme was due to open this week, but instead there is a big hole where that new story was supposed to go. The Department of Infrastructure and Transport gave us crickets ... again. The word getting around is that the we can expect an announcement any day now, but "any day" is currently defying clarification. There's $100 million swinging here and the industry could use it sooner rather than later. The Remote Airports Upgrade Program (RAUP) round seven that cut in on 1 October is not the same thing. The RAUP is only for airport that are in, or service, remote or very remote areas. The regional scheme is presumably for areas designated an inner or outer regional; we don't know for sure because the criteria is still secret. You can't help but wonder why. Announcements are usually held up either because some politician somewhere is still choking on the original promise, or the announcement is being timed to co-incide with something else. Let's hope whatever is holding up the works is sorted soon and we can start to evaluate the likely impact this money will have.
And so the Traveller has entered service. Tecnam went a bit out-of-square when they announced the P2012 as replacement for legacy twins. There hadn't been a large piston twin made for several years and the charter market was moving firmly towards single-engined turbo-props (SETP) and King Airs as the only alternatives. Then there was also the issue of dwindling avgas supplies in many areas of the world, which also played into the hands of the SETP makers. So for Tecnam to build an avgas-powered twin was not only bucking a trend, but also appeared to be a retrospective decision. But, there can be no denying that the bulk of charter operators around the world continued with their workhorse twins rather than retire them. In some cases it was customer demands for two engines that prevented them going for an SETP and for others the step-up to a turbine was too large a jump to make in terms of operations and economics. The Traveller stands to solve the problem of the step-up, but what about economics? Maintaining old Navajos and C402s may still be cheaper than betting the house on a new Traveller. The P2012 is a good fit for Australia in most ways, but the cost may yet prove to be a serious stumbling block.
Ausfly organisers are staking their success on a healthy seminar program, and it must be with some trepidation given the ill fortune that befell AirVenture Australia last month. The two show locations – Parkes and Narromine – are very close to each other and therefore share similar weather patterns and geographical challenges. AirVenture's now-famous dust storm is not really expected to repeat itself at Ausfly, but even after the tempest had faded, crowds did not rush in. Will they rush in for Ausfly? The flying display is shaping up to be a showcase for the best pilots and aeroplanes GA has, but it's not looking extensive and won't be held on the Friday, which means the expo and the seminars will shoulder the weight of pulling the crowds. Ausfly has one other advantage over AirVenture: they've scheduled nothing for the Sunday, wisely reserving it as a going-home day. The other major marketing differential is that Ausfly is geared-up for the GA community rather than relying on the general public to add energy to the show. Entry is simply a gold-coin donation rather than via a fixed ticketing system designed to cover costs and perhaps a bit more. The mix is therefore very different from AirVenture Australia. Will all that be enough to bring all aviators together under one sky? We'll know the answer to that as we wend our various ways home on 20 October.
May your gauges always be in the green,