– Steve Hitchen
I find it continually intriguing that Australian aviators will go all the way to Oshkosh in numbers and send back thousands of photos every year, but they will baulk at showing up to a national fly-in in their own country. It is now only five weeks until Ausfly at Narromine, yet it is on the radar of so very few pilots. Since the first national GA fly-in was mooted in early 2012, this event has not grown exponentially the way that it should have. There have been several fringe issues that have stunted the growth, but essentially the root cause is a reluctance by aviators to show up. That's not going to be a popular thing for me to have said, but I believe the first step towards solving any problem is recognising that it exists. Organisers and volunteers spend a lot of personal time sorting out air shows and fly-ins, and on the day will scan the skies hopefully looking for evidence that their effort has been justified. What more can they do but put on an event and a show worth showing up for? This year they've got Matt Hall, The Stooges, Emma McDonald, Jock Folan, Mad Dogs and UPRT lined up, which promises to be one of the best air displays you'll get. The thing about fly-ins is that they succeed on the level of energy in the event; energy that is provided not by the organisers, but by the people that show up. Everyone needs to bring their energy this year.
The whole idea of technological advancement in aviation is to make things easier and safer, which commits us to ask a lot of questions when the use of technology is denied. Ten years ago, airports that had RNAVs lost them if they elected not to have their aerodrome certified. According to CASA, it was a matter of obstacles: the RNAV was not protected from people building tall things that protruded into the flight path unless the airport was certified. Now Mallacoota Airport in East Gippsland–the only airport in Victoria in a designated remote area–has lost its RNAV because the council found it was impractical to comply with CASR Part 139. Crucial air ambulance services are under threat, which is a very drastic outcome that was probably not intended by any party involved. For Mallacoota, the answer is probably to recover their certification by way of exemptions or a plea for the Federal Government to fund upgrades to meet the standard. That's not a path that can be considered by many ALA operators around Australia that are being denied the safety levels that RNAV approaches were designed to achieve. RNAVs are too powerful a safety tool to be restricted the way they are, and we have to find a way to permit non-certified airports to use them. CASA is not on board with this, believing the obstacle risk is far too great. It is hard to see how this fear is greater than relegating pilots to approaching airports in marginal conditions over high terrain. Prior to CASR Part 139, RNAVs at ALAs were considered safe (even without official obstacle monitoring), so why can they not be safe again?
I have a theory that all the answers to everything in aviation already exist, they just haven't reached the surface yet or do so in weak formats that just aren't listened to. If I am right, someone out there holds the key to resolving the traffic density problem at Mangalore. There will be countless pilots standing around aero clubs telling the nearest other beerholder how it is all so simple, but this is the weak format of which I speak. Strong formats are well-considered submissions to CASA consultation. Already some good ideas for Manglore have been run past me and I have encouraged each proponent to get their submission in so CASA has something in front of them. The consultation door shuts on 11 August only six days away, and if a meaningful answer is out there, we can only hope that it's in the mix for consideration. Don't sit on your ideas, get them in; consultation is only ever as good as the feedback.
May your gauges always be in the green,