• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

– Steve Hitchen

Airservices' proposal to lower the base of Class E on the eastern seaboard is being seen as an attempt to wipe out Class G airspace. When the justification for the proposal is so thin in the public sphere, it's hard to dismiss those claims as the output of conspiracy theorists. Class G is the playground of the silent majority of private and recreational VFR pilots; somewhere they can commit their minds to the aeroplane without bothering ATC, or IFR pilots. Quite fairly, Airservices points out that if you have a radio and transponder you can play in Class E without a clearance, but many pilots won't want to do that even if their aircraft is equipped, because it exposes VFR pilots to IFR pilots who are not likely to be looking out the window. The 1500-foot AGL level betrays what this proposal is about: keeping RPT flights under control all the way down to the overfly height at non-controlled airports. However, setting the level AGL means that the top of the underlying Class G looks like an inverted Manhatten chart that follows the contours of the ground. The GFA, in their opposition to the proposal, points out the difficulty of trying to stay out of the Class E if you have to, being forced to constantly recalculate the base of the Echo airspace by the elevation of the ground below. It also damns those pilots to the lumpy inversion layers. And, although Airservices says more Class E will increase safety, they have failed in their assessments to offset that with the increase in risk to private and recreational pilots who may have to fly closer to terrain than is prudent.

Could there be two more contrasting stories in the same news week? From Bundaberg we have Jabiru Aircraft laying out the near impossibility of GA manufacture under the CASA regime, and from South Africa we have a story of the first flight of a new four-seat type. Building GA aircraft in Australia has proven to be the stuff of nightmares over the years, mostly due to government indifference and the power of the US aircraft makers. But people have tried and will try again. Part of what lures them is that it should be as easy to do it here and it is overseas. The reality is, however, that CASA's lack of genuine understanding about certification and the Federal Government's apathy continue to be millstones that can be carried only so far. With COVID having run roughshod over the economy, it seems the Coalition has woken up to what many people have known for years: we need to build things in Australia and aircraft are one of those things. There is still the issue of cost. It has been estimated that the cost of certifying an FAR23 aircraft from brainwave to first customer delivery is around $100 million depending on what you're doing. The return on investment time doesn't look great. but take into account that old clunkers are beginning to expire right around the world, and it is time for us to let go of our precious and look to new types. Those new types could be made in Australia if we can set up an encouraging environment. How good would it be to read a news story about a new four-seat type made in Australia?

I had the pleasure absolute this week of flying the new Tecnam P92 Echo MkII. This is an LSA with shades of the old P92, but is a completely different aeroplane. Of composite body and metal wing, the construction means the airframe has sleek contours that encourage airflow, but a wing that is addicted to flying. On a CAVOK day over the shore near Barwon Heads in Victoria, it was the perfect aeroplane for reaping aviation joy those conditions usually foster. It really is an amazing aeroplane and I thank Tecnam Australia and AirItalia for handing me the keys to this little ripper. Expect a full report in the next print edition of Australian Flying.

Instructing was once the most logical path for CPLs with wet ink on their licences. Today, not so much, thanks to an academy system that fast-paths so many straight into the airlines. However, people will always need to be taught to fly, and there would be very few pilots in the GA community that don't constantly carry the advice of a good instructor in the cockpit with them. To bring instructing back into focus as a career, Australian Flying has scheduled a Facebook seminar for 7.00 pm on Wednesday 17 February. We've loaded the panel with instructors of all levels to talk about the trade, swap stories and answer your questions. The experts we've lined up are:

  • Linda Beilharz  CFI and RAAus Instructor, Bendigo Flying Club
  • Abby Boston  Grade 2 Instructor, Avia Aviation
  • Amy Muscat  Grade 2 Instructor and RAAus Instructor, Pacific Flight Services
  • Shelley Ross  Grade 3 Instructor, Ward Air
  • Alex Thorsen  Flying Instructor (Helicopters), Melbourne Helicopters

It should be a great fun evening with a bit of information thrown in to boot, so join us on the Australian Flying Facebook page at the appointed time and get your questions ready.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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