– Steve Hitchen
The waiting is over for six disappointed airport operators who have watched the second Qantas academy go to Mackay. The two academies–the first is in Toowoomba–represented a chance for regional airports to get much-needed cash inflow, and each of the seven short-listed airports would have put their best foot forward to seduce Qantas into coming to their neighbourhood. However, Mackay won the day. My beef with this is that the investment has once again been placed with a corporate-owned airport rather than one of the smaller council-owned regional airports that are struggling for cash and burdened with arbitrary regulation that returns nothing to the industry or community. Airports such as Bendigo and Busselton that were on the academy short-list could have used the money more that Mackay, which is a well-resourced airport with infrastructure many regional airports can only dream about. That's not to say Mackay doesn't deserve it, just that an opportunity has been lost for cash injections in the places where it is needed the most. However, Qantas would have made the assessment based on what is best for them rather than for the Australian aviation industry, and it's hard to criticise them for doing that.
This week's Friday Flying Video is the tragic story of an US Arrow pilot who found himself in very dire straits due to weather. In an attempt to find somewhere to land, he asked ATC about the use of Dover Air Force Base and was told very bluntly that there was no way he could land there. Soon after overflying to the north his tanks ran dry, and ATC vectored him back to the very base he was just told he couldn't land at. It seems he didn't declare an emergency the first time he asked. The reality is that if you're in an emergency situation, defence force bases suddenly become fair game if they are your best or only option. So why didn't this pilot demand Dover the first time rather than accept the blunt refusal? Perhaps for too many pilots around the world there is intimidation attached to the proximity of an air force base. In general, defence force bases are marked as Prohibited Areas with all the threat of federal prosecution that comes with a decision to cross that line. That all changes when you declare an emergency; it's better to land first and answer questions later. So I'd like to put the Australian Defence Force on notice right now. If I'm in an airborne emergency and your airport is my best option, get out of the way ... I'm coming in.
We've had more nominations for the Wings Awards so far this year than in any other year. Yes, this has put some pressure on the judging team, but the quality of nominations is very high, so we're pleased to have the problem. We're also asking for more. The awards close at the end of this month, so there's still plenty of time. In many cases we've had phone calls and e-mails suggesting names and there's not one put forward yet that we wouldn't agree is worthy. But those single-line nominations need to be back up with a full submission, so if you're in that position, get moving now and support your nomination with as much information as you can give us.
Parliament has kicked off again this week after one of the most surprising and perplexing Federal Elections in years. We have the same Minister for Transport to deal with, but a new Shadow Minister in Catherine King, the member for Ballarat. We have to keep our eyes on two major bills. The Air Services Amendment Bill 2018, which gives Airservices greater responsibility for taking into account aircraft noise, was re-introduced to parliament this week, but the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 2019, which got a brief mention in Hansard, is not yet marked as being officially re-introduced. Then there is the Centre Alliance's Motions to Disallow in both the House of Reps and the Senate on CASA's Community Service Flight rules. There doesn't appear to be much movement on either of those yet. So far, parliamentary time has been largely dedicated to the late Bob Hawke and getting tax cuts in place, but I expect soon they will get around to discussing matters that were already on hand before the election. Much to watch.
May your gauges always be in the green,