– Steve Hitchen
I'm going to miss Phil Hurst. The AAAA CEO is retiring in January after 22 years in the job, and he's more than paid his dues over that time. Hurst took the AAAA from a well-meaning association of rough-and-tumble croppies to a professional support association that has a membership hitting 90% of the industry. There is probably not another aviation association in Australia that can boast that (and if there is I have no doubt I'll hear about it before next week). Under Hurst's guidance the AAAA elevated its level of expertise and encompassed aerial firefighting at the same time; sensible given that the majority of Australia's single-engine aerial tankers are flown by very experienced ag pilots. But what I will miss about Hurst is a cutting candour that dodged all attempts at deflection and went straight to the heart of any problem. His contribution to CASA's Technical Working Groups and the GAAN have always been of the highest value, and the AAAA membership can rest easy knowing he would represent their interests in Canberra with a great deal of vigour. The other thing I will miss is that Hurst was always prepared to put in material whenever I called for it and was good for an imaginative and illuminating quote. The search is on to replace him, and I suspect that the incoming CEO will have a much easier job because of the quality of the foundation Phil Hurst laid.
Regardless of assurances that no decision has been made to close runway 10/28 at Coffs Harbour, you would have to say it's not looking good. The Enterprise Park development has killed the lit taxiway route to the GA park and the airport management are looking for an alternative. It's all about lighting. They can't simply turn traffic down the runway at night because the runway is not lit. If they decommission the runway they can simply put taxiway lighting down it and call it a taxiway; a cheaper solution than installing full lighting for the runway. However, it may be possible–decent engineering permitting–to create a taxiway parallel to the runway and light that. But both of those are going to cost money and the new owners are probably not seeing 10/28 paying its way. All around Australia, the lesser-used crosswind runways are under threat because they occupy land that development companies can see better ideas for. Look at Bankstown and Moorabbin. In all cases, the airport lessees are not aviation companies and don't necessarily understand the safety net of having an alternative to the main runway when the weather demands it. It may be true that weather predominantly favours one runway over the other, but there will be days when GA aircraft just need to get out of the sky and often that's accompanied by a wind change that favours another runway. They're our ports-in-a-storm, and we need to protect them.
You now have only hours left to submit your nominations for the 2021 CASA Wings Awards. The collector closes at 7.00 pm tonight, so if you've been a bit lethargic in getting yours done, now is the time to lively up yourself and get your submission in. At this stage, there has been no talk of an extension because of the quality and quantity of nominations. However, if you're struggling to get it done, you can always contact us and plead your case for more time. It's always worth a try.
Wings over Illawarra is still going full-steam ahead at this point, with major announcements this week covering the farewell demonstration of the orginal series of F/A-18 Hornets (dubbed retrospectively the "Classic Hornet") and World Championship Air Race exponent Matt Hall. And we might have some very good news about a fly-in competition for that could make some substantial improvements to your cockpit environment. Stand by for more details about this soon.
May your gauges always be in the green,