– Steve Hitchen
Beware the unwary. Last year the government made significant changes to the ASIC system, tightening it up spuriously in the name of security. One of the changes they made was to demand the Issuing Bodies sight the originals of identification documents in order to verify them. Previously, copies authenticated by people on a government list were sufficient. As it was not possible for applicants to travel to the companies, a network of agents sprung up around Australia, which seemed the best, most logical way to deal with the new demands from the Department of Home Affairs. But here's where you need to be careful: those agents have a right to charge for their services on top of the cost of the ASIC. For example, if your Issuing Body is using Australia Post as a verifying agent, you'll get slugged a further $44. In some cases, the Issuing Agent may not make this clear until you have lodged the paperwork. Once you've done that, there's almost no reversing the process. So, before you commit to an Issuing Body, contact them about their agent network and any extra charges involved. Getting an ASIC is already one of the most frustrating and meaningless things we have to do, and being slugged for hefty hidden charges can only raise the ire another notch.
United Airlines' MAYDAY call yesterday turned out to be much ado about nothing. The pilot was just following procedures that have to be applied once the aircraft is starting to dip into its reserves. Of course at the mention of the word MAYDAY the emergency services went into frenetic action ready for the great disaster that was never going to happen. Is this a harbinger of things to come? CASA's new fuel rules that require a "MAYDAY – fuel" call once a flight crew determines the aircraft will land with less than 30 minutes in the tanks comes into force on 8 November, and it seems that the reaction we saw in Sydney might presage an unintended consequence of the new rule. "MAYDAY" is a term well-known publicly to mean distress and danger, and anyone who hears that is likely to interpret it as an indicator of impending doom; it's a cry for help and salvation. With that in mind, the reaction of the Sydney emergency services was justified. It really wasn't their fault that there was no danger to the aircraft of the magnitude that warranted the use of the word MAYDAY. However, there are many ears listening to aviation frequencies nowadays and hearing "MAYDAY – fuel" transmitted is likely to trigger a repeat of the United Airlines incident. To avoid this, CASA would have been wise to mandate a PAN call instead; perhaps a term more appropriate to the level of the situation.
AOPA CEO Ben Morgan has declared that Ausfly will be a non-political event. It may be that on the surface, but you can guarantee the undercurrent will be a political one. Morgan and AOPA didn't go to the RAAus-backed AirVenture, but are now inviting RAAus to their event. That makes for a nice little quandry for everyone to ponder. Should RAAus not go, it would be unfair for AOPA to round on them given that AOPA also declined the AirVenture invitation. If RAAus does go, they immediately take the moral high-ground from AOPA with a magnanimous gesture and a display of no hard feelings. The Cold War in Australian general aviation has yet to reach the iron curtain stage, but it really can't be far off a time when dialogue between RAAus and AOPA/AGAA collapses completely. AOPA has said they'd love to do a round table with RAAus to discuss the future of the industry and have suggested Ausfly as the place to do it. But, like so many summits during the real Cold War, fruitful discussions in cordial environments often go sour once the parties get back to their respective corners. What GA needs is genuine collaboration rather than points scoring, but it seems to the industry that both parties are focusing on doing just that. Sounds like politics to me!
Speaking of, this week is the last week we will keep the GA Representation Survey open. After that, we'll sift through the responses and make the results public. Having kept an eye on the responses as they come in, I can let it slip that the results so far are heavily weighted towards one representative group over all the others. Most interesting. Not had your say yet? You've got another week to get your opinion on the record.
May your gauges always be in the green,