– Steve Hitchen
Does the general aviation community have that much inquiry fatigue that they can't find it in themselves to engage with the current senate inquiry? Or, are we dealing with a level of apathy generated by the impacts of the pandemic; impacts that have deprived the inquiry of energy? Senator Susan McDonald issued a plea this week for the GA community to get their submissions in, a plea which has some merit given the recent experience at Moorabbin Airport where operators have been lumbered with a series of business-destroying master plans because almost no-one bothered to comment on them. This is now solid proof that a lack of engagement with consultation demonstrates a lack of interest that is all the incentive politicians need to rubber stamp the plans and move on to something else. The senate GA inquiry will suffer the same fate if the community demonstrates the same levels of apathy, which looks like the paradigm right now. If GA can engage more, we may be able to take advantage of an opportunity that has opened up: a change of minister. The GA inquiry is self-referred, which means no-one in the government is obliged to even so much as respond to it. The word around Canberra is that a healthy, supported inquiry would get more traction with Barnaby Joyce than it would have with Michael McCormack. However, if the senate presents a half-arsed, wishy-washy report drawn from the voices of only a passionate few, I suspect not even BJ himself will take a lot of notice. The GA community needs to get over it's apathy infection and engage in numbers to show Canberra that it is prepared to be involved in its own future.
Whilst COVID appears to have energised AirVenture at Oshkosh, in Australia it's slowly grinding down the air show calendar as uncertainty claims more and more events. This week the axe fell on Tyabb. Not that long ago the Brisbane Airshow was postponed until October and the Australian International Airshow has been postponed twice to dates that were optimistically set for a post-COVID time. The same for Wings over Illawarra. But COVID isn't going away any time soon, which means the uncertainty is with us, I believe, for at least the duration of 2021. The difference between the USA and here is a measure of the varying attitudes between the leadership of the two nations. In the USA they believe it's time to live with the virus and its effects rather than relegate the people to the foxholes and prepare to repell the enemy. In Australia we still believe the enemy can be beaten off with minimal casualties, but even the greatest victories in the world have resulted in the destruction of the towns that were fought over. It's galling to see Oshkosh deal with 608,000 people when in Australia we're shaking our heads to proposed gatherings of only a few thousand at most. In the great scheme of things, missing a few air shows is not a great disaster, but the corrosion of the social fabric that is a critical component of general aviation is a great loss, and one that we'll all have to work hard to restore after the war is over.
And it's not only air shows getting the chop. This week the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame (AAHOF) has postponed its annual induction dinner. Scheduled for a date in November at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) in Albion Park, the event has been put off until, hopefully, March next year. In making the announcement, AAHOF also said they were looking for nominations for the Hall of Fame for 2022. This is not for a want of candidates, but rather a lack of nominations. Australia was one of the world's great aviation pioneers right through to the Second World War and even in the decades after it, and there are hundreds of people who deserve such high recognition from the aviation community. But it relies on people to put their names forward. And we're not talking about pilots only; engineers, administrators, regulators, club presidents and even journalists have made contributions to aviation in Australia that helped shape our industry and community. They, who built what we have, need us to start the process that in the end delivers them the accolade they deserve. Nominations can be made through the AAHOF website.