– Steve Hitchen
The decision not to offer a lease on Katoomba Airport very quickly fails to survive any form of rigid analysis. According to the NSW government, they made the decision because there was overwhelming community opposition to leasing the airport. With no lease comes no certainty, and with no certainty comes no investment; investment that is needed to make the airport safe for fixed-wing aircraft. Admittedly, the recent bushfire crisis showed that the airport was suitable for use by helicopters, but the operator licence being extended specifically prevents helicopter operations. So we have a government that wants someone to take up an operator's licence for an airport that can't actually be used by aircraft. The hardest thing to accept is that the NSW government clearly thinks this is a reasonable thing to do. The conditions they have created are conducive to one thing and one thing only: complete closure of the airport. Any other outcome can't be achieved because there's nothing left for the airport to be. Once that happens, the airport won't be around for the emergency services to use because it will fall into disrepair very smartly without the investment that only a lease would have encouraged. And with no lease on the land, the roadblock that prevented an Aboriginal Land Claim lodged in 2009 from succeeding will be removed, perhaps paving the way for a similar claim lodged in 2019 to be granted.
The Australian General Aviation Alliance is having another crack at a summit this year in an attempt to bring positive change to the GA community. The last one, held at Wagga Wagga in 2018, was hailed a great success, but two years later hasn't brought much change in the GA predicament. This year, the summit lines-up with the senate RRAT inquiry into CASA and its impact on GA, encouraging AGAA to invite the senators along to hear what the community has to say. But will this tease out any changes? I have already noted before that the senate inquiry is lacking in teeth because it's self-referred, which means the government of the day has the right to ignore it, and now I am wondering if the senators are going to hear anything new. GA associations including AGAA have been briefing and cajoling the senate to seek answers and action on GA issues for years, so there shouldn't be anything new to say that they don't already know. However, many of the people who attend the summit will (hopefully) have already made written submissions to the inquiry (open now, BTW), and AGAA intends to allow some of them to present summaries to the summit with senators present. A presentation given in speech is always more powerful than a written document, so the impact should be greater. The 2020 summit may not result in the desperately needed reforms the GA community has sought for nearly 30 years, but it will be another step in an ongoing campaign of never giving up.
If you're in and around the Melbourne basin this Sunday, don't forget the Tyabb Air Show! There has been plenty written about this show over the years and it has never failed to live up to any of it! It gets good support from the ADF, private warbird operators, emergency services and a good chunk of the general public, which makes it a show worth going to see. Getting 2020 on the calendar has been a epic performance by the volunteers at Peninsula Aero Club, especially in the face of opposition from the local council. Get down there if you get the chance, and show the whole world that this show and this airport are important parts of GA in Australia.
May your gauges always be in the green,