– Steve Hitchen
My last column briefed the industry on the impending sale or closure of GippsAero by parent company Mahindra Aerospace. Triggered by extremely poor shipment figures, I went searching and uncovered the shaky ground upon which GippsAero now stood. It took a bit longer to confirm the reasons why. It seems Mahindra ignored the hackneyed but legitimate old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." GippsAero was short of cash, but far from broken when the Indian conglomerate bought in at the height of the GFC. Then they proceeded to fix a company that didn't need fixing, and after reassembling it couldn't make it work they way they wanted it to. There's no shortage of ex-GippsAero people out there willing to tell their stories; loyalty to a great aeroplane is still very strong. That loyalty extends to the customers; the Airvan 8 is one of the few aeroplanes that is not over-hyped but continues to deliver above expectations. It is galling to think that all that may be gone for no reason other than it couldn't meet the demands of big business attitudes. There is still time for the Airvan to be saved, but it is in the hands of Mahindra, which doesn't seem fussed if they sell it complete or smash it up for parts. A good outcome is still possible, but it would take Mahindra to cut their losses and set the Airvan 8 free.
It seems problems are coming at the Bristell from all directions ... or are they? In late July, CASA firmed-up its stall ban on the LSA in spite of local representatives petitioning the government to take the regulator to task over the way the whole things has been handled. Now, today, CASA has gone again, this time with a warning that the aircraft handbook figures could, if followed, result in an aft centre of gravity (CoG). Do I hear the thunderous clatter of pennies dropping? One of the known impacts of an aft CoG has been found in many aircraft to be a change in the spin characteristics. Generally speaking, an aft CoG will dictate a nose-up pitch and a flatter spin; notoriously hard to break because control effectiveness decreases. This is likely to show up only when two people are on board, i.e., not during spin testing, which is traditionally done solo. Of course, all this is speculation that will or won't be confirmed by CASA investigations and whether or not the same condition is found in Bristells in Australia. This is not the end of the story ... this is a new beginning! If true, everything in the ongoing saga with this aeroplane just changed. However, I must take time to muse on how we could have had two serious accidents with the type in Australia and not twig to this problem.
Central Coast Airport at Warnervale is breathing again! A NSW government review has delivered recommendations that are encouraging to the future of the airport ... and the government has accepted them. The review into the legislation that imposed restrictions has been scrapped and the local council has been directed to develop a plan for the future of the airport. It's all looking good. So far. The local council has not exactly shown themselves to be pro-airport, and you could mount a decent argument that they are the opposite. Central Coast Aero Club has been pitted against the council at almost every turn, trying only to exercise their rights to use the airport as an airport. We may be dreaming that some government regulations will be enough to quell their animosity; councils are known for their ability to take petty regulations and morph them into show-stoppers for airports (G'day Tyabb!). This is a great win for CCAC, and the government support has been fantastic, but more will be needed if Warnervale is to have a sure future ahead of itself.
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May your gauges always be in the green,