– Steve Hitchen
The clock struck five and Mr Morrison packed all his pencils in his pencil case, tucked his folder under his arm and marched out of the house. With that, a filibuster-filled last day in Federal Parliament yesterday abruptly ended. The government had avoided an embarrassing defeat on medical care for asylum seekers that would have highlighted their inability to control parliament and therefore, some would say, govern effectively. Shrewdly, the PM has programmed only 10 more sitting days before parliament is dissolved for the May federal election. When you're in minority, sitting days present more opportunitites for defeat than they do victory, and defeats can only dilute the Coalition's message going into the big poll. What this means is that general aviation is unlikely to be mentioned to the house next year because it won't appeal to enough voters; time is of the essence and the largest dragons have to be fed first. Commentators with more wisdom than me are predicting a wipe-out for the Coalition, which will see Labor back in power and the dust blown off the Aviation White Paper that plagued aviation during their last term in power. The only lifeboat we have is the promise from Anthony Albanese of bi-partisan support for GA reforms. If he's true to his word, the changes to the Civil Aviation Act 1988 to enshrine the need to consider cost will make it to the House sometime after the new government begins its term. But need we worry who's in power? When they say you have bi-partisan support a change in the government shouldn't have any impact. That's a politically naive position to take because bi-partisanship often dissolves in the acid of political imperative. The only thing that is certain is that we are in for more uncertainty
Ken Cannane at AMROBA has gone right to the heart of the matter with his piece on industry transition. It's been clear for about 20 years that the GA industry in Australia is changing, but as Cannane asks, changing to what? With no clear direction of the industry's place in the Australian economy, GA has been at the whim and mercy of change for the sake of change, with no controls applied to ensure that GA moves into the next generations with purpose.I began to think we were onto something with the BITRE report; surely a revelation of the value of GA would catalyse the government into doing something like the Thunderbirds responding to a MAYDAY. I am kicking myself for my naivety. The report produced a lot of statistics, but almost no action or recognition on behalf of the government. Consequently, the issue of general aviation has been allowed to rot in a corner with the government letting it decay in the hope that it will conveniently go away. You could easily interpret that as meaning the government considers GA has no place in the economy, except as a means for recovering the cost of regulation. When you look at the amount of money being spent on the inland rail and Western Sydney Airport and compare that to the scraps thrown to a hungry GA industry you get a clear idea of what successive governments think. Yes, clear policy is needed, but that policy also has to have integrity and be backed-up with investment.
But lack of policy is only one boat anchor that GA has to deal with, another one is regulatory attitude. Regulatory attitude seems to govern what CASA does even moreso than the minister's Statement of Expectations. Take CAR Part 135. This is the new suite that lays out the laws regarding passenger-carrying ops in small aircraft. It has been consulted to death, but somehow has been sent for rulemaking without giving any idea of the maintenance regime that will need to be applied to aircraft operating under these rules. The industry has made it very clear they fought to have it included but came up against a brickwall. According to CASA, Part 135 is operational and therefore doesn't have maintenance regs included. This is what I mean about attitude. The SOE doesn't demand that and the industry feedback (that has come to me) doesn't support it, so the thing pushing it along must be attitude. Example Two: consultation pushed hard to have the "nine seats or less" rule extended to 13 seats so the many Cessna Caravan types operating in Australia could be included. It was an out-right winner, but I have been told it didn't greet the judge because someone at CASA tripped it at the last minute saying they would have to consider world's best practice. This is an attitude thing, not an obligation. If it was an obligation they would quickly find that world's best practice means including the maintenance regs in Part 135!
And just as we're about to sign-off, CASA has released the policy paper on CASR Part 43. These are the new regulations covering GA maintenance that have (theoretically) been based on the FARs. The seminars start next week, so if you've put your name down to go to one of them, download the policy paper here and give it a good look over the weekend before heading for the seminar. Go armed with questions.
The new draft CAAP on ops at uncontrolled airports did make it out before the weekend. This is the one that has been at the centre of the five-year debate on frequency use. Last October, CASA called to a halt all the consultation and went with a recommendation of using the area VHF rather than 126.7, but emphasising that a pilot can do what they like if they think it's needed to operate safely. But that's only one section; the CAAP covers all operations in and around CTAFs and ALAs and all of it deserves our attention, not just the frequency issue. The CAAP is up for feedback on the CASA Consultation Hub until 16 January.
May your gauges always be in the green,