This week I had the most enlightening experience of using the new CASA AVMED system in anger. That's not a metaphor; I really got angry with it. When CASA's stakeholder engagement people knew I was up for my Class 2 renewal, they said they would be very interested in my feedback, so strap in guys, here it is. The online system probably has merit, but I am struggling to find it right now. As I see it, it's the same old rubbishy questionnaire, but now you do it with a computer, not a pen. And that is my first problem: once you have submitted it there's no way to correct errors. With a pen you could always cross it out and put in the right answer, but not with this system.
Which leads to my second beef: there is no date limit for the information they demand. Questions such as "have you ever had an x-ray?" or "have you ever been to see a medical practitioner?" are accompanied with a request for the month and year you did it. I can imagine, given the average age of private pilots, that many can't remember those details, meaning either making up some rubbish or omitting it simply to get to the next step. And when you think about it, how does having a x-ray for a broken arm in 1974 affect a pilot's fitness to fly in 2017? Yet, that info is required. In other words, the system encourages pilots to lie either directly or by omission, just because its easier, and human nature will always guide us down the easiest path. Even my DAME when asking questions used the qualifier "recently".
Now comes the most important part of the AVMED system: paying the $75 fee. The system states quite emphatically (and confirmed with a call to CASA) that the fee for Class 1 and 3 can be paid in advance, but not a Class 2; that has to be paid "at the time of examination." My DAME knew nothing about that and got frustrated when trying to process my medical, It seems the system detected no payment and therefore refused to have anything to do with me. The DAME knew nothing about taking money and neither did his staff. A call back to CASA revealed that DAMEs are resisting taking the money on CASA's behalf. In the end it got sorted with me giving my credit card details to CASA directly, and they went through $75 worth of work to push a button somewhere. On the credit side, my proper medical certificate arrived the next day. That was impressive!
Righto, so what does all that mean? Simply put, getting it online could be a good idea, but the questionnaire should have been straightened out and made more relevant and logical first.
AOPA Australia has delivered a broadside to CASA over what they say is unfair exclusion from the new ASAP. In a letter to Shane Carmody and The Hon. Darren Chester MP, AOPA CEO Ben Morgan all but accuses CASA of deliberately stifling genuine feedback and industry opposition. That might be one salvo too many to say that, but many of the other arguments are compelling. However, it seems to me there is more at stake here: the question of who represents GA in Canberra. Both the department and CASA appear very happy to deal with TAAAF, most likely because it means they can deal with one consolidated voice from the bleachers rather than a cacophany of different opinions from each and every acronym. TAAAF is supposed to be a united voice, so by AOPA, AMROBA and AAAA wanting separate representation, are they telling us that TAAAF is not as united as they are supposed to be? What other conclusion are we supposed to draw?
And we have our answer now on the BITRE GA study: it's been delayed until 31 August. As I said in LMH on 23 June, this report will be used to justify government action and in-action for several years to come, so it really does represent a milestone in the future of general aviation in Australia. The other thing we need to remember is that 31 August is the day the report is due to be handed to the minister, not the day the general public gets to find out what's in it. For that we may have to hang on for a few weeks further until the department has perused it, digested it, then prepared a response. It is possible that response, when it comes, will be more earth-shaking than the report itself.
One more day and that's it! The 2017 Wings Awards nominations have to close at midnight tomorrow night. We have become aware of several late nominations (usually via frantic phone calls), and all we can do is encourage them to get in what they have. It's better to be on the list than not on the list, even if you really haven't polished the submission the way you want to. So get your skates on and get them in.
May your gauges always be in the green,