• Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)
    Australian Flying editor Steve Hitchen. (Kevin Hanrahan)

Steve Hitchen

The RAAus submission to Airservices Class E proposal made the deadline last Friday by the width of a small comma, but was well worth the wait; it's one of the best we've yet seen, and we've seen some very good ones. The crux of the submission is a call for a complete strategy around airspace regulation and design, rather than disconnected, piecemeal proposals created to fix issues that are at best vague and at worst nefarious. Lowering the Class E stands to erode the access to airspace for a lot of pilots, yet Airservices has delivered their proposal with disdain for the impacts and far too much creative marketing. They have also failed–despite several submissions hammering the fact–to articulate the problem they are trying to solve and provide evidence that the disruption is justified; risk assessments and safety cases have been replaced with dubious rhetoric. It is at best vague, which means the industry will presume the worst: nefarious. The proposal in this or any other modified form will have to be rubber-stamped by CASA's Office of Airspace Regulation (OAR) before anything goes ahead, and the aviation community is hoping they throw the whole lot back in Airservices' face because the case hasn't been proven. Of course, if Airservices had been able to show exactly how the changes fit into a national airspace strategy, perhaps the industry could see what they were trying to achieve.

I opened the government's strategy paper on emerging technologies with a great deal of excitement, which was quickly vanquished when I realised it was all about drones. Drones and urban mobility is going to play a large part in sculpting the new aviation landscape all over the world in the next decade, but most of the inspiration is coming from overseas initiatives. One of the largest drone manufacturers in the world is Chinese and the urban mobility drive is coming from Europe and the USA. What I was hoping to see was a strategy to make Australia a leader in propulsion technology such as hydrogen-electric power trains or sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Having exported most of our donkey-work manufacturing to other countries, we have only advanced technologies to fall back on, which is one of Australia's strengths; a strength that would fit very nicely when it comes to alternative power sources for aircraft. The most likely future for GA is electric engines, but the weight of the batteries is likely to be prohibitive to anything but short-range trainers for some time yet. The best, most practical technology emerging is hydrogen-fuel electric engines, which don't rely on batteries to store the power. The work done by ZeroAvia in the UK is proving the concept despite the crash of the development airframe last week. Within five years, I expect hydrogen-electric technology to have made greater leaps towards stamping itself as the successor to avgas engines, and Australian investment in the industry now would position us well for the future.

This week I was privileged to help present two Wings Awards: the Col Pay Award to Roger Merridew and the Flight Training Organisation of the Year to Tristar ... for the second year in a row. It's very satisfying to know that the efforts of these people and others awarded for 2020 are being recognised now when in the time before the Wings Awards there was no mechanism to do this. In the same week the Busselton Aero Club arranged to present the Flying Instructor of the Year award to CFI Peter Hales. The COVID situation that bloomed rapidly in Perth last week meant Australian Flying's representative had to cancel his travel to Perth, leaving BAC to make the presentation to Peter themselves. For that, we apologise to Peter and thank the aero club for picking up the ball we were forced to drop. It is even more satisfying to see in person how much the aviation community has embraced the Wings Awards; the enthusiasm and effort that goes into a good nomination is surpassed only in the pride of winning. Australian Flying and the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society have been running the awards since 2013, and for 2020 brought CASA on board as a primary supporter. We are pleased to be able to say that the association will continue into 2021. 2021? Is it that time already? We'll have to get cracking with the next round, so keep in touch and watch the Australian Flying website and this newsletter for details on how you can nominate someone for this year.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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