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

Steve Hitchen

And then there were none. CASR Part 149 approvals are now closed with five sport aviation bodies (SAB) that applied being awarded their certificate. Originally, it was thought that nine SABs were on the slate for approval. Those that haven't made the cut for whatever reason will now fall under CASA administration or continue to operate under exemptions. CASA seems pretty pleased with the SABs that made the jump to Part 149 because it means a comprehensive leap in the professionalism of the organisations. RAAus won Part 149 approval, whereas I am sure the AUF wouldn't have cut the mustard. But not everyone is smiling; there are still advocates out there that believe Part 149 is just CASA abdicating their responsibilities and foisting cost back onto the industry. If you pick apart that opinion, you can see what makes it tick, but it really is a paradigm entrenched in the history of general aviation and not the future. CASA is facing a barrage of challenges in the next 10 years including urban mobility, RPAS, alternate fuel, electric power, skill shortages, environmental concerns, cultural concerns, space and cyberspace to highlight a few. That's an oncoming storm that GA needs to be insulated from as far as possible, and that's where Part 149 comes into it. Although CASA is still the regulator, their confidence in a Part 149 administrator will act as a buffer for sport aviation sectors and give SAB members a voice that is listened to as aviation in Australia goes through an necessary upheaval.

Part of that upheaval is the move to sustainable power sources. This week the RAAA expressed doubts that general aviation will be able to make the leap to electric power, which will be disappointing for the Labor government to hear as they are pinning their net-zero dreams for GA to electricity. The issue is this: where SAF is likely to be a drop-in replacement for turbine fuel, electric systems need nearly a whole new aeroplane to support them. Whilst Pipistrel has made some advances with slotting electrical systems in to the Sinus/Virus airframe, the end result is heavily degraded capability. GA, especially in the regions, can't cope with that; they need power trains that will deliver similar capability to what they have now. Failure to deliver them economically will have operators turning back to legacy airframes with maintenance and upgrades to keep aircraft viable for the next 2000 hours. The astute among you will realise that I'm not talking about a new problem; fleet replacement in GA has been an issue for years. A new Cessna 206 capital cost is well over $A1 million, whereas a second-hand model with reasonable hours remaining can be snatched up for less that one-fifth of that (if you're quick!). And just don't ask about the cost of a new Baron; people are doing $1 million upgrades to old airframes because it's still cheaper than new. So there is a very weak culture in fleet replacement to new in regional GA, one that will need to be strengthened if viable electric aircraft are going to penetrate the market.

Aeria Management Group (AMG) has made a submission to the white paper process suggesting the government invest in new technologies and anchor those investments at Bankstown and Camden Airports (of which AMG runs both). That will work for smaller technologies such as RPAS and electric power, but the Federal Government is focusing more on sustainable aviation fuel than any other, and for that you need copious amounts of sunshine and lots of space; both of which are to be found in abundance in Australia's regions moreso than the metro areas. That's where the money will go initially. Consider also that the minister for infrastructure and transport is also the minister for regional development; one hand giveth and so does the other one. So if your company is into new aviation technologies and you're looking for a grant that contributes to net-zero targets, a regional base is going to be an advantage in the near future. That, I suspect, will apply to all technologies, not just SAF.

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May your gauges always be in the green,


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