– Steve Hitchen
You could be mistaken for thinking the updates to FAR 23 are just the usual bureaucratic reforms that re-number paragraphs and delete bits that have been moved to other legislation, but in this case, the new FAR 23 is a real reform that has the potential to break shackles for the aviation industry. How bad was FAR 23? It was created from CAR 5, which goes back to 1966, and re-written in 1984 to make it more stringent, then over 800 amendments were made, each one representing another turn of the screw that tightened the regulations. In the end, FAR 23 basically disallowed innovation, like composite materials. All those new aeroplanes like the Cirrus range and the Cessna TTx all fly under exemptions. GAMA's Greg Bowles said to me in an interview a couple of years ago "We actually sort of destroyed the ability to make new product at the light end that are good, modern designs. The global regulatory regime is going to drive us into oblivion if we don't do something major."
That "something major" was a complete consensus re-write of FAR 23 that gives designers freedom to innovate and makes it much cheaper to get type certificates. With the chains loosened, we may now be facing the end of the line for traditional four-seaters like the C172 and the PA28. These planes, both born in the CAR 3 days, are old designs that have been constantly updated to keep them quasi-modern, but with better aerodynamic shapes available from composites, both Cessna and Piper must be considering their futures. The composite Cirrus SR22 is the world's best-selling single-engine aeroplane for a good reason.
Mike Mrdak's departure from Infrastructure was announced this week in one of the most curious ways I have ever seen. Minister Darren Chester issued a statement that started out heaping praise on Mrdak and outlining his achievements, without actually saying at anytime that he's leaving the department. It leaves the industry to assume that from references to "his future role". It's not until the fourth paragraph that we start to understand that he will be the new Secretary for the Department of Communications and the Arts. The initial announcement came from the Prime Minister's office, but if you were on the ball, that could be easily missed. Similarly, the statement also never says that Dr Steven Kennedy is to be the new secretary in infrastructure, only that Minister Chester is looking forward to working with him. It leaves you to read between the lines a bit.
And now from the jungle drums: it would appear the BITRE GA Study is turning out to be a bit of a hand grenade for the government, although I am sure they would be loathe to characterise it that way. If what I am told is true, it vindicates what the aviation community has been trumpting for years: we have a lot of potential, but we need help to convert that into something kinetic. How the government chooses to deal with the report is still a mystery, but there is some talk around the traps that real reform could be on the way. Have I said that before ... maybe just after the Forsyth Report came out?
And it seems that things have stabilised at Airventure and we are going to get a national fly-in and air show for the entire general aviation community. The line-up of exhibitors is now very healthy including some of the companies that became estranged by the exclusivity deal. Good to see them back on board. At all comes together in Narromine on 19-21 October.
At last some more glassware for Matt Hall's trophy cabinet! His third place at Porto last Sunday was reward for a lot of heartache and sweat from the entire team this year as they battled to fine tune a new race plane. Hall predicted a podium at least before the end of the season as he and the team started to get the Edge on song. He's done that, but with two races left to go, Hall still has the ability to stand on the top step of the podium for at least one of them. It's going to be a ripper finish to the Red Bull Air Race season this year, and Hall might surprise a couple of contender before it's all over.
May your gauges always be in the green,
– edited at 5.00 pm 8/9/17 to correct a mistake