– Steve Hitchen
Green by name, green by nature. The Federal Government's 2023 Aviation Green Paper leaves no doubt that the entire aviation industry and community in Australia will be expected to get behind the net-zero emissions by 2050 target. The paper is even sub-titled Towards 2050. That's no real surprise given the recent investment in SAF manufacturing and the creation of the Australian Jet Zero Council, but I fear the GA community could be left behind in all this. Whilst SAF is being touted as the green solution for kero-burners and turbo-props, electric power is clearly nominated as the preferred propulsion for GA and recreational aircraft going forward. The paper seems to ignore the potential of burning SAF in diesel engines as a power source for GA. Electric power capability is hard to evaluate at the moment, because the only working examples have limited practicality despite the marketing hype. SAF in diesels is technology closer to reality, and developing a home-grown powerplant should be high on the agenda of any government truly serious about supporting manufacturing in Australia.
Bankstown Airport is going to have an international airport built in the middle of its training area, and no amount of lobbying and consultation can change that. And despite promises of listening, there is virtually no avenue for GA needs to be taken into account. You can't blame those privvy to the confidential meeting at Bankstown for coming away feeling despondent. Without a practical training area close, training costs are set to soar and sessions lengthen. Whereas training colleges funded through HECS or VET funding have the potential to load those costs onto the fees, the impact of doing so could be suicidal for smaller organisations not in either of those scheme. For them, closure or relocation are the only options, albeit unpalatable ones. VFR private pilots will also be impacted given the greater need for airways clearances to transit the WSA CTA. For some that will be a doddle, until a refusal offends and sends them on a circuitous route to their destination. People get sick of that quickly, which could result in exoduses of private aircraft to Warnervale or Wedderburn ... if they can. And these are only the immediately obvious impacts: others will flow on, such as the effect of fewer movements on Bankstown's economic model. All this represents a new era for Bankstown; one in which the GA community needs to start thinking about now and put in place strategies to get the best outcome, given that WSA is certainly going to be built.
At last Moorabbin Airport has an approved master plan. The process has been drawn out since April 2021 and involved a lot of blood-letting, back-pedaling, cajoling and second-guessing. But, as someone said to me, the devil is in the detail, which stakeholders are still trying to extract given they've been presented with a 338-page document that has no executive summary. The fact that the plan has taken so long to be delivered and was thrown back at various time by both sides of federal politics betrays how much was wrong with the original. But it has had one positive effect: it galvanised the stakeholders of Moorabbin Airport to rally to the call. The 2015 master plan had foretold the loss of taxiway/apron infrastructure, but operators had been so detached that they were surprised when it was enacted. This time, solid community action spurred two ministers into looking closer, resulting in greater scrutiny and saved infrastructure from further destruction. Let this stand as an example for stakeholders at all the other leased airports. Is this plan better for GA than the last one? I don't know, I haven't finished sifting through it either.
May your gauges always be in the green,