– Steve Hitchen
Last week I lamented the inability of the GA community to work together. Only a few days later came a timely example of the positive influence we can have when the cause is common. Pulling together, the Illawarra aviation community put the stoppers on the Tallawarra B power station. The developers of the station were required by the permit to show that there would be no risk to aviation safety by the gas plume, and more importantly, any report showing no risk had to have CASA's agreement. They didn't get it. The NSW RAPAC, with help from local aviators, declined to endorse a Danger Area as being sufficient to mitigate the risks from the gas plume. According to the planning permit condition, there must be no gas plume from any power station built in that location. A great effort from the local aviation community and kudos to CASA for seeing the safety issues through the fog of political imperative. I am not, however, naive enough to believe we have heard the last of this.
Both sides have been spruiking the merits of the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill like a town crier at a centenary celebration. It compels CASA to take into account economic impact when drafting regulation, but it's looking more and more like a placebo for the ills rather than a cure. The need to consider cost has been in the Statement of Expectations (SoE) for some years now, and through that time the aviation community has been further burdened with the exorbitant costs of Parts 61, 141 and 142. Part 135 is looking to be just as damaging. There is solid argument that these parts have not increased safety in any way and were introduced purely to align us with ICAO. So here's the point: if the government was not prepared to hold CASA to task over the crippling costs of these suites, exactly when is it going to call them to account? The recent Airvan grounding was really a big test. It cost, by operator estimates, $5-6000 per aeroplane per day. That might not be a lot of money to the government, but it is to operators who are struggling to get black ink on their balance sheets. The department has supported CASA 100%, saying safety must come first. Get used to those words, I suspect every time we point to the the SoE or the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill we are going to hear them come back at us. CASA wields the primacy of safety like a Scottish claymore, and I doubt anyone in the government has the political courage to take away their weapon.
Airservices is circling their wagons at the moment after a damning report into harrassment, bullying and intimidation did all but declare them extremely guilty on all counts. The North report recommends a formal inquiry, but points out that Airservices is likely to not co-operate because it would be tantamount to self-incrimination. The entire aviation community needs to stand up here and demand the inquiry go ahead. If Airservices is right and there is no culture problem, then the inquiry can only bolster their arguments. But if there is inherent bullying and harrassment going on then it needs to be rooted out right now. The services provided to us in the air are far too important to be stuffed around with. Controllers are our lone voices in the night, our guardian angels and regularly our best friends. We need them on their game every day, and having a background of intimidation on any level is not acceptable. Bring on the inquiry: it will get things sorted out one way or the other.
What a competition we have for you! FlightStore has put together a collection of great gear and offered it up to one extremely lucky newsletter reader. The pack consists of a MyGoFlight flight bag, Aviation Theory Centre logbook and seven-volume PPL/CPL theory book pack, a standard Part 61 licence holder, an ArmyTek Doberman torch and a Remove Before Flight key tag. That's a total value of $700. The competition will be open to all newsletter subscribers and those that sign-up especially for the competition. News on how you can win will be available soon, so keep an eye on your computer next Friday!
Nominations for the Wings Awards are now firmly closed. We'll be in contact in the next week or so if we need more information about your submission. Thanks to all those that put in the time to ensure that some very hard workers in the GA community are appropriately recognised.
May your gauges always be in the green,