– Steve Hitchen
After years of failure to get meaningful reform from regulators, it was inevitable that general aviation would move to find allies within politics. A sensible strategy if you get it right. If you get it wrong it has parallels with poking black bears with short sticks. Authorities, bureaus and boards that governments empower to regulate or control cherish that power and guard it very closely. In many instances, the bureaucrats that populate these entities have to have more political savvy than they do expertise in the area they govern. That's where the GA industry is on the back foot: we have plenty of expertise in aviation, but are a bit short on political nous. Who has the power in these battles will depend on the terms of engagement. Are we fighting the battle using aviation smarts or political nous? Given that senators are politicans and not aviators (there are a few who are both), this battle is likely to be fought on political ground, which hands the advantage over to the bureaucrats. GA's best chance is to head-up the charge with someone who knows politics, can articulate well the GA case and, perhaps above all, is respected by both the bureaucrats and the politicians. There are such champions within aviation, but it is the nature of the industry that they generally find themselves time-poor, or fear the sting in the tail of CASA in the form of regulatory retribution. When AGAA goes before the Senate RRAT committee on 19 November, they will need to do so with professionalism and integrity; this will not be the moment for emotional rhetoric that will likely fail to encourage the senators to investigate further. And the argument will need to be clear, concise and be tempered against the holes that CASA is likely to want to poke in it. Failure on either of these matters will severly damage the integrity of GA in the eyes of the senate. Political skin is rarely risked unless the case compels.
Ken Cannane's call for a Parliamentary Resolution to support aviation regulation reform is one of the year's most intriguing propositions. Parliamentary Resolutions are two-faced creatures that can be powerful or impotent depending on whether or not they are binding or non-binding. Binding resolutions are tantamount to law; non-binding ones have the potency of a straw poll. Any resolution about aviation that is non-binding won't have the desired impact that the campaign behind it desires. A classic case was the US non-binding resolution to support a democratic Taiwan: any binding resolution would have angried-up the Chinese. This way, the US can always forget the whole thing if it becomes expedient to do so. The same would be true of a non-binding resolution to support general aviation in Australia; should it become awkward it would be thrown under the political bus faster than Malcolm Turnbull was. Australian politics has historically been a case-study in how to be wishy-washy; how to appear to champion a cause without committing yourself to it, so a binding resolution on aviation reform might just be too affirmative for an amorphous political enviroment such as the current House of Representatives. However, a call for a binding resolution can have the effect of calling a bluff: if our elected representatives who assure us they are all for reform are serious, then what legitimate excuse can they have for not wanting to be bound by their rhetoric?
It is very pleasing to see that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has named their new media studio after Macarthur Job. Mac Job was a passionate stalwart of aviation journalism and aviation safety for decades. A man who had the respect of just about everyone who encountered him, Mac's opinion on aviation was held in higher regard that perhaps anyone else in the country. It is not for nothing that Mac is the only aviation journalist inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame. Mac's legacy to Australia was already extensive, and now the ATSB has properly honoured the one man who managed to straddle the dual roles of journalist and regulator better than anyone ever has.
May your gauges always be in the green,