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

– Steve Hitchen

I find it amusing (although I can be easily amused) that CASA is predicting a $12,000 surplus for the 2020-21 financial year. After a year when incomes have been shredded by poor takings from fuel excise and fee waivers to the aviation community as part of their COVID-downturn response, it would be reasonable to expect an operating loss greater that they usually book. In 2018-19the last uncorrupted yearCASA returned an operating deficit of $3.5 million and in 2017-18 they were in the red by $500K. The figures make it very clear the operating result (if in fact they can keep it intact through to 30 June) is due to a special government allocation of $68 million. Back-of-the-coaster calculations show without that cash injection, CASA would have booked a loss of over $67 million. All of this is the lead-up to what I believe will be a remodeling of CASA's funding. The first step has been announced: a registration fee for all drones over 500 g. Although that's not going to net CASA a fortune in the coming year, it is expected to rake in $26 million per year after the world settles into its new normal. There'll be other measures as well, and I'm sure we won't be happy about all of them. When you remodel something you want to make it better for you, and when CASA is constantly booking deficits, it will only look better for the government if that is constantly wiped out, which means finding more money or lowering operating costs. Bureaucracies are not good at lowering operating costs.

French manufacturer Daher has indicated in its shipment figures that all the TBM single-engined turbo-props they delivered for Q1 2021 were fitted with the HomeSafe system. HomeSafe is Daher's name for the Garmin Autoland technology; Piper calls it HALO and Cirrus named it Safe Return. With the push of a button, the aircraft will take control and land its occupants at the nearest suitable airport in a situation where the pilot has been incapacitated. That will work well in Europe and the USA, but in Australia, the nearest suitable airport could be a long way away. The runway needs to be suitable for the aircraft and it must have an instrument approach that Autoland can use to fly the aircraft to the ground. Australia is pretty light on airports with instrument approaches outside the J-curve, which means Autoland might be in command for a couple of hours; a scary prospect for pax already rattled by the loss of their pilot. This technology is in its infancy at the moment, but you can bet it will be mainstream on most jets and turbo-props in the next decade. Australia, however, is not ready for it. To make Autoland viable over here, we need to increase significantly the number of airports the system can use. The way to do that is to get our finger out and fast-track the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS). SBAS means a GPS accuracy of one metre, or in some cases even as pin-point as 100 mm. Currently, our navigation technology gives us 5-10 metres accuracy; good enough for landing a Baron at a regional airport, but well over par for a cyber-pilot trying to get the pax home safely.

And now to Wednesday evening! We are very happy to announce that our RotorTech and helicopter industry forum panel will include industry experts Mike Becker from Becker Helicopters in QLD, Richard Butterworth, Head of Training for Kestrel Aviation in Mangalore and Phil Smart from AMDA Foundation. Together we'll be discussing the challenges facing the helicopter industry as it struggles to take flight again after the COVID downturn and how RotorTech is a keystone event in that recovery. Join us on the Australian Flying Facebook page at 7.30 pm and get yourself up to date.

May your gauges always be in the green,


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