– Steve Hitchen
Having Barnaby Joyce return to the infrastructure and transport throne is like getting a new king, even though he sat in the seat once before. Last time he was there for a mere three months, and in that period was occupied more by "off-field" issues that distracted him from getting a whole lot done. Consequently, we are left trying to judge what to expect from his second coming based on what didn't happen during his first coming. Whilst he was DPM the last time around (but not Minister – that was Darren Chester), Joyce fronted up to the GA community in Tamworth and made all sorts of promises of the type that politicians regularly use as get-out-of-jail-free cards, including "hopefully we can God-willing bring about an industry that takes some of the weight off your shoulders, lets you get back in the air, lets you make a buck and help this economy go a lot better." Well, that didn't happen; nothing happened, not even after he took over the ministry. Some commentators in the aviation community want Joyce to be cut some serious slack, and I'm prepared to go along with that. However, what I want to see continue is the exceptional work that has been done by the General Aviation Advisory Network (GAAN). This group was constituted by Chester as GAAG and reformed under Michael McCormack as GAAN. Joyce doesn't have a great relationship with either of these people, and my fear is that GAAN may be discarded simply because it was the inspiration of enemies. That's what happens in politics.
You would think that with CASA lifting the stalling ban on the BRM Bristell LSA, the whole sad saga could now be packed up in a box and put on a shelf to be forgotten. It's probably not going to happen that way. Although BRM has got what they wanted, there is lingering dissatisfaction about the process that was forced upon BRM, local agent Anderson Aviation and consultants Edge Aerospace. It's a bit like a dramatic mini series that finishes without wrapping up the loose ends. Probably the most nagging of all questions is this: CASA removed the stalling restriction because BRM Aero issued a note to owners that there was a problem with a CoG arm in the handbook. However, that note was issued in August last year and CASA took another 10 months to remove the restriction. Why? What was CASA unhappy about that took them 10 months to resolve? There have been murmerings about a document that the regulator believes was not kosher, and it could be that independent work done by engineering companies in Europe that confirmed the Bristell's stall bona fides made that document redundant. And there is still the matter of the Commonwealth Ombudsman's investigation. How will this impact that process? Edge Aerospace has long said that CASA's process was flawed, but the removal of the restrictions doesn't suddenly make the process more legitimate, which means the investigation is unlikely to be dropped. The loose ends aren't tied up because the saga hasn't finished.
AMDA Foundation is powering ahead with plans for the Australian International Airshow in December despite the prevailing uncertainty surrounding just about everything. The foundation managed to squeeze in both Land Forces and RotorTech, working their way through COVID restrictions to present a couple of good shows under the circumstances. However, Avalon is very different. Those two were industry exhibitions that could be tightly controlled, whereas Avalon is an industry exhibition subsidised with a public air show. Both Land Forces and RotorTech were held in Brisbane during a time of COVID hiatus, whereas Avalon is planned for the sporadically unclean state of Victoria. For the show to get up, the Victorian government would have to issue exemptions for crowd sizes well beyond what they have allowed for the most important outdoor functions held in the state: AFL footy matches. That has to be jangling nerves inside AMDA; they are put in the position of having to convince Daniel Andrews to allow 40,000 per day to watch an air show without the backing of political clout that the AFL has. However, time is on AMDA's side. If COVID remains under some level of control in Victoria through to the end of the year, AMDA may find itself dealing with a more positive paradigm than it is now, and that's a dice they have to roll. It takes so long to get an air show of any merit together that they have to make commitments long before they've got any certainty that the gates will be allowed to open.
May your gauges always be in the green,