– Steve Hitchen
It's playtime in the USA as Airventure at Oshkosh convenes once again this week. The pandemic spoilt the party in 2020, but this year it's back in full force with anyone who's anyone in the US aviation community rocking up to Wisconsin. The organisers are already talking about records being broken, which shows how desperate people were to have the largest aviation party in the world back on the calendar. Meanwhile, in Australia, it has been a hard slog to get anything going at all and so many air shows and events have put up the "canceled" banner on their websites. The only events still holding out are Wings over Illawarra and Avalon, both which are doggedly clinging to their November/December dates, and there are scores of people in the aviation community clinging on with them. The odds that these shows will come home are getting longer; first the F1 and Moto GPs were canceled, and now the axe has fallen on the Royal Melbourne Show. All these events need to commit to certain things long before the Victorian government was prepared to give any guarantees on permitted crowds, and Avalon will soon find itself in the same position. WOI is currently is zone plagued by COVID, although it will be a disastrous situation if that is still the case in November. But, the current lockdown in NSW will have rattled a government that had previously thought they had it all under control, so permission to gather a large number of people together might be a bridge to far at any time this year. However, whilst there is a spark of hope, we have to kindle it as best we can and hope that an aviation party for Australia can happen before the year is out.
The federal government is making good on their promise to fund improvements at regional airports right around the country, improvements that are seriously needed in some cases. This money will raise the general standard of regional airports, several of which were starting to look like no-one really wanted them, which may actually be the case with some of them. One of Australia's great assets is the network of airports that service the remote and regional areas of Australia that are distanced by long stretches of road. That network connects isolated communities to the amentities that city dwellers have the luxury of having at their back doors, but we are running the risk of maintaining only one end of the network whilst airports at the city end are rapidly being forced into untenable situations by the leaseholders, which threatens to disconnect the remote communities. Whilst the Morrison government is patting itself on the back and pointing to the largesse they are doling out, they would do well to have a look at the capital GA airports at the other end of the routes and do something about the rapidly deteriorating facilities and functionality. If not, it won't be long before our shiny government-funded regional airports fall into decay because there's nothing usable at the other end of the connection.
It's been a long haul, but it looks like we are on the cusp of getting an unleaded avgas. The move started over a decade ago, forced by the US EPA denouncing 100LL (low lead) as being too polluting. That was an easy edict to make, but at the time there was no avgas formula that could maintain an octane rating of 100 without tetraethyl lead (TEL-B) in the recipe. Now GAMI–manufacturers of the famous GAMIjectors–have been able to get an STC for their G100UL. Now this is a product that genuinely deserves the epithet "gamechanger". Completely fungible with 100LL, G100UL should therefore "shandy" quite nicely, and although currently limited to only a few piston engines, is shaping up as the "drop-in" solution that has been so desperately search for. The kicker is that G100UL is a fossil fuel, and is a replacement for avgas, demand for which is on the wane as turbine fuel now dominates the high-consumption markets. G100UL is a solution for today, but not a solution for tomorrow. Other power sources like sustainable aviation fuels and hydrogen-electric power systems will eventually kill G100UL, but at least for the time being the GA community will get the EPA off its back.
May your gauges always be in the green,