– Steve Hitchen
Greater rumour hath no industry like general aviation. It has its minor-league furphies about new avionics or club finances, but it's the Frankenrumours that get the most air, like "CASA is going to be disbanded" or "the government is going to ban all VFR aeroplanes from CTA". Usually they start as a pea-sized fact, then get pumped up to beachball size with the over application of pessimism or wishful thinking. Right now we are dealing with one that says the department is going to rip the heart out of CASA and the jobs of everyone employed there are on the line. The seed from which this one has sprouted is likely the fact that the Department of Infrastructure and Transport is looking at new funding models for CASA in the future. That's usually pollie-speak for budget cuts, lay-offs and increases in charges. In that context, it could be that CASA is about to learn about "right-sizing", a nebulous and often nefarious concept that is a smokescreen for staff cuts; I am yet to have any experience with an organisation that got bigger through right-sizing. If indeed the finances are going to be reshaped, the need to pay for many roles within CASA could be under scrutiny. Similarly, the regulator's income is likely to be examined for fees and charges that might be increased to help with the bottom line. Generally these sort of measures do result in upheaval in an organisation, but it could be over-optimistic to believe that any changes are done in the name of philosophical reform that stands to cure the ills of GA.
It seems the ball is well and truly rolling towards RotorTech. The helicopter industry is heaving at its tie-downs to get together in Brisbane in June, and after three years without, you can't blame them. Rotary pilots and operators have been battling to stay afloat during COVID as much as any fixed-wing company, with tourism particularly flattened by international travel bans, which has a knock-on effect all the way down to the training schools. RotorTech is seen as being crucial to industry recovery, giving operators and pilots a platform to share ideas to get things going again. But it will do something else, which some members of the helicopter and rotary aviation community are beginning to realise; it will foster a belief that everyone is in this together. The health of an industry isn't measured by how well one or two companies are going, but rather by the overall performance of the community and its importance to the general public of Australia. RotorTech has grown at an unbelievable rate, thanks to a desire within the community to work together and celebrate what they have and what they've achieved. The fixed-wing sector could learn a lesson or two from Rotor Tech as well.
Flying cars or roadable aircraft (or any other terminology) are not a new idea. Imaginations have run rampant over the years from the Hafner Rotabuggy of 1943, 1947's ConvAirCar and the of course the flying flubber-powered Model T Ford of Disney fame. But it seems now we are on the cusp of reality, with several designs racing towards certification. The AeroMobil and PAL-V seem to be in the van of the technology and are likely to be ready for market in the next couple of years. So it seems the science is ready for the world, but is the world ready for the science? Aircraft design is by nature a compromise, and these are machines that have been traditionally designed for no other environment than the sky. What compromises have been made to adapt a vehicle to be at home in the air as well as on the road? Is the market willing to put up with those compromises? It seems to me if your shelling out $US 1 million for a supercar, you want it to be a grade above a Ferrari or Aston Martin, or if you accept that price tag on an aircraft, maybe you want it to go faster than a Piper Archer. But that is approaching the matter from the point of view of a driver or a pilot. It could be that the flying car concept will appeal to someone who is neither of those, but someone who identifies with the machine in a whole new way. Aviation is already changing thanks to the inexorable march of RPAS, and flying cars will need to find a niche for themselves somewhere in that new paradigm.
Congratulations to Jared Parker for winning himself a Garmin D2 watch. Jared tuned into our Facebook seminar last month on flight instruction, asked some very good questions and made himself part of a very successful evening. We have no doubt he'll have a great time learning the benefits of the D2. Thanks to Garmin for making this possible.
May your gauges always be in the green,