– Steve Hitchen
This is the second week in a row that the Australian Flying e-Newsletter is lobbing in your inbox on a Thursday. Last week it was all about Easter; this week it's because I'm hitting the road tomorrow for Clare, SA. My task in Clare on Saturday is to take part in the presentation ceremony for the Clare Valley Flying Group's Wings Award for 2020 Aero Club of the Year. At the same time, the runway lights are going to be switched on for the first time. CVFG is a great success story about a relatively small club that saw a need for an airport and doggedly pursued that aim until they got one. There aren't a lot of new airports being built in Australia; the trend it toward the opposite. Kudos to CVFG for bucking the trend and giving GA in Australia a great new asset.
When Airservices Australia revised their Class E proposal, there was no change mooted for the SAFIS concept, which if it goes through untouched will become a real thing sometime in the May-July period. SAFIS is a solution mooted for CTAFs where the traffic is heavy and collision risks are higher than your average non-towered airport. Effectively, it restores the MTAF idea from the early naughties and augments it with full IFR traffic services, all in Class G. At this point in time, Airservices is talking only about Ballina/Byron Gateway and Mangalore, but the system could be rolled out at other CTAFs that display similar traffic habits and levels. The crux to all of this is the Mandatory Broadcast Area (MBA), which–by definition–has to exclude aircraft that don't carry radio. That might further angry-up those who have already thrown brickbats at Airservices over the attempt to delete large expanses of Class G airspace between Melbourne and Cairns, substituting instead the radio-only Class E. Studying this, you can see where they're coming from, but it looks like an attempt–especially at Ballina–to do something about traffic except put in a Class D tower. Mangalore is more complex. The airfield is not really associated with any major population area and is privately-owned, but it has one piece of infrastructure that draws training aircraft to it like moths to candle: a VOR. Mangalore used to be one of several VORs around Melbourne that were used for training in the day; Eildon Weir, Wonthaggi, Cowes and Yarrowee were the most popular. With them now gone, short of traveling to Albury, Avalon and Mangalore are the only practical VORs left for training. Ironically, then, it seems that Airservices is scrambling for a solution to a problem that they helped create. At the time of writing, none of the new proposal has made it through the scrutiny of CASA's Office of Airspace Regulation, and I, for one, am itching to see what the OAR makes of it.
In a related issue, our man in Kingaroy this week has waxed very unlyrically about the standard of CTAF procedures up there, which he is convinced are about to cause an ugly meeting of metal someone in the circuit. The gliding fraternity seems to be unable to get on with the rising levels of poor airmanship displayed by some pilots who FDH* their way into the CTAF without so much as a transmission. This is a problem not confined to that field, and one that CASA has been warning pilots about for some time. It seems you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it transmit on the CTAF, regardless of the volume of advisory material turned out. This is equally alarming for both our Kingaroy correspondent and me. CTAF calls are a form of enhanced see-and-avoid and failing to do them properly on the right frequency is akin to removing a safety net from a trapeze artist. It comes back–as so much in aviation does–to good training and the right attitude. A lack of either or both is not only endangering other pilots, but gives both recreational and GA pilots a really bad reputation. In some cases its deserved; in others not. However, if every one of us lifted our game when it came to CTAF calls, the overall situation would improve, not only at Kingaroy, but at all CTAFs around the country.
May your gauges always be in the green,
*Fat, dumb and happy ... you get the idea.