– Steve Hitchen
I have been beefing for a couple of years (admittedly not publicly) about what I considered a shocking omission by the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame: Sir Richard Williams had not been inducted. As the man who was one of the first cadets through Point Cook, commanded a squadron in Palestine, was instrumental in founding the RAAF, served again in WWII and was Directior-General of Civil Aviation, there is not a lot more a bloke could do to foster aviation in Australia. Surely he deserved his spot in AAHOF? The answer came yesterday: Sir Richard will be inducted this year in the midst of the RAAF centenary year, marking appropriately all that work he did 100 years ago. That he is the sole inductee for 2021 is also poignant; nobody contributed more to the effort to establish an independent air force than he. He stands alone. It's apparent now that the AAHOF was holding Williams back until the centenary year, which I will, with hindsight, label an excellent call.
A certain nervousness rippled through the aviation industry this week when the Victorian government brought the shutters down on both the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and the Australian Moto GP. Two of the state's biggest international events were canceled because the international flavour left a sour taste in the mouth of authorities wary of importing more COVID. What chance then, the Australian International Airshow currently on the calendar for December? AMDA boss Ian Honnery moved quickly to reassure the industry that Avalon was still a goer, citing the lack of need for international participation. It seems we have the talent here in Australia to pull off a major air show without the overseas drawcards. And you know, he's right. We have long touted people like Skip Stewart, Jurgis Kairys and the Tinstix of Dynamite as the stars of the show, but right under our noses are equally-stunning performers like Paul Bennet and his team, the Temora Aviation Museum and Matt Hall. As a cornerstone event of the RAAF centenary, you can bet the air force will be out with everything they have in their cupboard. Add all this together, plus a vast array of warbirds and antiques on offer and a pretty damn good show is still on the cards. Rather than showcasing the best of the world to Australia, Avalon 2021 is our opportunity to showcase the best of Australia to the world.
RAAus has for years been seeking a weight increase, but instead seems to have been handed a wait increase. Their campaign to be given approval to administer aircraft up to 760 kg seemed to have gotten over the line last year when CASA all but confirmed they would get it once their CASR Part 149 approval was granted. Now that's been implemented, the regulator has put the matter back in abeyance until CASR Part 103 comes out in December this year. RAAus CEO Matt Bouttell is hopeful that all will be made clear in 103, but it seems there is a serious sticking point that may be aerodynamically improbable. A 760 kg aeroplane administered under Part 149 is likely to have a maximum stall speed of 45 knots. Coincidentally, perhaps, most of the aircraft that RAAus is hoping to lure with the new MTOW stall at around 47-50 knots. And they've been doing it perfectly safely under CASA registration. The matter is still under negotiation to come up with a solution palatable to both parties, which shouldn't be that hard to achieve. If not, just forget the entire weight increase thing because it might encourage home-builders in particular to start pushing envelopes out of shape in order to squeeze into the ASAO regs.
May your gauges always be in the green,