An Avalon visitor’s impressions

On a two-day visit to Avalon this week, well-known aircraft owner-pilot Sandy Reith records some off-the-cuff impressions in an open letter to his aviation associates.  Sandy flew an and out on the Tuesday but drove in an out on the second day because an accurately-forecast fog had closed Avalon to all ops until about 9AM.

A few Avalon Airshow comments having flown in on Tuesday and attended again, this time by car, on Thursday

We were exhorted by the Airservices NOTAM that pilots would need to display a high level of airmanship and situational awareness due to traffic congestion. Presumably this means that Airservices believes that the average pilot may not be capable and, like children about to cross a busy road, must be sternly admonished to behave carefully. This is typical of the insulting attitude of our aviation regulators.  As it happened I was distracted on the approach attempting to find the non-existent painted containers that were supposed to be the markers for base and final to Avalon East runway 17, as per the 16 page NOTAM. We were probably the last to arrive, and after a bone shaking touchdown on a surface not fit for most aircraft, we were directed by numerous bat-waving ground marshalls to line up with the maybe twenty other aircraft in a parking area capable of taking perhaps four or five hundred. They told me that, as at previous airshows, CASA inspectors were conducting ramp checks on all arrivals.

Can’t help wondering if these several CASA inspectors couldn’t be retrained for motor cars and put to better use checking all the vehicles parking at footy venues on the weekends. Yes, they would have to be issued with weapons and protective clothing.

But back to my Tuesday fly in and park experience, the CASA inspectors were a no show for me, they must have been at lunch; so disappointingly I was left wondering if I and my aircraft were really fit to fly.

Attending the AOPA Pacific Forum at Avalon on Thursday one could be forgiven for a feeling of being underwhelmed. Coming off a slow start, in part due to an unusually foggy morning, Chairman Spencer Ferrier introduced the four speakers who had ten minutes each to address the audience of about sixty (?) mostly GA people.

[CASA Acting CEO] Mr Shane Carmody repeatedly stated he would act on “evidence-based issues.” He said that there were 40,000 pilots. We know this is not true. We know that years ago licences were deemed to be “perpetual”, and the question has been asked before – does CASA take note of those licence holders who have died? But this has little to do with how many pilots, that is those with current medicals, let alone those who fly regularly. In a dying industry the CEO of CASA should be across the facts, should be aware of the evidence.

Jason Harfield of Airservices made an important point that they, Airservices Australia, are required to promote and facilitate aviation, too bad CASA doesn’t have the same imperative.

Greg Hood, peculiarly dressed in a high vis ATSB inspector’s jacket, spoke about the work of ATSB and notably told us that his railway accident experts had little to do most of the time. In which case would it not be sensible to fly in some experts when needed? As he spoke he ran a series of aircraft accident photos displaying on a large screen for the edification of the audience. These several photos were run on a loop so we got a second dose of the unfortunate crumples, but we were also treated, in ghoulish fashion, to stills of the Perth Mallard in its fatal nose dive at the point where its occupants were about to die. I could not ascertain why Greg had this slide show, whether to create a distracting emotional response or frighten us wasn’t clear but it was weird. Pelair was not mentioned, or raised by us in the audience, probably because we ran out of time.

[AOPA Executive Director] Ben Morgan came to the point regarding reform for GA and covered the live issues and certainly gave lie to the 40,000 pilot number with his graph showing the precipitous decline of pilot numbers.

Question time evoked plenty of audience participation with many grievances being put to Shane Carmody. Predictably these were deflected or “let me look at that”. The AVMED catastrophe probably took up the most time in questions.

The proceedings confirmed to me that there’s no substantial reform in the offing, that delay and obscurantism are situation normal in the failed models of governance, the Commonwealth corporate body. These independent bodies have the greatest incentive to perpetuate and improve their feather beds. Parliament is the only hope, and interested parties need he persistent use of the media to get [the parliamentarians’] attention.

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About Paul Phelan

Paul Phelan flew for over 50 years in private, charter, corporate and regional aviation, worked in senior management roles with a major regional airline, and retains his license. In parallel he has been writing for Australian and international aviation journals for well over 20 years on all aspects of aviation including aircraft evaluation, flying, industry affairs, infrastructure, manufacture, regulatory affairs, safety, technologies and training. He has won three separate National Aviation Press Club awards for "best technical aviation story of the year."

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