Cessna aircraft have served general aviation for some 70+ years with an impressive line-up of aircraft models, earning themselves powerful brand recognition and affection by aircraft owners and pilots alike. Affordability, simplicity and dependability are hallmarks of the Cessna aircraft line-up.
Their aircraft have become synonymous with private flying with tens of thousands of Cessna aircraft manufactured, with many generations of pilots earning their wings at the controls of a venerable Cessna.
But for all of the aircraft manufacturers achievements and its service to general aviation, the brand is being driven out of the hands of owners and Australian skies, as a result of the Cessna Supplemental Inspection Directives (SIDs), that have been made mandatory for private owners in this nation.
Cessna introduced its SIDs programme in the United States, to encourage and strengthen maintenance inspections of their aging airframes – with commercial operators its focus. In the US, the Cessna SID inspections were made mandatory for aircraft being flown for commercial operations, with private operations remaining on an ‘advisory’ basis only.
Private owners of Cessna aircraft in the US are able to work with their maintainers to address Cessna SIDs requirements over time, ensuring aircraft remain in service and contributing to the aviation economy, whilst managing the safety of the flying community.
In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) ignored both the US regulatory stance and the dire warnings and pleas of the Australian industry peak-bodies, forcing mandatory Cessna SIDs on both commercial and private operations alike.
It has been six years since CASA mandated Cessna SIDs for privately operated aircraft, and the impact on private aviation and the aviation economy has been profoundly negative – if not disastrous. Nationwide, we now have a significant fleet of privately owned Cessna aircraft, all grounded and no longer contributing to the general aviation economy.
At the time CASA made SIDs mandatory, they themselves had absolutely no idea as to the real-world costs of the program that they were forcing on some 3,600+ owners and failed to present any considered or realistic cost impact statement to industry, advertising anecdotal costs estimates of ‘up to $20,000 plus any rectification works’. In practicality, owners and operators have reported initial and ongoing SIDs costs into the many tens of thousands, with the vast majority reporting costs in excess of the value of the aircraft.
Six years of real-world experience, the evidence has demonstrated that CASA flew blindly into SIDs for private operators, ignorant as to the consequences it was creating for Cessna owners and the damage it would inflict on the national aviation economy.
As a result, large numbers of Cessna aircraft are now in permanent storage, not because they are unairworthy, but because private owners cannot afford the excessive initial and ongoing SIDs compliance costs.
The result; CASA have forced safe, dependable and reliable aircraft out of Australian skies – simply because it would not follow the US regulatory stance.
These aircraft are no longer flying, no longer contributing to annual maintenance, no longer being insured, no longer consuming aviation fuels, no longer contributing to airport user fees etc. The outcome for private pilot owners is not that different either, they too are no longer flying, no longer conducting training, no longer contributing to the aviation economy.
The real and genuine cost impact on Australia’s general aviation economy and industry cannot be understated as it has been enormous and would run into the tens of millions or more – but it can be fixed, its not too late.
CASA can quickly move to follow the United States in making Cessna SIDs advisory for private owners, and in doing so, creating the environment to bring back to service a significant number of aircraft nationwide. By doing so, CASA would be injecting a large number of aircraft owners back into the system, where they would be seeking out maintenance and flight training services, back participating and investing in the general aviation economy.
It has been six years since the introduction of Cessna SIDs, and the US experience and their regulatory stance has proven that Australia can follow – because it is safe to do so.
AOPA Australia is calling on CASA to take positive and proactive steps to restoring general aviation activity and growth, by bringing forward a regulatory change before the close of 2021, removing the mandatory requirements for Cessna SIDs on private owners by following the successful US model.
It’s not too late and we can turn general aviation around, bringing recovery, growth and opportunity back to our industry.
Mr Benjamin Morgan
AOPA Australia Chief Executive
Mobile: 0415 577 724
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