The pride I felt seeing my children learn to fly and witness their first solo flight, one in gliders, one powered was special. Now I concede that after being raised on RAAF Bases there was probably an underlying exposure to aviation that was bound to rear its head at some stage in my life. I remember, Point Cook RAAF Base, about 6 years old my father sitting me in a Winjeel and how exciting that felt, clearly that seed was planted.
My daughter set the next trigger when after me attending her weekends of gliding, asked me why I didn’t learn to fly. I recall my response was something to do with being too old, age 36. An instructor nearby insisted ‘no’ but added it might just take a little longer, great!
So, I did, and from that point the excitement, trepidation at times fear and often self-doubt where regular emotions that I experienced often during my flight training.
To fly meant and still means so much to me, and to say I am passionate about the industry and many people in it might be a slight understatement. The people that choose to fly be it professionally or privately per capita are a small percentage of the population and for the better part we used to share almost a bond via this special privilege we shared. Kind of like a club.
I didn’t go on and get my Commercial licence, at my age by the time I had ticked many other boxes like, Aerobatics, tailwheel endorsement, multi engine, night flying, multi night along with running an aviation business it was not something I thought would advantage me. I may have been wrong on that one! I did however go on and become a Recreational Aviation Chief Flying Instructor. I do not need to tell many other instructors the thrill and privilege of sending a person on their first solo flight. I knew the feeling they would be experiencing, that sheer sense of achievement and in cases an almost overwhelming fear of hoping you make it safely back onto that runway.
I nearly cannot put into words, for me anyway, that sense of freedom that comes with flying. The sense of awe at how we can be moving along up there looking out at the wings, or blurred tips of rotor blades and every time we fly think how amazing it is despite understanding the physics.
I still feel that way after nearly 25 years, but something has changed. And it does not feel that it has been for the better.
When I first flew and then purchased half of the flying school I was at, I managed to start along with my business partner at the time the fourth only Regional Airline to fly into Canberra. It was not easy, ticking all those regulatory boxes, but CASA was great, they were helpful. They supported us, and guided us through the process, and with their support we succeeded. I am not sure that would be the case today. In fact, I feel sure it would not be.
I remember being excited about a body such as RA-Aus and the progress that was being made toward fostering the Ultralight and Light Sport Aircraft sector and what it would mean for the growth of the industry and more importantly the realisation of how important this part of the industry was in feeding into General Aviation. People that were passionate about working for an organisation, working for the members to make things so much better if you no longer could get or needed a CASA medical. For retirees to be able to enjoy what was once their career, just the joy of flying. The young people who wanted a career to be able to access the ‘accessible and affordable’ option as RA-Aus was promoted to be. The safe affordable alternative!
One day seemingly not long ago I woke from the dream, or did I fall asleep and lapse into the nightmare from which I cannot wake?
I am profoundly serious about this; it feels like a nightmare. My husband has been in the industry for over 50 years, a professional pilot and aeronautical engineer. He has done, been and seen a lot in that time. From flying search and rescue, air ambulance, charter, his own low capacity airline and a bunch of aircraft design work, flight test engineering – the list far too extensive to write here. He has always been highly regarded in the industry and by CASA. Me, no commercial flying but a lot of different private flying including some aircraft ferry work, running a small airline, flight training.
Over the past twenty years we have been running Edge Aviation and provide an extensive list of services to the industry.
Now I need to put this out there and stress, there are still several good people in CASA, my go to people if I need advice from our authority. I have the utmost respect for the regulations and the fact that CASA is necessary, and we need to have a regulator, or I prefer also to add ‘educator’.
Over recent times it has saddened me immensely to see what has been happening in our communities with society in general. Nothing to do with COVID 19 but the fact that generally people are more for themselves, more competitive, less caring, too busy, abrupt, aggressive, intolerant, defensive and I could go on. Not everyone and not all the time but there is a definite trend. See I have the benefit of my 63 years to be able to note this change. People are more isolated, people do not check on others anymore, people rarely offer you support or help – too busy! Or sadly do not even think about others at all.
This change in culture has also seeped into organisations because that is where some of these people end up. They take this change in attitude with them. So, we have people that because of the societal changes just think of the benefit to themselves. Cushy job maybe? – the public servant mentality maybe ‘ill get paid no matter what I do or don’t do’. And instead of working with industry we have a regulator CASA and a self-administering organisation, RAA who are constantly fighting with businesses and individuals.
But why? Is the question I see myself asking during this nightmare. Industry and regulators should be working together, should be supporting each other for the benefit and betterment of the whole industry! We should be communicating, negotiating, be solution focussed and not problem focussed. The regulator, CASA and RA-Aus should be receptive, accommodating, and supportive, approachable, and friendly. Because at the end of the day if they continue to push people out of the industry many of them will not be needed. What is happening in my nightmare is people are being destroyed, businesses being crushed and a lot of people saying it is no fun anymore. It can be regulated, and it can be safe, but it should also be fun.
Overregulated, our industry is being driven to a place where people will hide health issues, maybe not even bother with the flight review, not do mandated paperwork, whatever because our ‘safety’ authority is driving a lot of things underground. Putting people and businesses through just unjustified stress causes safety issues it does not prevent them. Why?
I do not for the life of me understand why some individuals think destroying the reputation of selected aircraft types, destroying people who are successful and just being plain nasty, aggressive and dishonest think it is going to have anything but a massive negative affect on our industry. And if they do not think they look silly to other world authorities, think again! CASA and RAA have become the laughingstock of the aviation world. I do not want them to be. I want to work with them, as do many other people. I want to trust them, and I want to be able to resolve any issues with them. We are in the same industry for goodness sake. It makes no sense what is happening.
But I hope I wake up from this nightmare and I hope these people that want to persecute, destroy and pursue their own interests will see that the attitude at present will become their own nightmare as it eats away at the aviation industry in Australia.
To phrase a commonly used statement – we are all in this together! Well we are in this aviation industry of ours, so let us be in it together. Let’s make Light Sport safer together, let’s not just destroy reputations of aircraft like the Bristell when it does comply. Lets together address the weight issues of Light Sport aircraft together in a consultative, productive way. Let’s stop self-interest and commercial conflicts get in the way of honesty and fairness.
I want a cohesive aviation community and regulator I can be proud of, not one that embarrasses me with overseas companies and foreign regulators.
So, wake up everyone please, so we can all live the dream.