There are times in history that we know are pivotal to guiding humanity through hard times, like war, famine, political revolution and economic collapse. Put simply, decisions made around those times become instrumental to literally changing the course of the future and making a big difference to whether individuals, communities, sectors, economies and humanity survive and thrive.
With restrictions imposed on international travel, one of the hardest hit industries is commercial aviation, with the media reporting that the airline industry is now beginning to suffer catastrophic short and medium term losses that could decimate some of the world’s strongest and well-known airline brands.
But, vertically and horizontally integrated in the airline sector exists a wide, complex network of General Aviation and Recreational Aviation businesses, clubs and associations that both support and remain reliant on the airline industry to survive and thrive – and it is that network that is in need of immediate assistance.
While the Government has announced a $700 million relief package for the airline industry, the future economic fallout to the General Aviation sector appears to be building momentum at a significant rate, with the trickle-down relief unlikely to directly assist non-airline businesses in the short and medium terms.
Today, AOPA Australia CEO, Ben Morgan has written to both CASA and the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack (Minister for Infrastructure and Transport), on behalf of members, seeking their direct assistance and support for Australia’s General Aviation industry and community at this unprecedented time.
As a starting point, AOPA Australia has called for a waiver of all CASA charges for aviation participants, suspension of any new aviation regulations to promote stability and suspension of any new duty/fatigue management regulations for general aviation operators. AOPA Australia has also called on the Government to consult with the General Aviation industry about tangible measures that we need to mitigate the fallout that we know is happening now, and that could decimate our General Aviation industry in a matter of weeks.
In a separate letter, Ben Morgan has also written to DAME’s to either waiver or significantly discount their usual assessment fees until such time as the situation eases.
And immediately, the AOPA Australia office has been inundated today with calls from concerned General Aviation businesses and members, updating us on the state of play in General Aviation.
“The GA sector is already reporting significant financial losses, with operators informing AOPA Australia that they are facing closure if relief cannot be provided in the short term”, said AOPA Australia CEO, Ben Morgan.
With the situation among charter businesses, airports, engineers and flying schools around the country looking grim in the short and medium term – and while AOPA Australia is working behind the scenes with industry, government and doctors – the Association believes that with the assistance of all of us in the aviation community, the situation on the ground for these businesses and those indirectly affected upstream, can be improved significantly.
It is these General Aviation businesses and clubs that we know support the airline industry by providing the network that feeds many parts of it. Highly trained pilots and engineers gain their experience and qualifications through general and recreational aviation, the industry supports a network of parts and aviation suppliers, it assists with providing the availability and viability of airports, runways and infrastructure, it ensures that regional Australia is serviced with movements of domestic and international freight and cargo – and so many other things.
Our message to all AOPA Australia members, recreational pilots, private and commercial pilots, engineers and business owners and employees connected with our industry, is clear. You can help, and it is up to us all to stand together now, perhaps more than ever before, to help save our industry from suffering immeasurably, for years to come.
If you are in a satisfactory financial position – within the guidelines of the health advice provided by Government – you can assist our industry by engaging with GA and recreational aviation services in Australia at least as much as you did prior to the crisis, and maybe a lot more in the short term.
Some practical suggestions that will make a difference to our industry in the short / medium term might include:
- Consider travelling to local spots for a short break with your nearest charter company, or in your own aircraft!
- Hire an aircraft at your local aero club (even for an hour) or go on a short trip with friends / family
- Renew your Basic Class II / Class II / Class 1 medical with your local GP or DAME (check in with AOPA Australia for any discounts)
- Check your AFR due date, and if it’s due within 6 months, call your flight school and arrange to bring the review forward
- If you’re a student pilot, book your next lesson at your local Aero Club or flight school (RAAus or GA) – and fly!
- If you are not ‘current’, or lacking confidence on a particular flight sequence, book a flight with your local Aero Club or flight school
- Consider filling up your aircraft up with fuel at the local Aero Club fuel bowser ready for your next flights (assuming it’s operationally safe).
- Order the next part of the aircraft you are building, upgrade your panel, buy an ADSB compliant transponder or purchase parts from your local aviation supplier to help with the the build
- Check your aircraft’s 100hourly / Annual due date and book your aircraft in with your local LAME / L2 for maintenance works ahead of time
- Have a beer or meal at your local Aero Club and engage with any competitions, events or social activities on offer
- Renew or activate your Aero Club membership
We are all proud at AOPA Australia to be serving our members and the industry as a whole. The industry will get through this economic crisis ultimately – but the evidence, so far, is pointing to an industry that will look very different from the one we had before the crisis, at a time when GA and recreational aviation in Australia already faced significant challenges. Your support to AOPA Australia is valued, and your personal contribution – however small or seemingly inconsequential – will be appreciated by those who need it most, right now.