MCCORMACK FACES AVIATION DOGFIGHT

Australia’s general aviation ­industry will campaign against Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in his electorate, potentially even standing a candidate against him, if he fails to endorse regulatory reform.The Aircraft Owners and ­Pilots Association yesterday told The Australian it would set up a campaign office in Wagga Wagga, in Mr McCormack’s Riverina electorate, and consider running a candidate, if he failed to commit to changes to the Civil Aviation Act.

“The general aviation industry is in a perilous situation,” AOPA chief executive Ben Morgan said. “For the minister to come out and say he needs time (to consider reform) … is almost laughable. The Nationals have had carriage of the transport portfolio for many years.

“If our minister is not going to listen, I wonder if the people of Wagga would be prepared to have a conversation. We may even need to consider putting candidates forward (in Riverina and other electorates) … to see that these issues are resolved.”

AOPA, which represents thousands of pilots and business owners in general aviation across the country, is backing changes to the act negotiated by former civil aviation safety chief Dick Smith. Mr Smith in February revealed he had found consensus on amendments that then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and Labor’s ­Anthony Albanese both indicated they could support.

These would require the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to ­operate in a manner that recognised the need for “an efficient and sustainable Australian aviation industry”, as well as the “highest level of safety in air navigation”. Many in general aviation, which includes charter, air emergency, pilot training and agricultural operations, believe the act’s current requirement on CASA to “regard safety as the most important consideration” has led to a tangle of costly, needless regulation.

Mr McCormack, who succeeded Mr Joyce on February 26, this week declined to endorse the Smith changes.

But yesterday Mr McCormack said he was happy to meet AOPA to discuss its concerns and reform ideas. “The deputy PM is certainly open to reform, after due consideration is given to any proposals put forward,” his spokesman said. “Reform such as this takes time to ensure everyone’s views are considered and to ensure there are no unintended consequences.”

CASA argues it already considers the financial impact of its regulations, but the issue is gaining traction nationally, with a Senate inquiry taking evidence about the impact of regulation on regional aviation costs.

Inquiry member XNT senator Rex Patrick called for urgent action to tackle the “cost of CASA” and produced CASA data showing revenue from its regulatory service fees rose from $2.9m in 2000 to $13.9m in 2017.

CASA’s staff ballooned from 621 in 2007 to 830 in 2017, while its operating budget rose from $129m to $180m over the same period. “Something has to change,’’ Senator Patrick said.

Mr Morgan said the decline in general aviation was undeniable, with 25 per cent of the fleet of 2993 aircraft not in use.

The Australian, 12th April 2018

A&R Aviation are great supporters of general aviation legislation reform in Australia.
We constantly see first hand what this over-regulation and cost burdening is doing to the industry that we know and love.
The industry is already facing a critical shortage of Engineers & Pilots, we urge the federal government to hear AOPA and actually start to implement change!