Over-regulation, a lack of infrastructure, a government policy of selling off the country´s aerodromes and the closure of airports have all contributed to the decline in the Australia´s general aviation industry, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "A viable GA industry is essential for the health and expansion of aviation in Australia," says AOPA.
AOPA´s comments come in response to the government´s aviation issues paper, which was released for comment in April in the first step in the process of developing the country´s first national aviation policy. A national aviation policy "green paper" will be released for comment in the second half of this year, leading to the release of a detailed white paper in mid-2009.
Australia´s GA industry is in decline while the recreational sector has grown considerably in recent years, according to the association. There are more than 4,000 recreational/sport aircraft in the country and over 1,000 gliders, according to AOPA. There are 4,000-plus single-engined, private and business aircraft and a further 4,000 aircraft used in commercial operations, it says.
"The less onerous regulatory requirements that are helping the recreational sector to grow need to be applied to traditional GA," AOPA says. "CASA [Civil Aviation Safety Authority] needs to adopt a more proactive, less punitive role in its dealings with GA," it suggests. AOPA also proposes that Australia adopts a modified version of the US FAR rules, as New Zealand has done and which has resulted in a "buoyant" GA industry in that country. The association is particularly opposed to the former government´s policy of selling off aerodromes, which it believes needs to stop. "The privatisation and commercialisation of these airports has not worked. Government assistance is now required to rectify this situation and provide stability for the GA industry," it adds. The sale of airports to private owners and their subsequent pricing policies has forced the closure of countless small flying schools and engineering facilities and driven private owners out of aircraft ownership, says AOPA.
To enable fleet renewal, government support is needed to reduce costs for GA operators, says AOPA. The average age of the GA fleet is 30-plus years, with a "lack of taxation incentives and high airport charges" being the major factor in preventing fleet replacement, AOPA suggests.
Incentives are also required in order to enable GA to meet Australia´s future pilot training needs, it says, calling for a moratorium on airport charges for the next five years and subsidised pilot training.