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Archives for September 2013

Would the last PPL holder out of here please turn off the clubhouse lights?

Icarus, created by the mythical inventor of a wooden cow, which also never flew

Icarus, said to have been created by the inventor of a wooden cow. Both, like many in our CAA, had little aviation experience

Without wishing to tempt fate, this is a semi-serious request. When it comes to GA, fate needs no tempting because the GAA survey of aviators has already revealed alarming statistics that include a major switch by PPLs to either the RPL or to microlights, and provides evidence of serious damage to general aviation. Many PPL holders say they have given up altogether because they can no longer afford to fly.

The vice-president of a leading New Zealand aviation organisation has sold his aircraft and now occasionally hires an aeroplane with an instructor aboard, because to do otherwise no longer makes financial sense.

GAA created its first survey to obtain information from Civil Aviation Authority clients about their experience of the CAA’s consultation process, and to discover how the 2012 regulatory changes – and the increases in CAA fees and charges – have affected their flying.

The detailed results will be sent to the Regulations Review Committee, to help answer what the Ministry of Transport brought in its defence to the committee’s table. The MoT had nine months to prepare its response to submitters, and delivered it at 0830 hours on September 19, a few minutes before the committee convened. This indicated that the Ministry is either incompetent or it regards the submitters and the committee with contempt. Or both.

The committee responded by offering objectors another two weeks to reply to the Ministry.

Right now, GAA supporters have little time to examine or criticise the MoT’s behaviour (but eventually, you will, along with seeing the results of the GAA survey).

The majority of users choose email as their preferred option

The majority of users choose email as their preferred option for advice of a consultation process

We created a simple internet-based opinion poll that is evidently beyond the capabilities of either the Ministry of Transport or the CAA – which professes to have our interests at its expensive heart but finds all sorts of excuses for not contacting clients by email (claiming a distrust of the internet and spuriously fretting about privacy concerns). It has no trouble sending ADs and copies of Vector by post, but cannot advise its funding base about consultation processes, even by snail mail, preferring hard-to-spot methods including tiny adverts in newspapers read by a handful of the general public.

The result of the RRC hearing is eagerly awaited by GAA, AOPA and NZ ALPA. Whatever the outcome, this case has exposed serious weaknesses in the consultation process, the rules of which seem to have been laid down long before the dawn of the internet – and the consequences of which leave stakeholders ignorant, bewildered, fearful, disillusioned or rebellious.

When it comes to maintaining accurate records that might be used to communicate effectively with clients, according to the CAA’s current advice, bear this in mind:

“Address for Service

As a pilot, engineer, air traffic controller, or a person operating an aviation organisation, you will hold an ‘aviation document’ – your licence or certificate. This is a reminder of an important obligation for all New Zealand aviation document holders.

Section 8 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 requires every applicant for a New Zealand aviation document to supply an “address for service” in New Zealand including, where applicable, telephone and facsimile numbers.

The Act also requires aviation document holders to promptly notify the Director of any changes to the address for service, telephone number or facsimile number.”

Notice how, decades after the Internet was invented, the CAA still hasn’t got around to including “email address”? And that it hasn’t yet realised that nowadays, no self-respecting, cool and connected person admits to owning a fax machine, let alone using one? And if it demands this information, surely that can only be to enable the CAA to communicate with, and keep track of, the subjects of Section 8 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act 1990? Which can only mean: Us.

Very few CAA customers believe that they have been properly consulted

Very few CAA customers believe that they have been properly consulted

We know from the initial survey results that 86 percent of respondents do not believe that consultation procedures are satisfactory. We know that 76 percent of them would prefer to be notified by email and 20 percent want a letter from the CAA. We also know that more than 50 percent have never made any submission to a CAA consultation process, and that almost 19 percent of them have declined to submit because they fear CAA repercussions. A formerly docile and divided constituency now questions the CAA’s commitments to openness, transparency and the Utopian notion of a “Just Culture”, in which we are expected to dob in any alleged offender and consign them to that warm, sensitive and positive-thinking bunch of faceless bureaucrats at the CAA.

The majority believe that the time to respond is too short

The majority believe that the time to respond is too short

We now know that 35 percent of respondents have declined to renew their medicals because of the Medical Application fee.

More than 17 percent say they have given up flying altogether, while 18 percent have moved to microlights and more than 13 percent have opted for the RPL, where the medical requirements relate more closely to the real world of flying and self-certification before the responsible pilot clambers into the cockpit.

The damage done is already evident

The damage done is already evident

We know that 34 percent of respondents say that their aero club has suffered from CAA charges, and almost 29 percent of respondents who answered a specific question said their businesses have been damaged.

Ponder now the fate of the NZ PPL holder or budding student, under current CAA strictures. It is clear that what the CAA is doing – perfectly legally under Minister Gerry Brownlee’s regulatory approval – is raising the cost of obtaining and holding a New Zealand PPL beyond the pockets of many. It is also breaking the wallets of many private pilots who cannot maintain their PPL, in many cases because of the $313 medical application fee.

Compare this blatant revenue-gathering policy with that of the UK CAA, which is about to review its PPL curriculum. As you read about it, recall how the New Zealand CAA suggested that GPS should not form part of flight training studies and ask why New Zealand’s CAA cannot even provide consistency in PPL curricula with Australia, when its offspring and delegated authority, ASL, controls the examinations for both countries.

In conjunction with key representatives from the GA pilot training community, the UK CAA has started work on a new training syllabus for private pilots. The project aims to help ensure future pilots are better prepared for flying safely in the UK.

The current syllabus for the private pilot licence (PPL) for aeroplanes is used by flying schools to train pilots and help them to pass both ground and flight test exams. However, both the CAA and GA community have highlighted areas that could be improved (such as more information on the use of transponders, GPS, and the airspace system) and also information that, although in the syllabus, most PPLs will never need to know (e.g. purely theoretical or academic information without practical application).

The CAA will liaise with colleagues in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other EU National Aviation Authorities to develop the new syllabus, which will continue to fully meet the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Mike Barnard, the CAA’s GA programme manager, said: “This work is part of a larger project to take a fresh look at the oversight of GA and to seek ways in which we can both enhance safety and reduce regulatory burden. We want to empower GA to take on much more of the responsibility for the sector’s safety and for the CAA to get involved only where there is a need for oversight that no other organisation can undertake.”

Jeremy Pratt of Airplan Flight Equipment, one of the GA representatives helping to draw together the new syllabus, said: “This is a great opportunity to get a training syllabus that removes some of the items that we all know a PPL holder will never need to know or use, and replaces these with really important safety knowledge that a pilot needs to have but currently may not be well covered in the current syllabus.”

The UK CAA hopes to be able to provide the new syllabus to EASA by early 2014.

As you digest this, be aware that Airways is proposing enormous increases in its “maintenance” charges for aerodromes operating IFR procedures. One of them faces an annual charge of $17,200 – a truly astonishing rise of $13,400. This scale of increases will impact every organisation that trains pilots to IFR standard. It will affect your pocket as a licence holder and it will add yet another needless expense to anyone training to fly.

What we can see clearly here is an assault on general aviation by those whom we might have assumed to be employed to protect and promote its grass roots. They are politicians, Airways, the CAA and powerful interest groups, supported by bureaucrats who – when confronted – say that they are merely obeying orders.

This continuous damage is backed by a National-led government that says it champions personal freedom, the rights of individuals, the progress of private enterprise and the development of our economy.

The AIA, which claims to represent the industry and has recently rebranded itself as “Aviation New Zealand” says it seeks to create an industry worth $16 billion a year by 2015.

It is hard to see how that can be achieved – particularly if you are a student sitting alongside a poorly paid instructor in a Tomahawk on a rainy day and wondering how you could ever get an interview, let alone an ATPL, for a job at Air New Zealand.

It is even harder to see how the increasing raft of Airways and CAA charges – along with a growing burden of proposed new compliance measures – can dissuade anyone with an ambition to fly from choosing something easier to do with their life.

♦ The survey results mentioned here are preliminary and are based on the responses from 425 people. The final results will be analysed and submitted to the RRC, and they will be published in a future GAA article. We appreciate the assistance of Flying NZ and many aero clubs in promulgating this survey, and we thank everyone who took part in it.

SOS! Support Our Survey – but time is short

beehiveWhen Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee convened on September 19 to hear submissions opposing what Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee signed into law last year, dramatically increasing costs to GA operators in particular, consultation was a key topic.

Notably – nine months after the first objections were raised – the Ministry of Transport suddenly revealed its response at the hearing and the Ministry’s representative declared himself “fairly confident” of its case.

The CAA and the Ministry say they are satisfied that they met all the legal requirements of a consultation process. Legally perhaps – but these people do not live in the real world, where things are seen very differently and often more clearly.

For example, until recently, the CAA took a lax approach to the register of aircraft – allowing anyone to obtain personal details of owners from its website. But when it came to notifying customers of any consultation process, the CAA said that its database might be flawed, there were privacy concerns and it would not use email as a way of notifying interested parties.

This is arrant nonsense, based on a culture of laziness and inefficiency supported by “rules and regulations”.

The CAA’s culture of over-cautious inertia can’t be quickly changed, but there is an evident and urgent need for more effective feedback from its customers.

So to help, GAA has created an online opinion polling facility.

It took us less than a week to create. Which makes you wonder what the CAA is doing with its vast resources and personnel, who are supposedly committed to enhancing dialogue with their customers.

The first user survey is here, and we invite you to take part.

This survey concentrates on issues relating to the CAA’s traditional consultation process. We believe that the process has serious flaws which favour the CAA and harm its clients, but unless you highlight the problems and tell us about your experience, GAA’s opinion will hold less weight.

Because the Ministry of Transport came very late to the party and bounced everyone at the RRC hearing with its well-overdue response, it is vital to tell the Regulations Review Committee about the real consequences of what we consider to be bad regulation. If you have been harmed by the CAA’s new charging regime, please tell us about your experience.

There is only a very short time to rebut the Ministry’s defence.

October 2 is the deadline for you to complete the survey.

Please join your fellow aviators and add weight to our common cause. If we fail, there are two more rounds of serious price increases to come before the CAA commences yet another price review.

On other matters…

The assessment of visibility minima

CAA HQ, where the air is unusually rare

CAA HQ, where the air is unusually rare

After the RRC hearing, Brian Mackie and Des Lines were invited to an informal meeting with Graeme Harris (CAA Director), John Sneyd (CAA Senior Legal Counsel), and Chris Ford (CAA General Manager, Aviation Infrastructure and Personnel).

The ramifications of the recent court case regarding a prosecution involving difficulties in assessing takeoff minima without appropriate equipment were discussed. We are now awaiting a letter from the CAA stating its position regarding the difficulties facing a pilot in making a correct assessment of visibility. We also discussed privacy issues relating to the consultation process, and repeated our invitation to the CAA to take part in online GAA debates. Don’t hold your breath…

The CAA’s headquarters in Asteron House are spacious, opulent and sterile. We saw not a single picture of an aeroplane there.

Fuel excise tax refunds for aircraft using motor fuel

On May 19, GAA wrote to the Minister of Transport about motor fuel excise tax refunds for aircraft using motor spirit (mogas). We see no justification, under the Treasury’s User Pays guidelines, for pilots to fund roading that they are highly unlikely to land on and GAA supporters believe that this taxation should be redirected.

The Minister, in his reply, stated:

Providing excise refunds for petrol used in aircraft would require an amendment to regulations made under the Land Transport Management Act 2003. The Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency are scheduled to review these regulations this year. I have requested that, as part of this review, officials investigate enabling refunds for the use of petrol in aircraft.

In a subsequent letter from the Minister dated July 8, he stated that:

This review will involve consultation with aviation stakeholders in relation to the availability of refunds for excise duty on petrol used in aircraft.

On August 25, we sent a letter to the CEO of the Ministry of Transport, Martin Matthews, requesting that we be consulted. The ramifications might extend to the “off-road” use of motor fuel by recreational boats, but there are other options including an aviation-focused fund which might, for example, finance Metflight services that have largely been abandoned by users since they became chargeable.

No reply has been received and the delay in getting an answer has exceeded the 20 working days maximum allowable as specified by the Office of the Ombudsman. We will be following this up with a further letter to the Minister, possibly followed by one to the Ombudsman.

SMS consultation

The consultation period for the four proposed choices has ended and the CAA has published a summary of submissions. This summary of submissions has given rise to a number of questions.

They may be read here.

Crasher Ken Wallis meets his maker. All CAA softies can rest in peace

Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis: Part Biggles, part Professor Branestawme

Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis: Part Biggles, part Professor Branestawme

Let us mourn the passing of the father of the modern autogyro, Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis, who has died aged 97. Crasher Wallis was a man of his time. If he had been born any later, he would probably have been banned from flying by the CAA in the UK, and most definitely by those risk-averse folks at our own CAA down in Featherston Street, Wellington.

Here’s why, courtesy of Wallis’s obituary in The Daily Telegraph:

Kenneth Wallis was a wartime bomber pilot who flew 28 missions over Germany; but he became better known after the war as a key figure in the development of the autogyro, which, most famously, he flew as Sean Connery’s stunt double in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

One interviewer observed that if a screenwriter had invented Wallis, with his air of derring-do and rakish white handlebar moustache, they would have been told to come back with a more realistic character. Part Biggles, part Professor Branestawm, he became involved in all kinds of historic events.

Among other things, he flew B-36s laden with nuclear bombs over the North Pole; hunted for the murderer Lord Lucan over the Sussex Downs; scanned the deep waters of Loch Ness for the “monster”; and advised the designers of Concorde on how to reduce engine noise.

The Walbro monoplane. A replica - the original bought the farm

The Walbro monoplane. (A replica that flew, built by Ken and his cousin – the original ‘bought the farm’)

Wallis inherited a love of tinkering and “the family vice” — a love of speed — from his father Horatio and uncle Percy who, in 1910, inspired by the Wright Brothers’ first flight in France, built the “Walbro monoplane” in a bid to scoop a £1000 prize for the first all-British aeroplane. They missed out by a couple of months, but still flew (and duly pranged) their flying machine.

Wallis began building autogyros in 1959, and by the end of his life he had about 18 of them, in varying states of airworthiness. They occupied a workshop in the grounds of his home near Dereham, Norfolk, spilling out into the rest of his house and jostling for space with numerous other inventions — mini cameras, scale models of bomb-loading trolleys, model racing cars and bits and pieces salvaged from German wartime jet engines.

He never had formal training as an engineer, preferring to apply “the bloody obvious combined with common sense”. One of his inventions was a trap set up in his workshop to trick burglars, which had a tendency to go off every time he walked into it.

Wallis became a familiar figure in Norfolk, whizzing demonically across the sky at air shows and public occasions, and suffering his fair share of bumps and scrapes in the process — including an occasion when, aged 90, a freak gust brought him crashing to the ground in front of spectators. “It was embarrassing,” he admitted, “although I have to say it was a model crash landing.”

What he called his “harem” of autogyros was used to set 34 world records, of which he still held eight at his death. Among other achievements, he set a record in 1975 (now superseded) for the longest flight in an autogyro when he flew the entire length of the British Isles (“I’d have gone further, but we ran out of land”). He also flew an autogyro at 18,976ft without oxygen; became the oldest pilot to set a world record when, aged 81, he “accidentally” achieved the fastest climb to 3000ft, in seven minutes 20 seconds; and he set a world speed record for an autogyro of 129.1mph at the age of 89.

Little Nellie, star of You Only Live Twice. Wallis spent 60 hours flying it, for a few minutes of film and no credit

Little Nellie, star of You Only Live Twice. Wallis spent 60 hours flying it, for a few minutes of film and no credit

To his great regret, Wallis never found a commercial manufacturer for his autogyros, although he was delighted when the James Bond film producer Cubby Broccoli recognised its dramatic potential: “I was asked to demonstrate it to him at Pinewood Studios, taking off on the back lot along a short strip of concrete towards a pile of railway sleepers — the basis of a ‘volcano’. I disappeared in a cloud of dust and everyone waited for me to crash… but my autogyro climbed away safely. Broccoli immediately said, ‘Get it to Japan in six weeks.’”

Wallis and his autogyro, “Little Nellie”, were duly dispatched to the set of You Only Live Twice, where Wallis stood in for Sean Connery in a famous sequence in which “Bond”, in a rocket-firing autogyro, fights baddies in orthodox helicopters, zipping around an active volcano — while Connery “sat in a replica in Pinewood with a fan ruffling his shirt and pretended to be flying”.

“Broccoli told me to shave off my handlebar moustache so I could double for Sean Connery, which was a bit of a shock,” Wallis recalled. “The Japanese pilot of the camera helicopter had trained as a kamikaze, which caused me a little concern, but in fact he was a very nice chap… There was no mention of me in the credits, which was a mistake, obviously. But the tours in America and Australia were great fun.”

In the light of all this, it is astounding to think that when Wallis first applied to join the RAF in the 1930s, he was turned down twice due to defective eyesight.

Kenneth Horatio Wallis was born on April 26 1916 at Ely, Cambridgeshire, where his father ran a cycle and motorcycle shop, and was educated at The King’s School, Ely. He developed an interest in mechanics tinkering in his father’s workshop, and built his first motorcycle aged 11. Later he moved on to high-speed boats, some driven by aircraft propellers, which he made himself, and custom-built cars.

Wallis had been born with limited vision in his right eye and as a child wore an eye patch; in 1936, this defect led to his rejection by the RAF. Undeterred, he paid £14 to obtain a private flying licence which required only a certificate signed by his GP, obtaining the licence after just 12 hours flying a Gypsy Moth. Having failed another test for the RAF in 1938, when he tried again after the outbreak of war, Wallis decided to cheat. While the doctor’s back was turned, he sneaked a look with his good eye at the bottom line of letters on the test chart – and passed.

After flying Westland Lysander patrols with No 268 Squadron, in 1941 Wallis transferred to Bomber Command, flying Wellingtons with No 103 Squadron, based at RAF Elsham Wolds in north Lincolnshire, attacking heavily defended targets in the Ruhr. Though he survived 28 missions over cities in Germany, he gained something of a reputation for being accident-prone, earning the nickname “Crasher”.

Returning from Frankfurt in September 1941, Wallis found his airfield blanketed by fog. He made a number of abortive attempts to land but, with his fuel tanks almost dry, he climbed to allow his crew to bail out. After they had done so, Wallis’s parachute snagged on his seat — he finally got clear at very low level, and his parachute opened only seconds before he hit the ground.

On another occasion, the wing of his Wellington was almost severed by a balloon cable but he managed to crash land.

After a tour as a bombing instructor, Wallis left for Italy and flew bombing operations with No 37 Squadron. Having survived another crash when his aircraft was struck by lightning, he applied to fly Mosquito bombers at night — a mistake, as it meant that his night vision was tested. “All hell let loose — ‘You’ve been flying with a bomber crew and you can’t see properly!’” he recalled being told. But the RAF ophthalmologist was more positive. “He said, ‘Wallis, I’d rather have a man with a bit of fire in his belly who wants to fly than some of the perfect specimens I get here who don’t.’”

To amuse himself and other aircrew between missions, Wallis built model slot-racing cars powered by tiny electric motors, racing them on a disused blackout board. This was years before the development of Scalextric, and as Wallis recalled: “Mine was more realistic — it had front wheels which really steered round corners.”

Wallis remained in the post-war RAF and specialised as an armament officer, among other things solving the problems of loading bombs efficiently on to the RAF’s first jet bomber, the Canberra, and testing the Mach 2 – later known as the Lightning.

During a two-year posting to the USAF’s Strategic Air Command armament and electronics division in the 1950s, he flew B-36s laden with nuclear bombs over the North Pole and participated in powerboat races in vessels that he made from redundant parts, winning the 56-mile Missouri Marathon. He also set about building his first autogyro. He returned to Britain to be the Command Armament Officer at Fighter Command.

Look! No hands... and some said rashly, "no brains, either"

Look! No hands… and some said (rashly) “no brains, either”

Wallis demonstrated his autogyros at numerous RAF air shows before leaving the RAF in 1964 in the rank of wing commander. He moved to Norfolk, hoping that he would be able to put them into commercial production for “reconnaissance, research and development, surveillance and military purposes”. But it never happened. Instead, during the 1970s, he worked with a company that pioneered a type of multi-spectral aerial photography that could detect where bodies were buried, as a result of which he was called in to help in several high-profile missing-person searches.

In 1970, he joined the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, spending two days in the air taking pictures, but with no result. In 1975, he was called in by the police to help search for the fugitive peer Lord Lucan: “They thought he might have committed suicide in Newhaven, so I drove down with the autogyro on a trailer and had a good look, but he wasn’t there.”

In 2010, the 94-year-old Wallis was reported to be furious that his plan to break his own autogyro speed record had been frustrated by the Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to impose a speed limit of 70mph for autogyros. The CAA agreed to give him special one-off permission to breach the limit, but in the event he never made the attempt.

NZ Aviation News Editor John King met Wallis eight years ago. He told GAA: “Did you know he had an electron microscope in one of his sheds? A local research establishment was throwing it out and, although he couldn’t make use of it – it needed a multi-tonne concrete base – he couldn’t bear to see it scrapped.”

Wallis received many national and international awards, was appointed MBE in 1996 and in July this year was awarded his Bomber Command clasp, 68 years after he risked his life over Germany. It was an award that meant much to him.

In 1942, he married Peggy Stapley, a WAAF officer, who predeceased him. They had a son and two daughters.

So farewell, Crasher Wallis. Thanks to a preponderance of over-weening bureaucrats, we shall not see your like again.

♦ To learn more about the remarkable Ken Wallis, visit this site

♦ To see the man in action, watch this on YouTube