As we come to the end of another disrupted year, one can hope that 2022 will see a lot more opportunity for committing to aviation.

For the team and me at RAAus, I suspect that much of our work in 2022 will be focused on enabling the newly minted privileges we’ll be obtaining, which are the long awaited increase in maximum take off weight and, hopefully, controlled airspace access.

These privileges will offer many of us increased operational flexibility, and I’ll share with you an example of why this is the case.

Prior to the lockdown in the ACT, Mick Monck (RAAus Chair) and I took a day off and went for a jaunt in my Grumman Tiger. Our plan was to fly from Canberra to Camden, grab some fuel, then fly up to Barrenjoey Head before tracking for a Sydney Scenic over the harbour, exiting through the heads and descending into Victor One before meandering our way back to Canberra. Of course, this is a VH-registered aircraft that has an MTOW of 1090kgs, and I hold a PPL with CTA access already. If the weather or operational conditions changed, or in this case, if I suffered from a lack of good planning, this aircraft and my privileges would give me the flexibility I needed on the day.

Departing Canberra at about 11am, I took up a heading that would track us directly to Camden. With almost no wind, a clear day with some clearing light mist below us in places, there wasn’t a bump in the sky and at 5,500FT, we were living the dream. Approaching Picton, the inbound reporting point for Camden, I gave my inbound call and we were sent on an ‘interesting’ diversion overhead The Oaks, approximately 6 NM southwest of Camden. Soon, I was given clearance to enter the Camden zone and of course, it was like a dogfight with aircraft everywhere and gliders operating on the southern side of the aerodrome.

With the Chair onboard I made sure I greased the landing (I think I did anyway), then taxied up to the fuel bowser. Now, this is where my planning – or lack thereof – was demonstrated. I walked up to the bowser and saw it only accepted CARNET and not Visa cards! Having done a lot of my PPL training at Camden you’d have thought I’d have known that, and even if my memory didn’t stretch back that far I should have simply read the ERSA before departing. Great demonstration of my planning to the Chair!

Plan B was that we had enough fuel to either head straight home or go to another place nearby where fuel was available with my preferred method of payment. Mick suggested he call through to Lake Macquarie to see whether we could obtain permission to land and whether they could spare us 70 litres of fuel. So, he gave them a call and we were kindly granted permission.

Now, given my previous demonstration of poor planning, I took the time to plan the trip as one would be expected during a BFR. Then, we were off to Lake Macquarie. Having never been there before, I have to say it was great to have another pilot with me that had been there many times, so this gave me comfort that this, along with some sound planning, made the operation doable and safe.

The rest of the (day) trip was uneventful but on reflection, it hit home to me why more operational flexibility for RAAus pilots isn’t just nice to have, but essential. Had we had poor weather and needed to divert into controlled airspace, we were covered with my PPL, but if this was conducted with a current Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC), I’d have had to declare a PAN to seek assistance from ATC. And having the ability to carry more fuel than needed for the flight due to the Tiger having a good MTOW, gives me plenty of options should things turn south.

Our privileges aren’t just born out of ‘we’d like to do that because that looks fun!’. They are often born out of necessity, and I’d contend that, particularly in and around our capital city aerodromes, an increase in MTOW and CTA access are vitally important. As I said previously, these privileges will afford us the flexibility we sometimes need to complete a flight safely.

Anyway, have a think about whether the increased operational flexibility that comes with an increase of MTOW or CTA access will assist you as we expect to roll out these new privileges next year.

That’s it for another year and from the RAAus team, wishing you all a safe and enjoyable festive season.