It is a tremendous privilege that I find myself writing this article to the more than 10,000 members of RAAus and the many non-members that are keen aviators. For many years I’ve read SportPilot magazine (and its predecessors) and enjoyed the wonderful stories that makes aviation so interesting. SportPilot is an important product that we provide members, and it allows us to engage, share knowledge, inspire and be transparent. I trust this issue will carry on this tradition and that you enjoy it.

Stepping into a new role is always interesting, exciting, stressful – and many other adjectives – particularly when you’re now the one ‘steering the ship’. Although this is the case, I would like to make a special call out to our team at RAAus, who have been very welcoming, open to change and extremely professional. I’ve been nothing short of impressed by the small team that exists to ensure our members get value for their membership dollar, whilst working to advance and/or protect our privileges. It’s a credit to all the team, the former CEO Michael Linke, and of course the Chair, Michael Monck, and Board of Directors.

In keeping with our existing direction, my immediate focus is to transition RAAus into the new regulatory regime under CASR Part 149, whilst also working towards expanding our privileges for the longdiscussed and awaited weight increase and access to controlled airspace. Of course, these are strategically important to us, but as an aviator for more than 30 years, I have an unwavering commitment to safety and operational improvement, therefore I will also be very focused on more tactical initiatives. I aim to reinvigorate and expand upon our already successful PDP programs to ensure we’re helping the membership where it’s needed most and ensure we’re visible and accessible for those who seek assistance.

Engagement with other industry associations and bodies, as well as Government and its agencies, is a highly valuable activity I intend on advancing. Advocacy is a role that RAAus takes seriously and we’ve done it well in the past, but I also see an opportunity to ensure we communicate effectively with our membership, wave our flag a bit more prominently and be clear on our policy positions by having a specific presence on our website so anyone can see what our stance is on a particular matter and, should they feel strongly enough, enable those with alternate views to make contact and challenge us. The current Class E airspace changes that Airservices Australia (Airservices) have proposed are a clear indicator that they don’t understand us, so let’s help them and others do this by clearly communicating who it is we are and what we do.

Some of you may have read our ‘e-news’ newsletter sent in early January where I shared some insight to the operational issues that have taken place at Ballina in Northern NSW, over recent times. Little did I know that the day after publishing the e-news that Airservices, our air navigation service provider (ANSP), would release a proposal that, if implemented, would see more than 70% of RAAus aircraft – and many other non-RAAus aircraft – be limited to operating at or below 1500 feet AGL unless significant investment was made to equip aircraft with a transponder and two VHF radios by December this year! Of course, there are too many issues to write about here, but I want to assure you that we are making a comprehensive submission to the consultation and will share it with members via our website. At time of writing this article the consultation has not yet closed and we really do not know what direction this will take, but I will say that RAAus are advocating strongly for our members’ privileges and I’ve been very encouraged by the support shown by members in providing their own views to help ‘steer’ the direction of our submission, so thank you to all that have written in.

As I write this in mid-February, Australia is seemingly progressing well towards living in a post-COVID environment. This presents us with the opportunity to get out of the office, to cross borders and to engage with members right across the country. Be it to talk maintenance, to conduct audits, to help flight training schools develop their systems and processes, or to attend events, the team here is itching to be out and about. Like everyone, we’ll need to remain agile in planning, but this will not stop us from planning in the first place and therefore if we can be out and about, we will be. With that in mind, I’ll leave you to enjoy this edition of SportPilot and I hope to see you out there ‘committing aviation’ very soon.