Plane Talking seeks help with expectations: Valentin de Boulogne

By popular request, well Glen McDonald on his own, here are some ‘expectations’ for 2014, which may not be what readers expect, but at least I won’t look as much of a goose as I will if my predictions come undone.

Air safety administration

A Senate committee will ask very detailed questions as to precisely how the Federal Police investigated the earlier concerns of the committee which considered the ATSB Pel-Air crash report, and referred possible breaches of the law by CASA to the AFP. The Federal Police will be asked if certain lines of inquiry were discontinued or disregarded.

My expectation is that a massive whitewash will be attempted, and … it won’t wash. I’m happy to say on a reasonable reading of all of the evidence that the ATSB and CASA probably conspired to suppress incompetence on the part of CASA, that the Transport Safety Investigation Act was offended, and that they set out to frame the pilot of the flight in a manner severely prejudicial to all tests of procedural fairness  and failed to produce a report which meets internationally accepted standards of an air accident investigation by a first world country.

I expect that the treatment by various parties of the injuries and personal damage suffered by one of the survivors of that crash will shame all concerned, and that includes in the Opposition as well as Government.

I am concerned that this Government will try suppress disclosures about the ATSB and CASA that reflect very poorly on their current administration on the basis that our country should go to sleep and not be disturbed by such matters.

However I am especially concerned that this will lead to Australia being sanctioned by the US administration on the issue of governance and performance in air safety administration and that it will do to this country what it did to Israel, another very important ally, and bust us down to second tier status, causing the cancellation of the US code shares vital to Qantas and Virgin Australia as well as other negative consequences.

I expect that the Minister has, or will, ask why nothing material has been done change the ludicrously stupid regulations that apply to the refuelling of oceanic flights by Australian run air ambulance services in the more than four years since the Pel-Air crash occurred.

It is not unreasonable to expect the Minister to ask tough questions about CASA’s chronic inability to protect the public from operations it knew to be dangerous in advance such as those involving the late Barry Hempel and Transair, the operator that slaughtered 15 people in the Lockhart River crash of 2005.

I expect the Minister to come under pressure from both sides of the house to bring aviation accident investigations in this country into line with the open hearing practices of ICAC in NSW re the criminality of the previous NSW State Government and the Pink Batts Royal Commission and the various open inquiries into priests fiddling with our children and being protected by churches and organisations acting with evil and loathsome intent to deny justice to the victims and their families.

(The writer has expectations that go way beyond air transport.)

But these are only expectations, and they may not be fulfilled.

Domestic air travel

This is expected to become more costly and less satisfactory at every pricing proposition as business cuts back on frequency of travel and higher quality products and this reduced activity impacts on airline willingness or capability to serves customers better. Tigerair will become more important to Virgin Australia as a group than might have seemed likely in 2013.

Qantas

More of the same might seem unthinkable, but get used to it, or choose another carrier. Most of you are anyhow.

My expectation is that Qantas will sort itself out. The crystal ball as to how and when has turned black.

Airports

Melbourne’s main airport is expected to surprise with good things, but the writer will continue to abandon his lift below the foyer of the airport hotel and walk over the bridge to avoid the chaos approaching the terminals.

The Government is expected to name Badgerys Creek as the site for the Sydney West Airport and get behind a single runway first stage fast tracked development and agree on a corridor for extending the SW Rail link to it, even if it can’t bring itself to reserve high speed rail corridors  between Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane.

Clive Palmer will persuade Government to improve the Sunshine Coast Airport with landing charge waivers for international flights but only after he signs a one page document promising no dinosaur statues or animations of any type within several kilometers of its boundaries.

The expectation is that the public interest,  the SEQ economy, and good taste, will all win.

Air traffic control

The optimistic expectation is that efforts to lift the competency, efficiency and morale of AirServices Australia will succed at a faster rate than recently, reducing the risk of a devastating cock-up and sparing us from a serious accident.

An associated hope is that the lure of next generation new technology will not be used as an excuse to lessen the effort to improve current ATC services, reflecting a common concern abroad that the improvements technology is supposed to bring are not delivering as soon as anticipated in some of the gee-whiz presentations.

Antarctica

It is reasonable to expect Australia to move decisively to establish a crushed rock 24 hour 365 days capable and ILS equipped large, heavy wheeled jet runway near the Davis Station. In collaboration with China and other interested parties, Australia will move to become a major player in air services throughout much of the continent using smaller ski equipped aircraft, as well as logistical jet freighter flights to graded ice runways such as those at Troll, McMurdo (Pegasus) and the Union Glacier.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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