Wagga is set to host leaders from almost every major aviation group in the country next week when they gather to discuss the rising costs crippling the industry.
Representatives from more than thirty leading aviation bodies will meet for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia summit and are due to propose some significant changes to the Civil Aviation Act.
With the end of JetGo imminent and a new Qantas training academy up for grabs, local aviation leaders say this conversation is now more important than ever for Wagga’s future.
John Smith, captain of flying at the Wagga Aero Club, said safety regulations relating to things like medical checks for pilots and aircraft maintenance were killing Australia’s aviation industry.
“CASA are just hard-nosed about regulations, there’s just no give, and it’s cruelling the general aviation community by creating regulations on regulations on regulations,” Mr Smith said.
“There used to be two or three flight schools in Wagga, but now you can’t really learn to fly here, and Wagga’s one of the biggest inland cities in Australia.”
According to Mr Smith, these strict laws meant costs were being passed on to customers, who ultimately pay the price for over-regulation.
“The main thing we’re trying to achieve is to get a few policy changes in government to make CASA look at it from a different angle – not so much from a hard-nose safety angle, but from a survival angle,” he said.
Mr Smith said he suspected Dick Smith’s visit to Wagga in April this year played some part in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia’s decision to host its summit in Wagga.
During his visit, Dick Smith held a public-forum and called out Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack for allegedly failing to honour a bipartisan agreement to review the Civil Aviation Act to place more focus on costings.
“Every couple of months, more rules come out that add to costs and, if CASA has its way, it will send that (Wagga) Rex flight school into bankruptcy,” Dick Smith told his audience.
“It’s only going to be the children of the very wealthy who are going to be able to learn to fly.”
Mr McCormack, who is due to give the opening address at next week’s summit, said he planned to take any proposals back to parliament for discussion.
“The Government will examine any proposals put forward by industry representatives in due course,” Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack said he also hoped the summit would be able to offer some flow-on benefits for local businesses.