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Ref: Once again back to the future?? &…ips-spence &…ugust-2021

The great BRB bucket collection. AP forum version

For many long years now, the BRB have accumulated and stored many sacred buckets. It is no light matter; indeed, ’tis a most serious endeavour. Every time a ‘communication’ from ASA, ATSB, CASA or politician creates a great, collective need to vomit (aka. “pass the bucket”), a competition is held in remembrance of the missive which created that urge, – we have quite a collection now. Buckets entered for consideration must be inscribed with ‘the’ quotation concerned and have a ‘graphic’ (in cartoon or picture form) which defines ‘the gut churning’ moment. Many are called, but few are selected; of those few, only one may be added to the collection. The size, quality, artistry and the chosen quotation are considered in the judging. We are assembling a ‘remote’ quorum to judge the latest entries and of those there are many. And, no wonder: the latest ‘missive’ heaved up from the bowels of Sleepy Hollow has created a great need for instant accesses to the humble bucket.

“Vomiting is a forceful expulsion of the contents of the stomach and sometimes the gut. The whole mechanism is guided and controlled by the brain and its vomiting centre”. “The fourth ventricle of the brain hosts the vomiting centre”.

There; medical fact – it is ‘the brain’ and its ‘vomiting centre’ which triggers the action. When the brain is ‘offended’ throwing up happens; and many a brain has had this centre ‘stimulated by the latest offensive CASA missive, penned by the new DAS.

“It is because artists do not practise, patrons do not patronise, crowds do not assemble to reverently worship the great work of Doing Nothing, that the world has lost its philosophy and even failed to invent a new religion”.― G.K. Chesterton

Not too many enjoy being patronised; even fewer enjoy seeing the same, sad, sway-back old donkey being sold off at market as prime stock. But non – not one man-jack of ’em like being lied to, particularly when it is the same ‘lie’ deceitfully remastered and passed off as ‘mother-hood’ wrapped in soft, pink, fluffy soothing bull-pooh. Spence just shot herself in her unfortunate arse with this little bit of deceit. But, the thing which prompted the brain to trigger vomit – the ‘sign off’ “Best regards Pip” Heave, grab the bucket; and flush all hope for meaningful reform down the pan alongside your dinner. Clue – we’ve heard it all before as the prelude to the existing disaster symphony. Someone – please tell the Muppet about the real world; not that it could penetrate the safe, secure untroubled planet of ‘Cloud Cuckoo land’ in which the public service are so used to living in – so far removed from reality it would make you dizzy. Disgust and disrespect agreed for the new, publicly funded, master of matters aeronautical. Bloody glove puppet – no more. Retch. 

The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

After the great bucket debate; there was some serious discussion (via the net) about how to expediently resolve the thirty year battle for a balanced regulator and sensible, gold standard regulation; a consensus was reached. The most practical, legal, sensible and (importantly) enforceable way to set things to rights exists – done with a stroke of a pen – the right pen of course – the ministerial pen. B. Joyce Esq; deputy prime minister of this once proud free land was gazumped by his rival when it came to signing off the Ministerial ‘Statement of Expectations’ (SOE) for the CASA. This SOE is a legally binding document; if the minister says ‘jump’ the only response is ‘how high Sir’. If ‘industry’ was to get it’s act together and obtain a pre election promise from BJ that a SOE, detailing the ‘changes’ which must be made (the ten commandments if you like) then there would be little wriggle room for the top table at CASA to utilise. Make no mistake – Joyce can, with a stroke of his pen, bring all the reform we have so desperately needed into being – before an election. After the election will not assist – there will be no need for this industries support then; win, loose or draw. It stands as the opinion of many that Joyce could reverse the downward spiral in which aviation has existed for three decades by simply drafting a SOE which instructs CASA to ring in the changes. Dumping Mommy Spence being a priority. MTF.

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“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” ― Mark Twain

Aye well, as one mate, heavily involved in the big money investment world said quite simply – “the whole lot are ‘owned” – he refused to say by whom. – So much for the politics of high finance eh? Add to that the deadly silence of ‘McDolittle’ who signed out with a nod and a wink to Spence at last Estimates and you see the grim truth of where ‘reform’ is heading; right back to the CASA top table; not bad eh? But enough;

“The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.”― Benjamin Disraeli

The improvement in my old diabetic cat is remarkable since the medication change – It’s a funny thing, but when one has used a particular saw for many years, you learn the song it plays and can hear when it becomes blunt or cutting with it’s usual effortless efficiency; one also learns to judge the weight of wood left in a billet by sound. So I was surprised t’uther day when an old song played a different tune – there was an alien sound – looked up and there sat cat – perched on the lumber, purring away with a very knowing smile on it’s face. “Gerroffit” I barked – the cat obliged – slowly, elegantly and with grace; giving me a look which left no doubt as to whom was the master. Made me smile all day. That’s it – it is too beautiful spring evening to be sat here beating up my long suffering key board.


P2 addendum: From our resident herbivorous marsupial, via the AP forum… 😉

Deus ex machina; plural: dei ex machina; English “god out of the machine”) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence. Its function is generally to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.

Deus ex machina is a Latin calque from Greek ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanês theós) ‘god from the machine’. The term was coined from the conventions of ancient Greek theater, where actors who were playing gods were brought onto stage using a machine. The machine could be either a crane (mechane) used to lower actors from above or a riser which brought them up through a trapdoor. Aeschylus introduced the idea, and it was used often to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. The device is associated mostly with Greek tragedy, although it also appeared in comedies.

In such drama a Deus Ex machina is required to right wrongs, resolve differences, deliver justice, instruct and educate the actors and deliver the homily. The hero is rewarded for her steadfastness and courage. The separated lovers are reunited. The supporting players are rewarded for their just endeavors in support of the hero. The lazy, deceitful and dishonest confess the errors of their ways and promise to behave better in future. Mephistopheles is cast into the flaming pit. The curtain closes to a rousing chorus of the ancient Greek version of “Rule Britannia”. We all shuffle out of the warm amphitheater, thinking about the rising cost of helots and this years Olive harvest.

Would that a modern Deus Ex Machina arrive by parachute, helicopter or even light aircraft crash landing, to intervene in the ongoing tragedy that is Australian Aviation because without such a creature it is finished. Period.

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski, a superb leader, has just taken on the job of Chairman of Crown Casinos, obviously with a remit to clean those Augean stables. In my opinion, we need a Ziggy clone, a deus ex machina, to do likewise to Australian aviation regulation. While I am not suggesting the aviation regulators are a series of dishonest Casinos, they have the same characteristic as Crown and Telstra (also a beneficiary of Ziggys attentions); a large, complex organization, deeply technical in many ways, with (ahem) a series of unfortunate temptations that have been shamefully indulged. Crown screwed the punters. Telstra screwed its customers. Out regulators? Well, read the Forsyth review. Folks, reforming our regulator is not a simple, easy, job, at least from where we are today, assuming of course that reform is required.

I  say, sorrowfully, and despite the best endeavors of the regulators hard working, diligent and honest staff, that the die is cast. The deliberate complexification of regulation, the framing of regulation as an exercise in catching uncaught (felonious) criminals before they rain shredded Aluminium and flame on the general public, the self incrimination implicit in regulations, the deliberately skewed power imbalances between the regulator and regulated and the actual lack of any meaningful safety content in their proceedings makes a Greek tragedy ending a certainty.

To put that another way, I learned to fly in spite of CASA. There was not one thing of any value they taught me except fear of them. I read my bibles, including FAA publications, “Stick and Rudder” by Langweisch and my purchased texts. I dutifully passed my CASA exams ( how many metres must an aircraft be from an open hangar door before refueling?) and other major questions. I listened and imitated my instructors. I learnt their foibles then tried to reconcile the differences between them. In all this the Regulator was silent. Just how silent we might eventually discover if there is a class action lawsuit against SOAR – a dodgy operation if ever there was one. Yet at the same time SOAR was financially reaming their students and providing questionable training enough to get people injured, CASA decided to shut down APTA – a high quality training provider that was the very antithesis of SOAR. Funny that. Of course I and most others are at the bottom end of the aviation gene pool. Pond scum. We don’t matter or do we? Who do you think tries to keep whats left of our rotting aviation infrastructure alive? Not CASA.

Covid is probably the kiss of death to General and recreational Aviation but the damage has been progressively mounting for years. If I had been listening, I would have heard the warnings as a student pilot twenty five years ago and taken up golf; the long silences followed by changing the subject when one inquired about regulations, the fear in a LAMES eyes when you raised a query about a defect. The lack of a straight answer to what I thought was a simple question. The signs were there. I have since seen it myself. Walk into a strange hangar with a clipboard under your arm, wearing a flouro safety vest. Commercial enemies will even warn each other when a regulator comes to an airstrip. The response is always to shut up shop and leave if you can. Might you have an uncalibrated torque wrench? Is there a release note on file for your plexiglass windscreen cleaner? I’m afraid I see it all the time. People want to comply but it is too hard. Either the regulations are needlessly costly and complex and ambiguous or they don’t make common sense anyway. Then of course there is the self incrimination problem – for example any landing accident is BY DEFINITION a crime by some one. There are no accidents any more, our comprehensive regulations preclude them.

The net result is a combination of three things – none of them good. Conscientious operators are driven out of business by the impossible costs of compliance. Their place is taken by shonky operators who deliberately  pretend to comply but don’t. The third group (the majority) make a devils bargain to do what they know is safe and right despite regulations and comply with as much of the paperwork as possible. The shonks prosper, the majority try to stay afloat until retirement. There is no new investment, no new jobs, no GDP growth, the infrastructure crumbles under pressure from property development and environmental concerns. Gradually the industry becomes a mess that is unsalvageable. That is where we are now.

Yes, unsalvageable. We are at the end of the second act of the play. The hero is handcuffed to the pillar, the villain has made off with the heroine. The trusty sidekicks are drunk or asleep. Only the bad guys are left on  the field. What comes next? With the greatest respect to Ms. Spence, she is not the Deus ex machina, neither is the current Chairman of the Board despite their good reputations. The current mess at CASA is a classic Gordian knot, Thirty years in the making, thousands of pages of legal complexification utterly at variance with ANY regulatory regime internationally. Ms. Spence, this problem is above your pay grade. Same with the CASA Board. You guys can’t fix it. No one can.

The solution is ultimately going to be the arrival of the Deus ex machina, either in a benevolent or avenging form, carrying a rather large and impossibly modern chainsaw with which to render the Gordian knot – the only possible outcome. Nobody else has permission to fix CASA. Nobody is ever going to get it. We must wait while things gradually worsen until the day when it becomes obvious to the political classes that the situation cannot be allowed to continue. In my opinion, all current leaders can do is paper over cracks. We don’t have a spare Ziggy Switkowski to fix things nor any bureaucratic chainsaws either..

I think I know what Ms. Spence feels like at present because I once found myself in a management position where I had not the faintest idea of the technology I was managing. I only realised I was powerless while I was chairing a meeting of experts in an attempt to resolve a fundamental issue in a $50 million IT project. I discovered that I had not the faintest idea what the experts were talking about. I was trying to lead something by following process rules but with zero practical experience. The experts exchanged knowing looks. They knew the project was a complete mess and that their fearless leader (me) not only couldn’t fix it but didn’t even comprehend the scale of the disaster.  It is a horrible, helpless feeling being responsible for what you don’t understand. I didn’t last very long. Good luck Ms. Spence!

Yes and while we are on the subject of deus ex machina, Greek tragedy, legend and gordian knots, I have heard of Icarus and what happened to his son. Presumably if CASA had been around in those days there would have been a rule about fitting approved wax temperature gauges to the wings and it would have been a felony (strict liablity) to exceed the published temperature limits. Had he survived, he would have been prosecuted.