The Victorian government has announced residents in regional areas will be able to fly recreationally – days after telling Australian Aviation it was banned.
The new rules, published on Wednesday, state that pilots must take-off and land at an airport within regional Victoria, and they also allows lessons to go ahead.
The confusion came after the state extended its ‘stage 3’ lockdown beyond Melbourne today, meaning citizens can only leave their homes for four reasons – shopping for essentials, work, caregiving and exercise.
On Monday, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services told Australian Aviation that flying in regional areas would be banned as it clearly fell outside of the four valid reasons.
However, on Wednesday the department backflipped and revealed that a special exemption has been applied to flying recreationally.
The new advice now states:
“Flying for recreation is allowed but only with one other person, or members of your household. If flying with someone who is not from your household, you must be able to maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from that other person and you and your passenger or instructor must wear a face covering.
“You should only depart or land at airports within regional Victoria. Recreational flying and flying lessons are not permitted within metropolitan Melbourne. You can also fly for practice, with a flying instructor or a member of your household.”
Flying is banned within Melbourne itself, as the capital city is enduring an even tougher ‘stage 4’ lockdown that includes a nightly curfew and limits exercise to one hour.
Terry Mann from Point Cook Flying Club in Melbourne told Australian Aviation how confusing the rule changes have been.
“We have three club aircraft based at Pt Cook RAAF Base in the Melbourne metropolitan area,” said Mann. “When the Melbourne stage 3 restrictions were announced, the RAAF closed the base to civilians, so we relocated our aircraft. Because we had members residing both within and outside the metropolitan area, we decided to locate two aircraft in regional Victoria and one in the metropolitan area, so that all of our members would still have options to fly.
“I think the rules for stage 3 regional Victoria are now pretty clear, but it’s a very roundabout way to find them in the rules. In regards to stage 4, they have made it clear that recreational flying and flying lessons are not allowed. But what about flying for the purpose of staying current, keeping up skills, and in the case of several of our members, flying solo to build hours for CPL or for eligibility for certain pilot jobs. Does this fall into the education category?
“Another area that we are concerned about is giving aircraft a regular run. I understand that aircraft engines can suffer corrosion issues if they are not run at operating temperature frequently –is flying to prevent damage to an aircraft a valid reason? I appreciate that we have a health crisis to deal with, but what could be more socially isolated than flying an aircraft solo?”
The stricter rules were announced by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, and are punishable with a $200 fine if not adhered to. Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown is scheduled to last six weeks at least.
“We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever,” said Premier Andrews after he announced the harder lockdown. “It is not an easy decision to make but it is necessary and that’s why I’ve made it and that’s why police will be out in force and you will be stopped and you will be asked and need to demonstrate that you are lawfully out and you are not breaching that curfew.”