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Opening address - National chief flying instructors conference
Canberra - 23 September 2015
- Thank you Ian for your introduction. First of all, a warm welcome to all of attendees, I know that some of you have travelled quite a distance to get to here—it is good to see you all.
- By way of introduction, I have more than 30 years' experience in both civilian and military aviation and bring considerable aviation industry experience. Started my aviation career, beginning as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force in the early 1980s. I led RAAF research and development squadrons and my last posting was as Australia’s Air Commander, holding oversight for Australia’s air operations, and reaching the rank of Air Vice Marshal before retiring in 2012. I have also worked in civilian aviation as a test pilot, business development manager and company director, and have led large teams of operational, technical and administrative support. I still enjoy flying and I’m a new student pilot with Recreational Aviation Australia Incorporated (RA-Aus).
- CASA’s key role is to conduct the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australian territory and the operation of Australian aircraft outside Australian territory. What we do in CASA has been determined by the Australian Parliament and is set out in our Civil Aviation Act and over time these functions have not changed in any significant way.
- My aim is to channel much of our regulatory energy and effort toward ensuring that the decisions we make and the actions we take are correct, appropriate and lawful in the demonstrable interests of safety, whilst concentrating on the meaningful steps we can take to reduce the need for enforcement action.
- When I was appointed as the Director of Aviation Safety early this year, I believed that setting a fresh tone right across all these activities was needed to face the demands of the complex and ever changing aviation environment within which we operate. I feel that the evolution of a vision that fosters open conversations with mutual respect and trust between us and the industry we regulate—in other words forming an appropriate safety partnership is the way forward to achieve the best safety outcomes. I see today’s gathering as another opportunity to grow and foster that safety partnership.
- Aviation is a very safe mode of transport today; however, complex systems and ever changing new technology is creating new challenges for all of us, and more profoundly for pilots—areas such as pilot competencies, automation and flight path management require close attention. However, the basic skill work and your role are important.
- Standards for flying training is one of the key pillars of air safety. All of you and your colleagues are responsible for the management of flying training including development and delivery of the applicable syllabi, training and supervision of instructors. As I understand, most of you are also ATOs or Examiners who are responsible for setting and making the standards through flight test and proficiency checks.
- All of you play an absolutely critical role in air safety. Without you, Australia’s flying training standards would not be at the high standards we currently have, our accident rate would probably be higher and we CASA would have to commit increased resource levels to oversight flying training standards. On behalf of the Minister, the Department and CASA Board I thank you for the job you are doing as Chief Flying Instructors and Examiners.
New Licencing regulations
- Let’s talk about some of the issues— I have been looking carefully at the issues surrounding the development and implementation of new regulations to make sure CASA is learning lessons from the past. This has been my focus as we progress with the implementation of the new licensing suite of regulations that was introduced in September 2014.
- I fully accept CASA can make improvements in both the way regulations are developed and implemented. We do start with the intention to make new regulations as clear as possible, using plain language without unnecessary complexities. We most certainly do not set out to write regulatory requirements that are hard to understand. But like many good intentions our goal can get lost during the journey and, for a range of reasons, the result can sometimes be regulations that are more complex than desired.
- In reviewing the development and implementation of the licensing suite I see a number of improvements we can make in our processes. The first is to do more work up front before the regulations are made. This may involve testing the regulatory proposals in a practical way with the aviation community or running a pilot program to ensure implementation plans are optimal. At all stages we need a better dialogue with people like you to allow us to communicate, consult meaningfully and to listen carefully to constructive feedback.
- As you may recall, I wrote to all pilots and flying training organisations asking for further feedback on the licensing suite and I am pleased to say the response has been very helpful. I formed a multi-divisional tiger team to work on implementation issues in collaboration with the industry. The team has identified areas that require immediate attention such as smoothing out transition difficulties. So far, examples of specific action we have taken are (amongst other actions):
- student pilot dual flight check rule – extended period between dual checks from 14 to 30 days
- the English language proficiency requirements have been simplified and more people are able to conduct assessments. This applies to student pilots, licence and flight test applicants and for the Part 64 radio operator certificate
- improvements are being developed for the flight instructor rating. Each training endorsement will have its own competency unit. That will clarify what training is required for the grant of the endorsement and therefore the content of each endorsement training course.
- The team will also be looking into how the regulations were implemented, what worked and what lessons can be learnt.
- An implementation register is now available on CASA’s website which provides regularly updated information about the status of issues and change activity.
So what about the future?
- Early this year, I released an important new directive which sets out the principles CASA must apply when developing new regulations or making changes to existing regulations. While the directive reaffirms CASA’s position on the development of regulations, it takes the principles a step further by clearly setting out how they relate to the application and administration of the regulations.
- CASA must still apply the regulations in accordance with their intent and safety must be regarded as the most important consideration. But we must also consider all other relevant issues, including costs and administrative burden. This means there is the opportunity for people in the aviation community to show CASA how the right safety outcomes under the regulations can be achieved at a lower cost or administrative burden. In other words, CASA is not saying ‘it is our way or the highway’ when it comes to the exercise of our discretionary compliance powers. We will entertain a reasonable proposal for the adoption of another approach and, in the absence of good reason not to do so, CASA will adopt such an alternative approach.
- Just last week, I released another important policy statement—CASA’s new regulatory philosophy, which sets out ten key principles to guide and direct the way our organisation will regulate Australian aviation.
- These principles will be reflected in regulatory policies and practices and in the way CASA engages with the aviation community. The principles include building trust and respect, taking a risk-based approach, being consultative and collaborative, balancing consistency with flexibility, embracing a just culture, taking actions that are appropriate and in proportion to the circumstances, exercising discretion fairly and limiting CASA’s role in support of punitive action where it may be necessary. I believe this new regulatory philosophy is an important milestone for both CASA and the aviation community.
- There is now a clear and concise set of principles to guide all our actions. Many of these principles are already reflected in existing policies and practices but the adoption of this regulatory philosophy will sharpen the focus on how and how well we are performing. I am committed to ensuring these principles make a real, positive and lasting difference to the way CASA operates and the way we interact with the aviation community.
- I appreciate some people may be sceptical at first about how or whether these principles will make a practical change to the way we carry out our regulatory responsibilities. But to regain trust, we must earn trust and as an organisation we are looking forward to the opportunity to do just that.
- Another area that CASA and the aviation industry may not have been too good at in the past is sharing information, I hope this workshop will surface a good flow of information that will provide everyone with a wealth of information and experience we can all share and use to enhance aviation safety in Australia.
- I look forward to talking with you later today and wish you an enjoyable and productive two days.