Rotortech 2024 Helicopter and Uncrewed Flight Exposition

Rotortech 2024 Helicopter and Unmanned Flight Exposition
Pip Spence
Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety of CASA


I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of the Gold Coast, the Yugambeh people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I'd also like to extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.


A lot of hard work goes into organising a conference like this and I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of AMDA, the AHIA and AAUS – so well done to all and thanks to Ray, Julian, Justin, Greg and the team.

The rotorcraft sector continues to be a dynamic part of the aviation industry and society more generally, supporting medical evacs and rescue services and , firefighting, and play an integral role in Australia's tourism, agriculture and resources sectors.

The outlook for helicopters remains good – a report by Fortune Business Insights estimates the value of the global market grew from $US48 billion in 2019 to almost $57 billion in 2022 and expects it to top $US76 billion by 2030. That's a compound annual growth rate of 3.7%

In Australia, there's been growth in the number of helicopters – from 2,505 in mid-2022 to 2,681 last month (up 7%).

About 60% of those are piston aircraft – mainly due to the popularity of the Robinson R22s and R44s – but there was more than 9% growth in turboshaft machines over the last two years.

The growth in aircraft was reflected in helicopter pilot numbers, which rose from 4,464 in mid-2022 to 4,701 last month (5.3%).

An area that needs addressing is participation by women – it's just 4.85% for helicopter pilots. This is lower than the 7.2% female participation figure for all pilots.

We've yet to see how changes in technology and the arrival of advanced air mobility will affect these figures but you can be certain that change is coming. It is great to see that recognised with the AAUS AAM program running in parallel.

We're working hard to make sure Australia is well-positioned in this complex emerging environment.

To do that we're listening and responding to your concerns and engaging with industry as we work collectively to keep Australia one of the world's safest operating environments.

Revised flight operations timelines

Hopefully most of you are aware we delayed the critical 2023 milestone dates for the flight operation rules and signalled the intention to extend the transition period for all of the regulations.

We wanted to ensure the focus is on safety benefits from this crucial program and to provide the flexibility that allowed everyone to comfortably make the changes.

This meant taking time to engage with industry, listen to feedback and then consider our own processes.

We've now released the revised timelines for training and checking systems for those of you working under Part 133 and Part 138, as well as for smaller aircraft operating under Part 135.

A key to this transition is a self-assessment by operators designed to make sure the accountable person is confident the training and checking system has been properly addressed in operational procedures.

We'll rely on this assurance to inform whether more detailed assessment or surveillance is necessary.

Our new timeline means you have until 31 August this year to complete and submit a self-assessment checklist we've developed for your training and checking systems

You'll also need to ensure we have a current copy of your proposed training and checking systems manual.

You'll then have until 28 February next year to implement your systems.

We know that the initial sample operations manual for training and checking systems we provided to industry didn't hit the mark and resulted in significant rework for both our staff and operators.

We've aimed to address any past misunderstandings and give you as much information as possible about this transition.

Improved guidance material includes a new sample training and checking manual.

We started industry briefing sessions last month and these are running across Australia through to the end of this month.

The briefings will give you insights into where we are in the transition process, what the new deadlines mean to you and run through the resources we've developed.

We'll also show you how to use the new sample training and checking system manual and make a submission.

I'd encourage you to visit our website to check out the details specifically applying to your situation. We also have a great team at the CASA stand who can help point you in the right direction if you need more information or have any questions.

We wanted to get the training and checking system process well underway before we came back to look at rotorcraft performance classes to ensure we didn't impose too high a workload on some of you.

We've been looking at how many operators work in each of the performance classes – PC1, PC 2, PC2 with exposure and PC3 – and what's involved in preparing exposition content.

Keeping those things in mind, we'll be communicating with Part 133 operators in the coming months on what the timeframe and submission process is going to look like.

Meanwhile, we've been progressively updating and publishing documents outlining the reasoning and requirements behind the performance classes, and you can find these on our website.

Mt Disappointment and safety education

The crash at Mt Disappointment on 31 March 2022, where a helicopter entered cloud and collided with terrain, was a tragedy – and our condolences go to those who lost loved ones.

CASA has accepted the ATSB's safety recommendation that we should take safety action to further address the risk to helicopter passengers of a VFR pilot inadvertently flying into bad weather.

There's an old saying, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We believe the best way to respond to the ATSB's recommendation is to ensure VFR pilots are educated in the importance of pre-flight planning, interpreting weather forecasts and monitoring for deteriorating weather.

Rather than push on into bad weather, we're urging VFR pilots to make an early decision to divert via a safe clearer route or to an alternate landing site, and if the weather changes quickly or these options are not available to make a precautionary landing anywhere when it is safe to do so.

We're emphasising we will not take enforcement action against a pilot if they make a precautionary landing, provided it is performed in good faith and as safely as possible.

On the organisational safety front, we are considering a number of initiatives to ensure that Part 133 operators have effective processes and procedures in place to manage the risk of encounters with bad weather and to support their pilots to make safe decisions.

This includes amending our guidance on operator exposition content to ensure that Part 133 operator expositions contain clear 'Go/No Go' criteria to support pre-flight planning and issuing sample training and checking material for Part 133 operators which incorporates discussion of techniques for avoiding dangerous weather conditions into each Part 133 pilot proficiency check.

We are also considering options for highlighting weather and visibility risks as part of the HF/NTS guidance material which we provide to Part 133 operators.

A key part of increasing awareness is a collaboration with the State Safety Program Interagency Aviation Safety Promotion Working Group, the AHIA and rotary pilots.

Your safety is in your hands is a campaign specifically aimed at improving awareness and decision-making among pilots. Since its launch in August 2022, it has attracted almost 95,000 users who have viewed more than 190,000 pieces of content.

But our research found it wasn't resonating in the same way with rotary pilots.

To identify how we could better engage with this sector, we hosted a workshop last November with a broad cross section of rotary pilots, rotary industry representatives and CASA staff.

We then developed an array of resources and tested them through in-depth interviews with rotary pilots themselves.

Our increased emphasis on your sector includes changes such as:

  • helicopter images and 'rotary' and 'fixed wing' content tags on our pilot safety hub to help you quickly identify content that's relevant to you
  • a tailored rotary pilot safety hub newsletter
  • a new quarterly rotary pilot safety hub quiz
  • a suite of new rotary posters mailed to flight training schools, clubs and industry, which will also be available from the CASA online store.

We also launched a series of educational, animated 'rule explainer' videos using content from the VFRG, plain English guide and international resources.

We've seen a positive response and increased awareness from rotary pilots, with 85% now saying they're aware of the campaign and 7 out of 10 telling us they've learned something new.

In addition, 74% said the campaign made them want to find out more, with 8 out of 10 saying it gave clear instructions to help them find the latest safety information.

We will continue to promote practical measures – such as appropriate flight planning and the use of modern GPS systems – that allow pilots to avoid VFR into IMC.

Digital transformation and improving service delivery

We know one of the biggest pain points for industry is the timeliness of our regulatory service delivery.

We've been working hard to update CASA's online offerings to make interactions with us more convenient, easier to process and faster.

One area we've been progressively updating is our myCASA portal, a key touchpoint in our online strategy. We now have 60 plus services online and are migrating more functions to the portal and we recommend using myCASA because it reduces manual processes and also the chance for error.

We're also introducing a new service delivery dashboard to help you see how long you application should take to process. We also report against how we are tracking in meeting our service delivery targets.

Additional information will include the total number of completed applications per service, preset timeframes such as the last 1, 3, 6 and 12 months, as well as a comparison of current performance trends compared to the same period last year.

Our aim is to continue to expand the scope of regulatory services we report on to include organisational approvals.

We've also upgraded our medical records system to reduce the time it will take to apply for a medical by grouping similar questions within the medical questionnaire. This reduces the number of questions people need to answer from 138 to a minimum of 28.

We're using technology to help us keep our commitment to improve service delivery and reduce the backlogs we know generate frustration in the aviation community.

Plain speaking

Regulatory language can be hard going, even for knowledgeable professionals, and it's important for you to know and understand the rules we've put in place to keep you safe.

That's why we've spent so much time and effort producing a series of plain English guides that present the rules and requirements in way that is easier to comprehend.

By helping people get the information they need in clear, concise language that is more easily understood, we hope that pilots and operators can be safer.

We already have plain English guides on issues such as fatigue management and the Part 91 general operating and flight rules.

By the end of 2024 we expect to have released 8 guides, up from 3 at the end of 2023.

One of these will be on Part 61 flight crew licensing which will have a separate edition for rotary wing operations. We think you will find this a useful tool. We hope to have a digital version of these guides available in the next few months.

I'm also very pleased to announce today the release of our Guide to Vertiport Design.

This guide is designed to assist stakeholders in the early stages of planning and designing vertiports for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capable aircraft.

It provides an overview of issues to consider when thinking about building a vertiport and sets out the basics of design development in graphical format.

We believe the guide will be useful for those who design, build and operate vertiports as well as for planning authorities, aerodrome operators and VTOL-capable aircraft operators and manufacturers.

Hard copies of the Guide to vertiport design are available at the CASA stand. Digital and hardcopies are also available through the CASA website.

GA Workplan 2.0

Our General Aviation Workplan celebrated its second birthday last month.

When we started this journey, we wanted to draw together GA initiatives in a way that was transparent and helped stakeholders understand how regulatory changes would affect them.

Our initial focus was on improved pilot licensing rules, streamlined maintenance arrangements and simplified medical requirements.

Initiatives we've delivered on include a multi-engine helicopter class rating, Class 5 self-assessed medicals, Part 66 modular maintenance licensing rules and improvements to pilot licensing rules.

We recently asked for views on what could be considered in GA Workplan 2.0. We're particularly interested in initiatives that have wide appeal, will affect a large number of people and can be implemented through changes to a MOS or through an instrument.

We'll announce the update after the federal government's Aviation White paper is released to ensure we're aligned and support the broader government direction.

Maintenance matters

We're all aware of the ongoing shortage of aviation engineers and we're doing what we can to help.

Andreas provided an update yesterday on our work on Part 66.

As Andreas explained, we've introduced a modular licensing system that allows aspiring engineers to work through a maintenance training organisation and a self-study pathway to get an initial modular licence with exclusions – in about half the time it previously took to get a full licence.

Work is now underway on how we can safely recognise foreign engineer licences more easily and we expect to consult on details later this year.

One way we might do this is through direct recognition of foreign states via an amendment of the Part 66 manual of standards, while another is a streamlined assessment framework.

We see potential for short-term approvals which would allow a CAR 30 or part 145 maintenance organisation to employ foreign LAMEs in Australia for up to 12 months while they work towards an Australian licence.

This would allow a foreign licence holder to certify the completion of maintenance on a VH-registered aircraft at an approved maintenance organisation.

We are looking to work with Part 145 maintenance organisations on exemptions to allow them to employ foreign licence holders.

Also coming up soon is the introduction of Part 43, aimed at safely minimising the regulatory burden and compliance costs for maintaining aircraft engaged in private and aerial work operations.

The regulatory drafting is complete and we've been updating the Part 43 MOS and associated explanatory material, guidance material, plain English Guide and training courseware which will make up the final legislative package.

We will show this package to the Part 43 technical working group before it is made, with a planned start date in the fourth quarter of this year.

People will still be able to make an informed decision to stay with CAR 30 but Part 43 will apply otherwise.

We'll be able to let you know more about timing closer to the date but we intend to allow 3 months between when the rules are made and when they will commence.

AAM edges closer

If helicopters are the yin of this conference, then advanced air mobility is the yang and we will have both co-existing in aviation for some time.

AAM is getting closer and we're working on this in Australia and with other national aviation authorities, particularly the US Federal Aviation Administration.

While we're seeing progress with some exciting projects, AAM deployment in Australia and around the world is happening later than initially expected.

That's not a reason to slow down though. We all have to start looking at what skills we need and how we're going to supply them. And we're actively thinking about our workforce capability required to support regulatory development and what regulatory changes may be required in what timeframe.

There are still a lot of issues to be resolved and we're watching what happens with ICAO. Once international airworthiness policy is settled, you can expect us to publish guidance on local expectations.

We're also reviewing the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and AAM Strategic Regulatory Roadmap we released two years ago to outline our future regulatory approach.

We had an excellent response from across industry for these sessions – so much so that additional sessions were added to accommodate interest. Industry's involvement will help us ensure the roadmap remains current, achievable, and relevant.


The rotary wing sector remains high on our agenda. There's no doubt more imperatives will emerge as technology continues its advance and we work through issues such as shared airspace and advanced air mobility.

We're committed to working with the sector and addressing the issues it raises.

It can't be CASA in isolation, everybody needs to work together to accommodate changes.

Communication is a key to this and, as always, we welcome and value your input.

Thank you.

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