Enforcement of safety rules

Stating the facts

Everything we do is driven by safety and we understand most people in the aviation industry do the right thing and act in good faith in accordance with the rules.

Two CASA inspectors wearing high-visibility vests with "Civil Aviation Safety Authority" written on them examining a plane parked on grass beside a dirt track

The professionalism and integrity of the majority of aviation industry participants underpins Australia’s strong safety record but we understand people sometimes make mistakes.

When that happens, we work with them using just culture principles to help them understand how they may have inadvertently erred and what they need to do to avoid making the same mistake again.

We may decide to provide education or formal counselling to ensure that in future they have adequate knowledge and will operate safely and in compliance with the rules.

It is a way of achieving a good safety outcome without the need to limit a person’s aviation privileges unless necessary in the interests of aviation safety.

Where we have zero tolerance is for serious, wilful or repeated disregard of the aviation rules.

We take all reports of illegal aviation behaviour seriously and we employ a range of responses determined by the available evidence.

Information about potential breaches can come from a variety of sources, including the public, other members of the aviation industry, CASA surveillance or oversight operations and anonymous or self-reporting.

All reports are important and even if a single report does not result in regulatory action, it may be used to build a case in the longer term.

We carefully consider all information and concerns raised with us, assessing how we should respond and the sort of action we should take.

We use proportionality and discretion in regulatory decision making and we always act according to the law.  

This means exercising our powers in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice, which require us to rely on evidence rather than hunches, rumour or speculation.

Our decisions need to be lawful and defensible and they are governed by our documented procedures, including those set out in the Enforcement Manual.

Different pathways that are available, depending on the issue, include:

  • assisting people with education and guidance material
  • encouraging people through audit safety findings and counselling notices
  • taking administrative action such as varying suspending, suspending or cancelling an authorisation
  • issuing an aviation infringement notice (AIN)
  • referring the matter for criminal prosecution.

We use enforcement action where necessary to compel a person to comply with legislative requirements or limit, constrain or prevent someone who is demonstrably unable or unwilling to follow the rules from exercising their aviation privileges.

Administrative action can include entering an enforceable voluntary undertaking, issuing directions or delivering a 'show cause' notice to vary, suspend or cancel and authorisation. An aviation infringement notice can involve fines of up to $1565 but the penalty a court can impose for the same offence can be up to $15,650. Demerit points may also be incurred and lead to the automatic suspension or cancellation of a licence.

A 'show cause notice' tells the holder of a civil aviation authorisation – such as a flight crew, remote pilot, aircraft engineer or air operator – why we believe there are reasons to vary, suspend or cancel their authorisation and invites them to tell CASA why they believe we should not do so.

If we consider there is an imminent and serious risk to safety, we can move to immediately suspend an authorisation while we complete an investigation into the facts and circumstances giving rise to our concerns. Such action requires CASA to make an application to the Federal Court, which must agree to maintain the suspension pending the completion of CASA’s investigation.

We also refer serious cases to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), who determines whether to start a prosecution.

Matters are usually referred to the CDPP when breaches are deliberate, show a reckless disregard for the rules or a pattern of disregarding rules, and/or cause a significant safety risk that can include putting other people in danger.

Whichever way we proceed, the chain of events begins with the accumulation of sound evidence supporting the belief that the safety rules have been breached.

We can’t be everywhere and see everything but credible reports from the public and industry can alert us to people doing the wrong thing, help preserve aviation’s well-deserved reputation and improve safety.

This is why we encourage people to report any safety concerns to us through our safety reporting mechanism. They should provide us with as much information as they can to support the concerns they have raised.

Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//enforcement-safety-rules
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