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The Future Rotary Regulatory Landscape
CEO/DAS Presentation at RotorTech - 25 May 2018
I would like to thank the Australian Helicopter Industry Association for hosting RotorTech and acknowledge Peter Crook (AHIA President), Ray Cronin (AHIA Vice President) and Mr Paul Tyrrell (AHIA new CEO (appointed in November 2017)) and I look forward to continuing our ongoing positive working relationship.
I started as Acting CEO/DAS in October 2016 and was confirmed in the position in June 2017.
Many of you will know that I have no background as an aviator. Unsurprisingly my view is that you don’t need to be an aviator to run CASA, a Doctor to run a hospital or a banker to be Treasurer – though I’m the first to admit that on occasions it can help.
I report to a Board, which is appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Its accountability is deciding the objectives, strategies and policies to be followed by CASA and ensuring that CASA performs its functions in a proper, efficient and effective manner and that CASA complies with any Ministerial Directions.
My responsibilities are to manage the operations of CASA and the exercise of our statutory functions, such as the development and implementation of regulation, executive-decision making, and all day-to-day operational, financial, personnel and administrative activities. In short, the head of power that grants or cancels AOCs (and everything else) flows from the DAS.
As you would expect, two areas of focus for me are:
- managing the operations of a complex organisation, including dealings with the industry, government, interests groups and stakeholders.
- use the Minister’s Statement of Expectations (SOE) and CASA’s Regulatory Philosophy to deliver a fair, firm and balanced aviation safety regulation system and promote a positive and a collaborative safety culture.
Our Regulatory Philosophy, which sets out 10 principles, is on our website as is the SOE.
CASA is Australia’s aviation safety regulator and is a corporate Commonwealth entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
We were established on 6 July 1995 under the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (the Act).
Our key role is to conduct the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australian territory and the operation of Australian aircraft outside Australian territory. In fact, Section 9A(1) of the Act states: “In exercising its powers and performing its functions, CASA must regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration.”
We are also responsible for fostering the efficient use of, and equitable access to, Australian-administered airspace.
CASA, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, Airservices Australia and the Department of Defence constitute Australia’s aviation safety framework, each with separate and distinct functions, but working together as parts of an integrated system.
Referring to Section 9 of the Act, whist some might question this primary focus on safety, a point I will address later in the presentation, aviation safety and the safety of the travelling public is CASA’s number one priority.
When I look at the distribution of the rotary wing aircraft across Australia, the largest concentrations are QLD, NSW and WA – in that order, regardless of whether its metropolitan or regional. The same order applies for rotary wing operators.
My challenge has always been to ensure the structure of my organisation meets both the needs of a diverse regulatory organisation and the diversity within sectors.
This is a significant challenge, particularly in the more remote regions of this vast continent.
Over the next 12 months CASA’s main focus will be:
- Continuing to manage the safe integration of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems into Australian Airspace
- Drafting of the remaining Civil Aviation Safety Regulations by the end of 2018
- enhancing service delivery using digital transformation
- using hours/accident data more effectively to better inform our surveillance program
Dealing with these in detail:
- A rapid increase in the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, drones.
- In 2014 there were only 220 drone operators, compared to around 1,289 - these are effectively your Air Operator’s Certificate Holders equivalent.
- In 2014 there were 704 drone licence holders, of which and now there are around 7,833 - these are effectively your ‘pilot licence’ holders equivalent.
- Like most National Aviation Authorities around the world, we are trying to keep up with technology in the drones sector and need to anticipate the future of the sector. CASA is working on a Roadmap to provide a level of certainty about where CASA is moving with policy and legislation in this sector.
- The future is not that far away, with trials already occurring in and around parts of Canberra of burrito and non-prescription pharmaceuticals deliveries. Of course, as you aviation professionals would appreciate, this is less about what is being delivered and more about separation and deconfliction of airspace. We recently had some visitors from the FAA that got to see these types of deliveries first hand, and they were very impressed to say the least!
- We have just completed published on our website a review on drones that had seven key findings:
- We support mandatory RPA registration in Australia for RPA’s weighing more than 250 grams.
- We should develop a simple online course for recreational and excluded category RPA operators on safe RPA operations, followed by a quiz with a minimum pass mark.
- Our education and training framework around the issue of a remote pilot licence should continue.
- We should continue to support RPA manufacturers’ efforts to utilise geo-fencing technology to prevent RPA operations in areas where operations are not permitted, including at or near major airports and certain classes of restricted airspace.
- We should participate, where appropriate, in international forums to stay abreast of global trends and participate in trials of the technology where feasible.
- We should work with Airservices Australia to ensure the development of standard data on airspace.
- We should deliver a RPAS roadmap to articulate how to safely integrate RPAs into the Australian airspace system, including content on unmanned traffic management systems.
The CASRs are nearing finalisation, I have set the end of this year as the target. I’m confident we’ll be close. Our team are working hard on ensuring we meet this target and we are utilising the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel and their associated technical working groups wherever we can to ensure a considered and accepted approach.
There are 10 Parts left with the Operations Suite being quite substantial (6 of the 10 left). CASR Parts 91 (general operating and flight rules), 119 (air transport operations – certification and management), 121 (Air transport operations – large aeroplanes), 133 (Air transport operations – rotorcraft), 135 (air transport - small aeroplanes), 138 (aerial work operations) and Parts 103 (sport and rec operations), 105 (parachuting), 131 (manned free balloons), and 149 (approved self-administering aviation organisations).
Transforming the way we deliver services
This is a project with a long tail. I want to improve our service delivery, but by that I don’t mean just less time to process applications – I mean making processes smoother for all involved, using technology where we can, reduce multiple handling of item and increasing productivity. We have embarked on this process already, with transition to a one stop call centre approach for contacting CASA (131 757) and making improvements to our online forms and how we will be able to integrate that data into our systems.
We plan to progressively make improvements in all our services across flight crew, maintenance organisations and personnel through to aircraft registration and operators, starting with the ARN application process and digitalising our forms.
By around July this year, an applicant for an ARN will be able to use a complete end-to-end system to apply for their ARN – cutting the time down to around 10 minutes vs 2-5 days in our current manual process. Student pilots will most likely be the first ones to see the most benefit of the changes to our services, as we intend to use the ARN data to be able to pre-populate as many forms as we can to make future requests with CASA much more efficient.
Then we will turn our focus to digitising the process for drone aircraft registrations. We think this has enough similarities to our other registration processes so we can look at expanding to those areas in the future.
We continue to refine the processes around surveillance, including the introduction of sector risk profile reports in 2016. Late last year we made some further changes by changing the classification of findings to Safety Alerts, Safety Findings or Safety Observations – which we now outline at our exit meetings. We also now have the capacity to provide a ‘sector analysis’ which provides risks identified by sector.
We are using the data we received from ATSB and BITRE differently than in the past, whereby we analyse trends and see if the data can be used more effectively in identifying risk areas for us to focus on.
Over the last six months we have changed our audit approach to be like a ‘sector sample’ rather than direct surveillance, unless of course that is necessary. Our first sample area was the small aeroplane sector which was seen as a good approach from the majority of that sector and gave us a more comprehensive look at the sector rather than focussing on routine surveillance of an operator. We will also be looking at CAR 217 organisational compliance, given a recent matter that came to our attention and Balloons as we have seen a few accidents that have occurred quite close together in that sector.
Late last year I announced a number of major improvements to the aviation medical system to begin in 2018. Key improvements are:
- From 1 March 2018: A Class 2 medical certificate (instead of Class 1) is an option for pilots operating commercial flights that do not carry passengers. This applies to operations with a maximum take-off weight of less than 8,618 kilograms and is of specific benefit for aerial agriculture flights, flight instruction or flight examination. There are specific benefits for AHIA members with this change.
- From early April 2018: DAMEs now have the option to issue Class 2 medical certificates on the spot for non-complex medicals. So far we have 133 DAMEs taken up the capability who have issued 76 certificates.
- From mid-2018: we are still on track to provide a new category of private pilot medical certificate (Basic Class 2). This will allow private pilots flying piston engine powered aircraft, carrying up to five non-fare paying passengers (using VFR and in all classes of airspace) to be issued a medical certificate based on Austroads standards that are currently used to assess commercial vehicle drivers of heavy vehicles, public passenger carrying vehicles and vehicles carrying bulk dangerous goods. There are also specific benefits here for private pilots and flight training.
- All of these changes will help open up the GA pipeline and encourage greater participation in aviation.
Up until 2017, the principal consultation forum was the Standards Consultative Committee, which had around 35 members. A committee of this size did have its fair share of issues and changed focus many times over the years. On 1 July 2017 CASA established the ASAP. The ASAP provides the CEO/DAS with informed, objective and high level advice from the aviation community. It also allows me to direct engagement through their technical working groups.
Current membership consists of Virgin, Qantas, Australian Airports Association, The Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF), Regional Aviation Association of Australia and Recreational Aviation Australia. The ASAP meets around three times a year and can form Technical Working Groups as required. The Australian Helicopter Industry Association is represented through the TAAAF, and I acknowledge the interest shown by the AHIA in being its own member on the ASAP and their understanding of our need for status-quo at this stage of the ASAP.
I have occasionally heard reference to CASA being out of step with safety initiatives overseas and is largely non-compliant with ICAO processes and practises, I’m pleased to say that in October 2017 Australia underwent an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission which is an audit of Australia’s aviation safety system. The result was a 94.98% safety oversight score – currently ranking us 6th out of 192 ICAO States. This reflects our common commitment to delivering the highest levels of safety and making our skies amongst the safest in the world.
CASA is increasing the number of helicopters that you are allowed to do type training on under 141 certificate. We will be adding 13 single-pilot aircraft type ratings to a legislative instrument allowing more operators to obtain a 141 certificate rather than a 142 certificate. This should happen by the end of June this year.
We are implementing some changes to helicopter pilot training requirements, which was developed with the AHIA and helicopter flight training operators.
Consultation was conducted late last year, with 63 submissions being received. All but one respondent supported the proposal to qualify for a CPL(H) with 105 hours of helicopter flight training.
These changes will allow greater flexibility for helicopter pilot training with an option of a 105 hour course as a pathway to a commercial helicopter licence – as opposed to the ICAO compliant training requirement of 150 hours.
We can reduce the hours as we recognise that not all helicopter pilots need or want to operate internationally which is were you would need the ICAO compliant licence.
Our next step is to finalise drafting of the regulatory change (to Part 61) prior to 31 August when the transition period for Part 61 ceases.
As I said before, I am doing all I can to ensure the regulatory program is drafted by the end of 2018. We are working furiously on the Operations Suite package, which includes Part 133 (rotorcraft). While our main focus at the moment is CASR Part 91, the general operating & flight rules regulations, Part 133 is on track with our scheduling and work will be ramping up next month with consultation expected in July. CASR Part 138 (aerial work) will be as a separate piece of work, still on track for drafting by the end of 2018, but our initial priority is on finalising the operations suite.
Further to this, there is ongoing work in relation to airworthiness regulations. We will be transitioning the continuing airworthiness regulations out of the Civil Aviation Regulations to ensure the safety standards are appropriate for the kinds of operations being undertaken and to minimise regulatory burden. We will also be aiming to realign the certification regulations with the current USA FARs which will provide greater flexibility in relation to the use of commercial parts. This will be of direct benefit to the helicopter industry in relation to aeromedical reconfigurations and operation equipment, for example external personnel carrying devices (harnesses and alike).
CASA has worked with the Victorian Department of Environment Land Water and Planning and the County Fire Authority to work towards night time aerial firebombing using night-vision goggles from the 2018-19 fire season. This comes from a couple of years working with Emergency Management Victoria and a successful trial in Ballarat earlier this year. After the trial, CASA finalised the first of type approval in Australia, and Coulson Aviation and Kestrel Aviation have received approval to undertake night aerial fire suppression operations. Work continues on being ready for the next fire season, and although it may be considered a high stakes activity, the benefits are extensive. I will certainly be keeping my eye on how it progresses and seeing if there is any further assistance CASA can provide to ensure the highest safety outcome. Unsurprisingly, there are already preliminary discussions on extending the approvals to different types of aircraft.
Pragmatic, Practical and Proportionate Approach
As I mentioned earlier, CASA has a Minister’s Statement of Expectations in place which outlines the Government’s expectations of CASA’s operations and performance. It covers four key areas: Governance, Regulatory Approach, Key Aviation Initiatives and Stakeholder Engagement. In the regulatory approach section, the Government expects CASA to continue to focus on aviation safety as the highest priority, but also includes for us to consider the economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community in the development and finalisation of new or amended regulatory changes. We do this through our Regulatory Philosophy I mentioned earlier, which are our 10 principles to work towards, that are published on our website.
CASA and the helicopter industry have worked well together in achieving the best safety outcomes for many years – and I look forward to continuing this work into the future. We have had good representation on panels, working groups and in consultation forums from the helicopter industry and we acknowledge the importance of this sector being part of these conversations.
The proven knowledge, strong collaboration and ability to consider aviation safety as a whole does make it easier to be open to extending invitations to the sector, including the ASAP. I will be looking at how the ASAP is going as it approaches it’s one year anniversary to see whether the mix is right. This could mean we have some full time, part time or rotating seats on the ASAP, but it also has be easily managed and not negatively impact their good work.
Your passion for what you do and your goal to do it in the safest manner possible assists Australia in maintaining its strong safety record.
Don’t push it, land it
Yesterday, ATSB’s Chief Commissioner Greg Hood announced the joint safety message from ATSB, CASA and the AHIA on ‘Don’t push it, land it’. I reiterate the messaging that all helicopter pilots are encouraged to make a precautionary landing if you experience a situation that just isn’t right.
CASA will not take any disciplinary action against a pilot who makes a precautionary landing, as long as it’s done in good faith, safely and doesn’t endanger anyone.
This messaging is similar to the Helicopter Association International’s ‘Land and Live’ initiative of 2014 that aims to reduce the rate of avoidable helicopter accidents while extending the safety messaging to all fixed-wing pilots at the same time. I’d also like to acknowledge the advocacy of Dick Smith and the AHIA.
Before I conclude, I’d like to address a couple of contemporary issues. First the role of the regulator and second, should the Aviation Act be changed.
Like regulators worldwide, CASA develops, applies and enforces regulatory standards (or rules if you’d prefer).
CASA is regularly criticised, not all of that criticism is unwarranted. Too prescriptive, too heavy handed, not sufficiently flexible, too close to industry, not closely enough engaged to understand the impact of our actions on industry etc. The list goes on.
We aren’t the only regulators who are criticised, you would have to be very disconnected from any media to have missed recent references to the banking Royal Commission.
While noting the suggestions that some in the banking world have not behaved well, there is also a growing public view of the regulators which sounds like ‘how could you possibly have let this happen’. In short, the public is very unforgiving of a regulator who does not apply the rules.
As one commentator recently said about the regulators responsible for overseeing the conduct of banks and other financial institutions: they don’t need more muscle (which is to say ‘rules’), just a spine (which is to say the will and the courage to enforce the rules we have).
Back to aviation, we don’t need more rules – we probably need fewer. But what Australia does need is regulators who are capable, confident and willing to apply regulation in an appropriately balanced, proportionate and pragmatic way—always fairly, and as firmly as the situation requires. That is what we seek to do at CASA, and the Royal Commission reminds me that we should stay the course and do what we are paid, obligated and expected to do.
On the second matter, a fascinating debate is re-emerging about the Civil Aviation Act, with some so-called experts arguing for change.
This is largely but not exclusively driven by part of the General Aviation industry, which seems to believe that some magical change to the Aviation Act - to give CASA a statutory ‘industry promotion or sustainability’ role - will somehow fix all the evils in the world. Frankly, I don’t buy it.
We are a Safety regulator and our principal mandate is aviation safety. Our operations are based on the Civil Aviation Act of 1988 (as it has been amended over the years).
One of the most formative amendments of the Act was in 1995 when we became the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and a conscious decision was made that our focus would be first and foremost on safety.
There is good reason for this. The Monarch and Seaview accidents of 1993 and 1994 respectively.
The investigations into these tragic events-a watershed investigation into the Monarch accident by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (predecessor to today’s Australian Transport Safety Bureau), along with a comprehensive coronial inquest, and a full judicial commission of inquiry into the Seaview accident—all concluded quite unambiguously that the then-Civil Aviation Authority had failed in its safety responsibility, because it placed the commercial considerations of operators ahead of the safety of passengers.
In his report on the Monarch accident, the coroner said: ‘had the CAA paid more attention to the law and been less to ‘accommodating’ its customers, then Monarch would have been grounded and those deaths avoided’.
The Seaview inquiry said words to the same effect, finding that ‘once again here was an operator who, despite showing all the signs of breaching the regulations and who should not have been flying, continued to fly’.
In the Seaview Inquiry Justice Staunton said the ‘CAA saw its role as satisfying the customer rather than regulating the operator’.
If the government decides at some point to change the Act then, as a regulator, I will work with what I have. But I have yet to see any evidence that shows how changes in the Act of the kind being proposed could or would save GA. More to the point, I find it hard to reconcile how I could effectively stop an unsafe operator from operating – before an accident – if I had to deal with questions about the potential financial implications that decision might have on the operator.
It may be a cliché to say that failing to learn from history dooms one to repeat it. But I know where CASA comes from and I have no reason to doubt the views of judges and coroners about the culture and behaviour of the CAA at a time when there were mixed messages and confusion about the Authority’s primary purpose and role.
There is no such confusion today, and as thoughtfully amended when CASA was created, the Civil Aviation Act makes it crystal clear that safety must always be the most important consideration. Australia’s safety record reflects that mandated focus.
I would like to thank the AHIA for their continued support and hard work in maintaining high levels of aviation safety, particularly in relation to their representation on technical working groups. We value and appreciate the dedication.