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Better safety for community service flights
Date of publication:
12 February 2019
Improved standards for community service flights are being introduced to enhance public confidence in the safety of these important services.
Community service flights provide transport for patients and their families or carers for non-emergency medical treatment. The flights are conducted by volunteer pilots free of charge and are co-ordinated by charitable or community services organisations.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has set new minimum standards for pilots operating community service flights, identifying the kinds of aircraft that can be used, setting out appropriate maintenance and operating requirements.
The safety standards have been put in place following consultation with community service flight organisations, pilots, the broader aviation community and the general public.
The centrepiece of the new safety standards is a requirement for pilots to have appropriate flying experience before they undertake community service flights.
CASA’s Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, said the new safety standards take into account the special nature of community service flights.
“Most community service flights are conducted by a single pilot in a small aircraft, flying long distances from regional and remote towns to the cities, carrying people with serious medical conditions,” Mr Carmody said.
“This puts a lot of responsibility and sometimes considerable pressure on the pilot. Many of these pilots hold only a private pilot licence.
“It is only fair to the patients and carers using community service flights to ensure there are appropriate safety standards that go beyond those required for everyday private flying.
“The new standards make sure more experienced pilots will be at the controls of community service flights, with minimum requirements in total hours of flight time, hours as pilot in command and hours on the type of aircraft being flown. Pilots will also be required to have flown within the last 30 days and be instrument rated to fly at night.
“We do not believe these standards will have an adverse impact on the majority of operations of community service flights as most of these pilots already tend to be more experienced.
“However, after two fatal accidents in recent years involving community service flights where six people died, it was time to set out minimum required safety standards.
“Over the last eight weeks we have sought and received feedback from pilots and others and have modified the original proposed standards to find a position that delivers improved safety standards for community service flights without impeding the valuable work done by these charities, particularly in regional and remote Australia.”