Rotortech 2022 Helicopter and Unmanned Flight Exposition

Rotortech 2022 Helicopter and Unmanned Flight Exposition
Pip Spence
Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety of CASA


I would like to acknowledge the Turrbal people as the traditional custodians of the land on which we’re meeting and their continuing connection to land, water and community and pay my respect to elders past, present and emerging. 

I also extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present today.


I’d also like to acknowledge the CASA Board members here today as part of our commitment to be more accessible to industry.

They are our chair, Air Chief Marshal Retired Mark Binskin AC, Michael Bridge, Donna Hardman, Elizabeth Hallet, Marilyn Andre and Professor Felipe Gonzalez.

Their attendance here is testament to their commitment to really understand the issues facing industry by hearing directly from you.

As well as the opportunity to have a chat with Board members over lunch, Mark will join me at the end of my address for a Q and A.

We are sponsoring a lunch today and we’d love to have as many of you there as possible.

I know our board members are genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts directly.

The AMDA Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation and a lot of hard work goes into making the conference happen in association with the AHIA and AAUS – so well done to all and thanks to Ray, Ken, Paul and the team.

If Leonardo da Vinci could be transported to modern times he would be amazed and delighted to see what had become of the concept he advanced those many centuries ago.

And it’s not just the machines themselves – it’s how they have transformed our lives.

This has particularly been the case in Australia, where the nation’s fleet of almost 2,500 helicopters now works in industries ranging from life-saving medical and rescue services to firefighting, tourism, mustering and resources.

Notwithstanding the challenges facing the sector due to the pandemic and the economy more broadly, our figures show there has been some growth during the pandemic — from 2,335 helicopters in 2020 to 2,489 as of 19 May this year. These are flown by more than 4,400 dedicated pilots.

Some companies have already flagged investments in electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft — or eVTOL — set to have a significant impact on aviation in the coming years.

We want to help with the introduction of these new aircraft types while supporting the existing rotary wing industry and ensuring Australia maintains its enviable safety levels.

Committing to the future includes attracting more young people to the industry through programs such as our scholarships and by doing what we can to smooth the path to becoming an engineer or pilot.

But it’s a task we need to embrace together.

CASA is just one part of a wider system to which we must all contribut

A post-COVID world and flight ops regulations

We’re starting to see some green shoots in the industry after COVID but we realise the situation has yet to normalise and we’re remaining flexible.

The lifting of many COVID restrictions coincided with a significant milestone in December as we transitioned to our suite of flight ops regs.

We know there have been some pain points and we’ve made exemptions where necessary to address any unintended consequences of the new rules. We’ll continue to clean up any anomalies as the transition continues.

But we can’t fix what we don’t know – so please keep talking to us.

For the first time there is a dedicated ruleset for rotary operations, the new CASR Part 133 covering scheduled and non-scheduled helicopter operations, and they come with significant safety and operational benefits.

Changes cover areas such as the use of Night Vision Imaging Systems in a wider range of operations, increased operational flexibility and the introduction of a broad set of helicopter performance classes.

We are continuing to help those operators who are still transitioning to the new regime, including some smaller helicopter operators such as those involved in mustering operations.

One way we’re doing this is by making available sample operation manuals for Part 138 Aerial Work and Part 133 that people can download and use if they wish.

Some elements of the new flight ops regs, such as training and checking provisions, were also deferred to allow a more graduated transition.

The deferrals end in stages up until late 2024 with the next important milestone for the deferral on training and checking is coming up on 2 September this year.

So keep your eye out for information from us on this.

If you haven’t already done so, please check out the resources we’ve made available or come and talk to us.

While our recent focus has been on supporting operators through the flight operations regulatory changes, our attention is now turning to addressing some long-standing issues that have impacted general aviation.

The General Aviation Workplan

We released our General Aviation workplan in May and it is a priority for CASA – both for the Board and management.

It draws together regulatory initiatives stretching into next year and aims to help you understand when, why and how regulatory changes will come into effect.

And we will be reporting on our progress and explaining why milestones aren’t met.

Containing costs and reducing the regulatory burden are key aims of the workplan without, again, reducing Australia’s commitment to the highest safety standards.

We recently extended consultation on Part 43 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations, proposed new rules that introduces new, less complex maintenance rules for private and aerial work operators.

We believe Part 43 will simplify compliance, provide business opportunities and reduce red tape for private and aerial work operators.

That said, feedback has highlighted concern about interaction between the proposed Part 43 and Part 66, as well as the operational impacts of Part 43h.

We’ll work through these issues as we consider responses to the consultation.

Also closed this month was consultation on our proposal to simplify and modernise aviation medicals, something that touches all pilots.

Based on your earlier feedback, we identified six broad areas of review including an overall examination of Part 67 to ensure its up to date and fit for purpose.

Three key reforms we’re considering are self-declared medical options for private pilots, building the principles underlying the Basic class 2 certificate into the regulations and empowering DAMEs to do more.

I do want to provide an assurance up front that our consultation on issues is genuine.

We consult on policy at different stages – in the early stages of policy development, and again when we take that policy and your feedback and start writing the regulations.

This means when we put something out for consultation it is not set in stone but it is a result of hard work by the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel and the technical working groups.

 And we may have already considered input from broader industry too.

We put it out for comment to make sure we have it right and to avoid unintended consequences. We also want to understand the impact of our proposals on operators – big and small.

We are not swayed by campaigns that assume the force of numbers outweighs logic. We want to hear what operational implications you might be concerned about.

And we will address the issues that are raised.

Multi-engine helicopter rating and flight crew licensing changes

Among the other initiatives in the GA workplan pipeline is a significant development affecting you.

You told us about the difficulties facing rotary wing pilot instructors and flight examiners because single-pilot, less complex multi-engine helicopters didn’t have the class rating enjoyed by their fixed-wing equivalents.

That’s set to change — we’ve released an advance copy of our exemption instrument that will allow muti-engine helicopters to operate in a class-like system until the regulations are changed to formally create the class come into effect.

We’re seeking feedback from you before we finalise the instrument to ensure there are no unintended consequences of how we are giving effect to this system.

This follows a path we took with Cessna SIDs and gives you a chance to let us know if there’s something you think we’ve inadvertently missed.

The changes mean pilots who are qualified to fly helicopters in what will ultimately be a new class and want to fly another type of helicopter in the same class will no longer need a separate type rating.

But they will need to complete type-specific training and a flight review in the helicopter type they intend to fly to ensure they can safely make the transition.

Instructors and examiners will also be positively affected by this change and won’t have to hold a training or flight examiner endorsement for each type of helicopter in the class.

This may seem like a simple change, but it is quite complex from a legal standpoint. 

CASA also needs to change its IT systems to accommodate the change and there will need to be modifications to operations manuals. This means we will initially have to process applications manually.

We will let you know over the coming weeks when the instrument is made.

I'd like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of the Technical Working Group and associated subgroup on this issue, especially Myles Tomkins and Ray Cronin from the AHIA.

Over the coming months, you will see other changes to flight crew licensing designed to boost access to flight instructors and make it easier for those undertaking this important job.

The changes will expand the scope of training that flight instructors with a grade 1 training endorsement can perform in addition to the supervision privileges they have currently.

They will be able to train and authorise other instructors who are qualifying for more training endorsements.

Changes are also being made to the flight training requirements for pilots seeking endorsements for various aerial work operations such as mustering, firefighting, winching and sling operations.

These wider moves are all designed to help reduce cost and complexity in the licensing system. They will make it easier for trainee pilots to access instructors and examiners.

There will also be an opportunity for you to let us know whether the Part 61 changes address the issues you have raised with us and whether there is scope to do more.

Other initiatives

There are always risk in any kind of aviation operations and this year we’ve seen several tragic accidents.

Safety is always the priority for CASA and we are conducting research and analysis into the rate of serious incidents as we continue with our pilot education programs.

These include our podcasts, Flight Safety Australia articles and our nationwide aviation safety seminars highlighting issues such as handling bad weather and avoiding flying beyond your personal limits.

We’ve recently consulted on draft guidance on the design standards of heliports.

As you know, heliports are not regulated. Our intent here was to outline the specifications operators should use to design, construct, maintain and operate their facilities in line with international standards and recommended practices.

This includes advice on issues ranging from site selection to physical characteristics, obstacle control and visual aids. Look out for the final document.

I’m extremely aware that there is a significant backlog in dealing with applications in a range of areas.  We’ve had the perfect storm with the introduction of the flight operations rules and the ramp up in activity following the end of COVID restrictions.

I know that this isn’t acceptable, and we’ve stood up a team — a type of concierge service — to allow people who are experiencing delays causing operational problems to get their application escalated.

Again, talk to us if this is the case.

This is in addition to the Guidance Delivery Centre, which was set up to provide a nationally consistent response to queries and prevent people receiving differing answers from various parts of CASA.

While there have been some teething problems, we believe this national model will ultimately facilitate clearer and better communication with you and other industry sectors.

While the GDC is the “go to” for formal advice on specific questions, one thing we are not saying is don’t talk to your local CASA office. You can still talk to your local CASA people, particularly about straight-forward issues. I have made this point to CASA staff as well.

Entry control requests will still come through our national system, and if you’re proposing something complex, please give us some warning so we can determine how best to handle your query.

Electric future

An increased emphasis on climate change has combined with a push to reduce costs to see big jumps in efficiency across many sectors of aviation in past decades.

The rotary wing industry, which represents just 1 per cent of global aviation carbon emissions, is no exception.

Manufacturer Airbus estimates factors such as engine innovations have delivered a 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions to the rotary wing sector over the past 50 years.

Work continues on improving the fuel burn of existing helicopters but an exciting development is the emergence of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology as part of what is now called advanced or urban air mobility.

We can’t afford to watch and wait in this space. Some Australian companies have already announced their intention to buy eVTOL aircraft, many with Embraer subsidiary Eve.

These companies are certainly not alone: Eve announced last month that it already has global launch orders for 1,825 vehicles secured by letters of intent from 19 customers.

And that’s before you look at all the other companies working in the field, including Airbus and Boeing.

The World eVTOL Aircraft Directory lists almost 300 companies working on various eVTOL concepts, up from half a dozen in 2016.

The situation is moving quickly in terms of both the aircraft and the facilities they will use, including vertiports.

Recently, a UK company called Urban-Air Port launched a proof-of-concept vertiport called Air One in the English city of Coventry.

The doughnut-like building is designed to be deployed across multiple locations as a hub for aircraft such as eVTOL air taxis and drones operating across areas ranging from delivery to disaster management.

It’s anticipated that Joby Aviation, which has been in the US certification process for several years, and Germany’s Volocopter will launch services in the next two years.

Our expectation is that Eve will not be too far behind them.

In Australia, AMSL Aero, based in Bankstown, is in the research and development phase of an eVTOL aircraft and are in discussions with us about gaining type certification.

We are engaging through ICAO and other national aviation authorities to make sure we remain in step with, and influence, the international approach to regulating these exciting new developments.

Shared airspace

A challenge for CASA, and our colleagues at Airservices, is to design, implement and operate airspace that can give everyone fair access to the skies.

Again, this is a global issue and we are working with our global counterparts.

We have worked very closely with industry to develop a long-term regulatory vision through the RPAS and Advanced Air Mobility Strategic Regulatory Roadmap.

The roadmap looks at regulatory areas ranging from airspace design to licensing, operational certificates and flight rules.

Complementing the roadmap is the work of our Future Strategies Taskforce to identify the major activities CASA – and other government agencies – should be undertaking to get ready for emerging technologies that are farther into the future.

It is looking at six broad topic areas: airspace, RPAS, advanced air mobility, evolved conventional operations, enabling capabilities and high-altitude operations.

Supporting our emerging leaders

Aviation remains the lifeblood of Australia and AMEs and LAMEs are the backbone underpinning our crucial industry and its enviable safety record.

This is one reason CASA is pleased to award scholarships to promising individuals embarking on a career in this vital occupation.

It’s one way we can encourage people to develop what we all know will be interesting and worthwhile careers in an exciting and challenging industry.

Technicians with the skills to maintain and repair airframes, propulsion systems, and avionics will help take our industry into the future.

Today I am delighted to announce the winners of our aircraft maintenance engineer scholarships. We had initially set out to award three scholarships and like last year were overwhelmed with the more than 100 high-quality applications we received.

So it gives me great pleasure to announce five winners today – three of them are here with us.

Hailing from Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, these candidates have demonstrated a commitment to achieving the highest professional standards in their chosen fields.

Please join me in congratulating Jack Callow, Luke Dufficy, James Gaha, Hayden McDonald and Samuel Philpot.

I would like to invite our CASA chair, Mark Binskin, to present the three recipients who are here today with their awards.

Our three winners with us today are all from Queensland. They are:

  • Luke Dufficy. Luke is an AME from Mt Isa working for Marker Aviation Services. He decided to become an engineer because of a passion for working with his hands and after studying at Brisbane’s Aviation State High School. Luke aims to eventually gain multiple qualifications and to make a difference to aircraft safety while passing on his knowledge to future apprentices.
  • Samuel Philpot. Sam is from Carina here in Brisbane and is an AME, working for Qantas in line maintenance. His goal is to complete his diploma and gain a category B1 licence. Sam is regarded as motivated, hard working and is highly regarded by his peers.
  • Hayden McDonald. Hayden started practical training for his Part 66 licence and is working as an AME for RAPAIR Maintenance. He moved to Queensland from Western Australia to further his career and wants to become a licensed engineer and a workplace leader. He says he has always been amazed by aviation, flying machines and mechanics.

The two recipients not with us today are:

  • Jack Callow. Jack worked casually with his family’s crop-dusting operation and developed an interest in maintenance whilst studying aviation in high school. He went on to become a ramp supervisor for Menzies Aviation at Perth International Airport before joining Babcock Offshore Service Australasia. As Jack nears the end of his traineeship, he is now focused on completing his studies to obtain his diploma, gaining an AME licence and obtaining his first type rating.
  • James Gaha. James has been working in aviation maintenance for more than 10 years and is currently an AME with Airbus Australia. Despite being born without a thumb on his right hand, James has had an illustrious career that includes work with Qantas and a 14-month stint in Singapore. He plans to obtain his B1.3 licence in the near future and advocate that having a disability doesn’t stop you from achieving greatness

Please join me in congratulating all our winners.

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