Rotortech Helicopter and Unmanned Flight Exposition for Australia

Pip Spence
Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety

Rotortech Helicopter and Unmanned Flight Exposition for Australia

A plane flying up in the sky


I am very pleased to be here, and can I say a particular thank you to Paul Tyrell (CEO), Ray Cronin (Chair) and other Australian Helicopter Industry Association board members in attendance.

I am a long-term public servant, who has had the opportunity to work closely with the aviation sector in a range of positions over a number of years.

While I have a solid appreciation of the issues, I do not pretend to be an expert on everything, so I will always listen to the views of industry.

While we will not always agree, my hope is that you will always feel your views and knowledge are respected and you understand the basis of our decisions.

At the end of the day we all have in common a love of aviation and a commitment to safety. I’ve been in the role of CEO for about 4 weeks now and two things that have struck me:

  • the significance of change for the industry and CASA (both internal and external) at a time of global uncertainty, particularly for the aviation sector
  • the commitment of the people in CASA - they are proud of our industry and our they’re proud of our safety record as a nation – your safety record.

We are a professional organisation, but that doesn’t mean there is no room to improve. We will not always get it right, and I’m determined to make sure that when that happens, we acknowledge and correct the course.

That means we must engage, listen and understand.

And we must be open and transparent in our decision making.

Helicopter sector

Our registration and licensing data shows modest but steady growth in both helicopter pilots and airframes over the past 5 years.

This is not a common picture amongst many other sectors in the industry.

The growth reflects the importance or rotary operations in Australia – and our community’s increasing reliance on what you do.

Of note is the first electrically powered rotorcraft on the Australian register – VH BYT.

I’m not sure that you can exactly call it a helicopter, but it does involve vertical lift.

It’s an amateur built machine developed by engineering students at the RMIT University in Melbourne, but none the less it introduced a new category in our reporting statistics.

And it’s a small signal of what lies ahead for this growing industry and it ties in with the growth that we have seen in the use of RPAS.


I am focussed on a culture of genuine collaboration between CASA and the aviation industry.

Aviation safety expertise is not just in CASA – it’s in rooms like this.

We need to work well together - respecting our different roles and focussing together on what’s important.

Of course, there has been collaboration between CASA and the aviation industry for a long time, and many of you have been very generous with your time and expertise.

I’d like to thank Ray Cronin for generously giving his time as a member on our Aviation Safety Advisory Panel – or ASAP – and also for his valued contribution to the Part 61 Taskforce.

I sat in on my first ASAP meeting last week and I greatly value the expertise provided by a panel with such a broad cross section of industry experience.

I’d also like to thank Paul Tyrell, and the many industry members that have contributed to the various Technical Working Groups that the panel has convened over the past few years.

The far-reaching industry input we’ve received has help shaped many of the new rules that are now rolling out.

I encourage you all to participate directly or support Paul and Ray – we need to hear from you.

But that said, we can always do more to drive collaboration, consultation and better engagement.


One of our new initiatives that I want to plug is our FlySafe forum which we launched last month in Adelaide.

Our goal with FlySafe is to bring together all the aviation agencies, pilots, operators, and other stakeholders within a local area at least once a year.

Like the opportunities that come with this Rotortech event, we need to invest in opportunities to work together and learn from each other as much as we can.

Next week we’re hosting our FlySafe forum in Darwin and there will be sessions from the ATSB, AMSA, the Bureau of Meteorology and Airservices Australia.

We’ll also have some local operators talk about their operations – and end the day with an opportunity for industry to meet with the CASA Board.

If there’s anyone here from Darwin, I hope we see you there next week - you can register for free on the CASA website.

We’ve had some disruption to plans because of the COVID situation and border changes, but we hope to be in Brisbane and Melbourne later this year and we’ll visit other major centres over time.

Period of change – fatigue rules

As you know we’re in the final few weeks of the transition to new fatigue rules.

Most of you will know that the fatigue rules have had a long and somewhat chequered history.

I know that there are still some concerns, but significant industry consultation and external review has gone into their development.

For any organisations yet to transition – please reach out to us if you need any help. And don’t read anything into us reaching out to you – we genuinely want to make sure people know what to do as we get closer to 1 July.

We’ve got a team of people ready to assist and answer any questions you have.

I’m not going to pretend that the rules aren’t without critics, but we have some great examples of people in the rotary sector that were early adopters of the new rules, and they have made the most of the flexibility and benefits of the new rules.

Please visit our website to see some of the feedback we have received.

Period of change – flight operations

The other significant change underway is the new flight operations regulations.

These rules have been in the pipeline even longer than fatigue – and they are one of the final stages on the journey to retire the old CARs and CAOs.

I know that any change creates a burden, but unlike previous rule changes there’s a lot of work going on to make sure that you aren’t distracted by unnecessary paperwork – but able to focus on the important safety matters.

So, we won’t be asking you to apply for authorisations that you already hold.

If you hold an Air Operators Certificate now for helicopter charter or transport, that will be rolled over and you will be deemed to be authorised under the new Part 133 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations – as long as you’ve met some key requirements.

Over time, the rules will introduce many significant safety benefits – in areas where we know it makes a difference – but the bigger changes are being phased in over time to ensure you have time to adapt.

For the rotary sector, some of the benefits that the new rules will bring include:

  • for the first time that there will be a dedicated rule set for rotary operations – rather than aeroplane rules that have been adapted and adjusted
  • the rules also anticipate some of the new powered lift technologies that are being developed to set us up for the future

If you only conduct Aerial Work and no air transport – you won’t need an AOC under the new Part 138 regulations – but a simpler authorisation certificate.

We’ve got some experts here today at the CASA stand on both fatigue and the new flight operations rules – I encourage you to stop by and ask any questions.

And we’ve got people ready to help well beyond today.

There’s a lot of guidance published on our website, and we’ll be continuing to help you prepare, and drawing on what we’ve learned from our transition to the new fatigue rules, to make sure we’re supporting you as best we can.

I’d really like to emphasise that we want to make this as simple for you as possible – please reach out to us any time.

Current issues - rotary

Even though I’ve only been in the job for four weeks, I already know that I can’t not mention licensing and flight training.

Through the flight examiner review that was completed at the end of last year CASA has acknowledged that the current requirements are onerous and difficult to achieve.

We are committed to implementing all the recommendations from the review.

We have initiated the first step with the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel standing up a technical working group which includes Ray Cronin as the co-chair of the group.

The working group met for the first-time last Friday and I understand it was a very successful meeting.

The prescriptive hours requirements do not themselves give assurance of capability and applicants have not always been assessed on merit.

The Technical Working Group is working collaboratively to address this, as well as how the examiner rating is being used.

We would like to explore other opportunities for relaxing flight-testing requirements where this can be done without affecting safety.

One area of focus is whether some current flight tests could be done by non-flight examiners - such as flight instructors or check pilots.

Another area that I understand has been one of frustration has been the multi-engine helicopter class rating for non-complex rotorcraft.

I have asked my team to focus on finalising this quickly.

A similar scheme to what is currently in place for fixed wing aircraft could deliver a large benefit to industry, both for licencing and in the area of training and examining.

I want these issues resolved as soon as we can, and I’m working with the team in CASA to see how we could progress this work in parallel with the transition to the flight operations regulations.

Plain English guides

At a time when we’re asking a lot of industry, we are looking at what we can do to better support you.

Being able to access and understand our regulations in a straightforward way is something that you have been telling us for years, which is why I’m so pleased that the first three of our plain English guides are now available.

They cover some of the rules that are the most widely used:

  • fatigue
  • baseline operating and general flight rules
  • small commercial drone operations.

If you haven’t already seen the guides, please stop by our stand in the exhibition hall – or download a copy from our website.

What they signal to you is that we are determined to make things easier for you administratively – and allow you to focus on your operations, your flying and your business.

And the important things that affect safety.

We are slowly building a library of plain English guides and we’d really welcome your feedback.

Streamlining processes

Another area of focus for us this year is streamlining our service delivery.

You may have already experienced some transfer of key regulatory functions to our online portals.

We’ll be continuing to drive online services so that routine transactions are quicker and easier.

We’re also in the process of implementing our new national regulatory service model.

At its core is a goal to provide more consistent and standardised services and oversight for certificate holders.

I should point out this won’t affect how individual licences are dealt with – such as flight crew licences, medical certificates or similar functions. There’s no change there.

I’m sure that you all have stories about inconsistent approaches in the past to regulatory approval and oversight depending on which regional office or team you were dealing with.

While our offices, and our staff, will all remain where they are, the regional model will change to a centralised one.

We’ll provide more detail over the coming weeks and months, but the key change will be that operators won’t be assigned their own Certificate Management Team or inspectors.

Instead, requests will be managed by a national team and then sent to the relevant experts in CASA for action.

The first stages of the change are already live, and we now have a centralised guidance team that will respond to any questions about interpretation of rules or regulations.

Industry skills - Aircraft Maintenance Engineers

As you know, one of the key issues facing the rotary – and broader aviation industry - is having enough skilled professionals for key roles.

One of those roles is licenced aircraft maintenance engineers – or LAMEs.

LAMEs provide an absolutely critical element of the safety system, ensuring that aircraft are maintained so they remain safe, and airworthy.

CASA has an important part to play in skills, and one of the initiatives that has been in train for some time is the creation of a self-study examination pathway for maintenance engineer licencing.

I’m pleased to see that it will commence soon and should benefit those people studying towards a licence that are not located near a training organisation.

Aircraft Maintenance Engineer scholarships

I’m delighted to announce the winners today of our first ever aircraft maintenance engineer scholarships.

We had initially set out to give three up-and-coming aircraft maintenance engineers a $5000 scholarship each to help them achieve their Part 66 licence.

We were absolutely overwhelmed with applications with the number of applications received. The applications were of such high quality that our evaluation team struggled to narrow the field down to three.

So we doubled the number of scholarships we will award for the first year.

It gives me great pleasure to announce six winners today – and two of them are with us here today.

I’d like to invite them to come up to the stage so that I can introduce them to you.

Please join me in congratulating Madison Candy and Preelan Naidoo.

Madison Candy

Maddy is originally from Highfields near Toowoomba and currently works as an aircraft maintenance engineer for Jetstar.

In 2018 Maddy was peer voted apprentice of the year and her goal is to receive her purple book with an A320 type rating B1 unrestricted printed inside.

Maddy impressed the interview panel with her appreciation of the importance of the aircraft maintenance industry and how her job impacts not only on her peers but pilots, cabin crew and passengers.

Preelan Naidoo

Preelan currently works for Heliedge Aviation at Archerfield Airport.

His determination towards a licensed outcome stems from his early days in the Air Scouts. Once Preelan attains his B1.4 license I understand that he looks forward to maintaining helicopters from all aspects of general aviation, in QLD, NSW and NT.

He told our evaluation panel that the highlight of his career to date has been working on Bell 429 helicopters.

Our final four winners – who are not here today - were Daniel Catterall, Frank Watkins, Deborah Dewar and James Doyle.

Daniel Catterall

Daniel started out in aviation by volunteering at a GA maintenance facility to gain experience. He literally door knocked on hangar doors until he gained a 2-year traineeship with Alliance Airlines where he still works today. Daniel was in the first group at Alliance to receive his A licence and is currently working towards gaining his B1.1 by the end of 2021.

Frank Watkins

Frank started learning the trade working on R22, R44, R66 and Bell 206 helicopters and now works for Flightek in South Australia. He is currently on track to receive his B1.3 and B1.4 license. In his interview, Frank told our panel that it’s the satisfaction that comes with personally delivering high quality aircraft maintenance to customers that makes him want to stay in the industry for the long haul.

Deborah Dewar

Deborah is an apprentice with Premiair Aviation in Perth and has been studying with Aviation Australia. Her passion for aviation started after hearing stories of her grandfather’s charter business in Derby, WA.

She impressed our evaluation panel on many criteria, including the mentoring she provides to more junior apprentices.

James Doyle

James is currently working towards attaining his B1.1 Licence while working full time with Smart air in Albury and studying in Nowra. He also holds a private pilot’s licence. James hopes to become a licenced aircraft engineer as soon as possible so he can continue providing valuable experience to the aviation industry.

Please join me again in congratulating our scholarship winners.

I wish you every success in your studies and your journey in aviation.


Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the strong partnership between CASA and the AHIA. I see great value in a strong relationships with industry - and CASA is proud to take part in events like this to demonstrate our ongoing support.

I’ve worked closely with many of you, including Paul Tyrell, and I know we share a pragmatic approach and are both determined to see aviation prosper.

I want to leverage our respective strengths and skills to drive safety, but also a vibrant industry.

And if there’s just one message I’d like you to take away from today, it’s that under my leadership, CASA will be focussed on the things that are important to aviation safety as informed by you.

I want to make use of the expertise in rooms like this to make sure we focus on what genuinely matters and act in a way that helps, not hinders.

I want CASA to allow you to put your energy and effort into making sure that your operations and your businesses are as safe as they can be.

Because, ultimately, we all share the same goal – safe skies for all.

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