Safeskies conference 2022

The Hyatt
Pip Spence
Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety of CASA


I’d like to start by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting and their continuing connection to land, water and community and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

It’s strange to have a Safeskies without Peter Lloyd AC, OBE, MiD. He was a dynamic character — how many people go skydiving on their 100th birthday? — and he played an enormous role in Australian aviation. He was pivotal to starting and supporting this conference.

I’d also like to acknowledge Dr Allan Hawke AC and his contribution to public service, including as chair of CASA.


A regulator for modern times

We are now two years into what has been a turbulent decade and it shows few signs of settling down.

The impact of COVID, climate change, skills shortages and economic instability means regulators such as CASA need to be agile and work closely with industry while maintaining safety standards.

An example of this is our General Aviation Workplan, introduced in May and designed to help the bedrock of Australian aviation recover and grow.

The aim is to reduce the regulatory burden and costs on general aviation while keeping the community safe.

Initiatives introduced so far include enabling industry to conduct flight examiner proficiency checks and deliver the Flight Examiner Rating Course and a new class-like rating for multi-engine helicopters.

We’re also facing a wave of new technology such as climate-friendly aircraft propulsion, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) systems and the expanding use of drones.

As a regulator, we will only be able to cope with this change if we are forward-looking and responsive to new industry developments.

In addition to working closely with industry, we are also collaborating with other agencies in Australia and overseas to foster innovation in a safe and sensible way.

None of us can do this alone and you will hear more about how CASA wants to help with some of the issues arising from new technologies from our chair in his recorded PG Taylor address.

We are already working with local companies on pioneering programs involving drone applications and manufacturing, a home-grown eVTOL design from AMSL Aero, the introduction of other new electric aircraft types and climate-friendly retrofits for existing planes.

We are also looking at the issues involved in establishing vertiports — the airports for eVTOLs and drones — and talking to Airservices Australia about integrated airspace.

Among the discussions we are having with our counterparts overseas is how we can facilitate manufacturing through joint certification.

Our recent Australian-first announcement about a joint certification effort with the US Federal Aviation Administration and Australian drone manufacturer Swoop Aero is an example of this.

The application for Swoop’s latest aircraft, Kite, will see the first production certificate issued by CASA for a remotely piloted aircraft system and the first time CASA has collaborated with the FAA on a joint RPAS type certification project.

None of this will be easy but it is what we must do to stay at the forefront of technological developments.

A roadmap to the future

CASA was one of the first regulators to recognise that the development of RPAS would have a significant impact on aviation and we brought in legislation ahead of many others.

The RPAS and Advanced Air Mobility Strategic Regulatory Roadmap is a logical extension of this.

From operations to infrastructure and training, our aim is to support the industry as it safely undergoes a technological renaissance. 

The RPAS and AAM roadmap outlines our expectation that RPAS will have expansive access to lower-level airspace by 2026 and acknowledges the emergence of advanced technologies such as eVTOL aircraft.

We wanted to provide a plan that outlined the long-term vision for the Australian RPAS and AAM regulatory regime as well as the safe integration of these technologies into the civil aviation system.

This means allowing RPAS and eVTOL operations to share the same airspace as traditional aviation.

The document is intended to provide clarity about CASA’s regulatory and safety approach in the next 5 to 15 years.

It aims to demystify regulations and ensure they are appropriate while promoting streamlined digital processes and stimulating innovation and research.

An important part of this is what we’re calling a regulatory sandbox, which will allow companies to test and understand new products, services and concepts while assessing the risks in a safe and controlled environment.

This will help us update and develop regulations benefiting the RPAS and AAM community while maintaining an acceptable level of safety.

CASA and safety

The key theme of this conference is safety, something essential to the smooth and effective functioning of a successful aviation industry.

We remain committed to maintaining Australia’s exemplary aviation record while minimising the administrative burden and improving flexibility.

We are also working to improving communications with the aviation sector and improve transparency.

We’re obviously aware of the industry’s struggle to cope with the surge in demand following the lifting of COVID restrictions due to issues such as labour shortages.

We are conducting an industry-wide surveillance campaign across airports and larger airline operators examining areas such as ground handling, cabin safety and dangerous goods in response to the ramp-up of operations following COVID.

This started in July as part of our normal campaign surveillance activities to assure ourselves that safety standards are being maintained and there are no systemic issues.

But safety is not just about regulation and surveillance; it’s also about education.

An educated aviation community is a safer aviation community and CASA is putting considerable effort into this area.

As part of that commitment, I’m pleased to announce today that we are launching a new scholarship for safety managers.

Safety managers play a crucial role in maintaining the level of safety expected by members of the travelling public, regulators and the industry.

The aim is to assist those involved in this key personnel position to increase their knowledge and skills through professional development.

We will provide 3 scholarships of up to $5000 each to people with a minimum of 2 years’ experience in the industry.

Recipients must demonstrate a commitment to aviation safety, initiative and a high standard of aptitude and safety culture.

You can find out more on the CASA website.

Positive response to new campaign

I’m delighted to say we’ve received a very positive response to the new national pilot safety education campaign we launched in mid-August.

The campaign, backed by other government agencies and aviation industry groups, is aimed at the pilot community and was developed using pilot input and Australian Transport Safety Bureau data.

We also worked closely with the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Maritime safety Authority.

It provides resources such as webinars, podcasts, videos and other safety enhancing products in one easily accessible forum we believe will be a terrific resource for pilots.

Research showed that while most pilots found educational resources produced by CASA helpful, they were not always aware that they existed or where to find them.

This research gave us a strong evidence-based rationale to inform the development of this campaign and key messages designed to change behaviour and attitudes.

The campaign tagline ‘Your Safety is in Your hands’ emphasises the personal responsibility and role pilots play in their safety and ongoing development.

The first topic is non-controlled aerodromes and industry bodies such as Recreational Aviation Australia and the Australian Helicopter Industry Association are helping get the message out.

Running until July next year, the campaign will feature a new topic each quarter with forecasting and navigating weather due to roll out next.

The campaign is in addition to existing initiatives such as our popular Know Your Drone campaign, AvSafety seminars for pilots and engineers as well as the FlySafe forums.

The Flysafe forums are another good example of agencies co-operating to enhance safety.


CASA is monitoring the industry as it recovers from COVID restrictions but also has an eye on the future.

We know that the pace of change means no one organisation can solve all the complex issues that need to be addressed.

CASA is committed to facilitating new technologies and integrating them safely into existing airspace.

Importantly, we remain committed to maintaining Australia’s exemplary safety record.

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