Annual Report 2006-07: From the Chief Executive Officer
- A year of successful reform
- Industry oversight
- Organisational groups
- Our people
- Air passenger safety - our highest priority
A year of successful reform
The end of June 2007 was the target date I set for a number of significant developments in our reform process. That point in time was a major ‘stake in the ground’ for me and all those who have been working with me to develop what I call a ‘new CASA’ - a more industry-facing organisation with a clear focus on safety outcomes, with the right people in the right positions, and with our safety experts spending more time in the field and on the tarmac. This was a crucial target in a process that began nearly three years ago, and involved a major process of change to our structure, our geographic locations and the way we do business. June 2007 was the deadline for our management to establish the framework for those changes and they delivered - in some cases ahead of time.
We have not finished building the new CASA; there are still issues to be worked through in the coming months, but the framework is in place. The final stage will take the form of our three major undertakings for the coming year: the industry oversight project, which will define how individual staff do their work with airlines and operators; adjustments to our organisational groups to facilitate our dealings with industry; and our workforce capability project, which relates to the qualifications and experience of our key people.
The industry oversight project will establish a framework for the effective management of aviation safety risks in Australia, and enable CASA to assess operators on the basis of systems safety and risk management principles. It will ensure our regulatory approach incorporates risk assessments based on high-quality data, so that the most enforcement is applied to operators who are unwilling or unable to manage their risks, and the least to those who demonstrate they are managing their risks appropriately. An important part of this project will be improving the way we manage the oversight of air operator’s certificates and certificates of approval through entry control and surveillance.
The realignment of our operational groups to better support the oversight of those certificates will also ensure CASA reflects the actual structure of aviation industry sectors, and will improve our ability to move resources to where they are most needed. Importantly, it will enable effective oversight of aviation organisations that are undergoing change in their operations, as well as those functioning across operational categories.
In looking closely at our staff capability, we are determining the mix of skills our people need to perform to their full potential at CASA. This review process will enable us to offer the right training and support to staff when they need it, and will also guide our recruitment of new staff. The realignment of our skills base is already well under way. Our new air transport inspectors and safety systems specialists will help ensure we remain dynamic and responsive to an evolving industry undergoing significant change, and that we are even better equipped to perform our role. Our field safety adviser programme has been implemented and the advisers are at work promoting a culture of safety consciousness among pilots and their organisations across the nation.
New funding provided in the 2007 - 08 Budget has allowed us to recruit additional safety systems specialists, field safety advisers and risk analysts, providing increased resources to rapidly integrate safety management systems into industry organisations and giving us a more comprehensive and sophisticated level of aviation safety oversight.
Air passenger safety - our highest priority
What do these changes mean for Australian aviation? They mean we are delivering on our promise to make air passenger safety our highest priority, and to produce regulations and conduct surveillance dedicated to positive safety outcomes. I have been greatly encouraged by the wide acceptance, including at the top level in our airlines, of CASA’s fresh definition of its relationship with the industry: that we must not be seen as a ‘nanny’ regulator, and that primary responsibility for aviation safety lies with those who fly and maintain aircraft, manage aerodromes, and train pilots and engineers. The focus now is on achieving the best possible safety outcomes, not just on compliance with the regulations. Our emphasis is on helping people and organisations to manage their own risks.
Aviation safety has again been in the news, particularly in the aftermath of the tragic Lockhart River accident in May 2005, in which 15 people lost their lives. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s report on the accident was published during the year. It was unfortunate that the report could not be definitive on the cause of the accident. While I did not agree with all of the report’s conclusions, I can advise that CASA has taken steps to implement all of the report’s recommendations (see safety management). I firmly believe that CASA’s priorities should include not only prescribing standards and checking compliance with those standards, but also influencing the behaviour of the people involved in aviation. During the year I wrote to all pilots about their duty of care and their obligation to have the right safety attitudes and behaviours. As I have pointed out to CASA staff, we have a duty to do everything possible to influence, assist and direct the aviation industry to deliver the best safety outcomes.
An example of our consultation and cooperation with industry was the general aviation self-administration summits in Brisbane and Canberra in late 2006, where we encouraged peak industry groups to consider whether self-administration could provide equivalent or better safety, and if so, what would be the most appropriate model. The summits showed there was general industry support for the principle of self-administration, and CASA undertook to help industry progress the discussion. I am pleased that as a result of our efforts during the year self-administration is now a fact in sports aviation and vintage military or ‘warbird’ aviation in Australia.
CASA continues to place high priority on the regulation and surveillance of aircraft maintenance regimes. A major step during the year was the amendment of the Civil Aviation Orders as a transitional measure pending the development and implementation of a new suite of aviation maintenance regulations. The new regulations will harmonise with European Aviation Safety Agency regulations and will reflect their essential features.
The Office of Airspace Regulation is now up and running and its General Manager, Peter Cromarty, and his staff are preparing a detailed implementation programme for national airspace reform initiatives. The Government remains committed to the national airspace reform objectives, and the Minister has emphasised that a priority of the new office should be to conduct a review of the implementation of National Airspace System 2c.
The civil aviation industry continues to undergo a considerable amount of change, which presents new and often unprecedented challenges to both CASA and operators. We are seeing continued high rates of industry growth and the introduction of new aircraft and new operational issues. These developments will require CASA to carefully monitor how industry is managing the risks that inevitably flow from such changes. As a result, CASA will have even closer contact with industry in the future.
Bruce Byron AM
Director of Aviation Safety
and Chief Executive Officer