Australian Airports Association – 24 November 2009
Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick
Address to Australian Airports Association
24 November 2009
I would like to thank the Australian Airports Association for the invitation to address this very important conference.
Like many of you I am very much looking forward to the Government’s White Paper as a blueprint for the future development of the aviation industry in this country.
However, the Minister has already made quite clear to me and to the CASA Board the sort of regulator the Government wants CASA to be; a regulator that is:
- efficient; and
CASA will be a regulator that is focused on its legislated safety related functions and responsibilities and on ensuring the aviation industry is aware of its own obligations to maintain the highest standards of aviation safety.
But I also understand the Industry’s need for a predictable and consistent regulator. It seemed to me when I started as the Director of Aviation Safety that CASA, while certainly a more robust organisation than it had been in the past, still needed substantial reforms to its governance.
CASA’s focus had drifted and it needed to refocus its limited resources on the safety functions outlined in the Civil Aviation Act. We are only a relatively small organisation of around 700 staff. We need to be smarter on how we use this small but talented pool of people.
I believed we needed to better define the organisation’s standards and procedures and provide a clearer framework for evaluating our performance. These processes are integral to CASA’s ability to meet its legislated responsibilities as the regulator.
So this is what I have set about doing.
There have already been some organisational changes within CASA and a review of our documentation of procedures and practice is nearing completion.
This will provide a clearer understanding of how we regulate – and importantly - the basis for more consistent action and advice to industry.
Improving governance will be one of the key roles of the CASA Board and I certainly appreciate the expertise of Dr Alan Hawke and the other Board members in ensuring CASA has the ability to meet its obligations as defined under the Civil Aviation Act.
The robustness of any organisation depends very much on the quality of its people.
CASA has a dedicated and professional staff but, like many in the aviation industry, we have an ageing staff profile. We also have similar difficulties in attracting and retaining skilled staff who continue to be in high demand across the industry.
Technical training was identified as an issue by the International Civil Aviation Organization in its 2008 audit and this is a priority for us, with a range of new programs to enhance staff capability in areas such as leadership, regulatory skills and technical expertise.
We are in the process of putting in place comprehensive initial, on-the-job, recurrent and specialist training programs for our technical staff.
This includes continuous monitoring and access to professional development and evaluation.
A robust regulator also needs proper legislative support. The action of the Australian Government to improve CASA’s enforcement powers across a number of areas, including consignment or carriage of dangerous goods and the oversight of foreign aircraft was very welcome.
These powers will strengthen and improve CASA’s operational oversight and surveillance of the industry as a whole and of foreign operators in particular.
In terms of efficiency we also need to make improvements, particularly in the area of regulatory development. Regulatory development is partly a misnomer – we have robust regulation in place – but we are enhancing and refining it.
Significant progress has been made. New and amended regulations have been put in place such as:
- new regulations for the development of drug and alcohol management plans;
- amendments setting out the requirements for safety management systems and human factors training for regular public transport operations, and
- amendments to introduce the multi-crew pilot licence.
However I think our efficiency as a regulator will be substantially enhanced when Australia’s aviation regulations are updated to align with best practice international safety requirements.
This is an area where the CASA Board and I will be working closely to prioritise key areas and push forward to having these regulations finalised.
We are working on four key areas of regulatory reform:
- maintenance; and
- flight operations.
It is a process that industry has been – and will continue to be – closely involved in. Industry consultation and input is key to the success of the regulatory reform program. It is important to acknowledge the invaluable input the industry provides to the regulatory reform process.
But the practice of the past, where consultation to achieve consensus frequently paralysed action, sometimes for years, will not continue.
Such a stalemate does not assist either industry or CASA.
Consultation does not equate to agreement, and while all views will be seriously considered and taken into account, at the end of the day CASA, as the regulator, will still make the decision.
We are looking to have new maintenance regulations made in the first half of 2010 and to complete legal drafting of the operational (passenger transport) and licensing regulations by the end of 2010.
I see decision making as the core of the regulator’s role. CASA effectiveness is based on our ability to analyse risk and make a decision.
As an example, I am sure you are all aware of the changes that are now in place for the pilots and operators at GAAP aerodromes at Archerfield, Bankstown, Camden, Jandakot, Moorabbin and Parafield.
These changes included a reduction in the numbers of aeroplanes allowed in the circuit and requirements for Air Traffic Control clearance for all aircraft entering, crossing or taxiing along any runway.
This decision was not made lightly, but was taken in the interests of safety.
The revised procedures are the result of numerous surveillance activities undertaken by CASA over the last 12 months as well as reviews by independent consultants and accident reports from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
It would be fair to say that this action by CASA received mixed reviews from industry – but again, it was a decision that had to be made in the interests of safety.
CASA has rolled out a comprehensive information program on these changes over the last few months.
We have conducted a number of Hazard Identification workshops to review the cap on the number of aeroplanes permitted in the circuit and to undertake further risk assessment. I am currently waiting the final report and will act on its findings.
The delivery of comprehensive education and training programs and accurate and targeted safety messages to industry is one of CASA’s most important roles.
This step was just one of a series of actions that CASA has undertaken to strengthen our safety oversight of the general aviation and sport and recreational aviation sectors.
Over 50 per cent of the Australian fleet is made up of single-engine aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of less than 5,700kg.
To improve safety outcomes in these sectors CASA will have a greater presence in regional and remote parts of northern Australia, where there is a great deal of general aviation activity and where a considerable number of accidents have taken place.
We are opening offices in Horn Island, Gove, Kununurra and Broome. These work-bases will provide better on-site support to CASA inspectors working in the Torres Strait, Arnhem Land and the Kimberly regions. They will have office and communication facilities, as well as providing inspectors and other CASA staff with space to meet and talk with people from the local aviation communities. This will make the time spent by CASA in these regions more efficient and safety effective.
CASA has also established a new sport and recreational aviation advisory body to bring together the representative organisations of the sport and recreational sector, which, collectively, represent around 47 per cent of aviation activity in Australia.
We need to hear the views of this large proportion of the industry and ensure that necessary safety actions are taken by CASA.
Future demands on CASA
The Government’s White Paper will present CASA with new challenges as well as new opportunities. I expect there will be a continued emphasis on the rollout of safety management systems within the industry.
In September last year the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, in its review into the Administration of CASA, recommended that the Australian National Audit Office examine CASA’s implementation and administration of its Safety Management Systems approach.
This audit has now commenced.
It is looking at activities in relation to implementing and administering CASA’s SMS approach, including CASA’s contribution to the development of a State Safety Program, which is an ICAO requirement. The ANAO audit will also be looking at the resources and governance arrangements surrounding these programs.
I welcome this type of independent scrutiny. Safety Management Systems are a key part of managing risk and to have an audit of this type can only help in their implementation across the industry.
The Office of Airspace Regulation in CASA has a comprehensive work program which has already undertaken a number of airspace assessments at aerodromes across the country.
We will be redrafting this work program to reflect the priorities of the new Australian Aviation Policy Statement - the White Paper.
The other key area for CASA will be an emphasis on our international activity.
CASA does not just deal with the Australian aviation industry.
We play a key role in activities such as working with the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States to incorporate their acceptance of Australian Parts Manufacturer Approval into the existing Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement between the two countries.
This process will mean a significant reduction in duplication of processes and costs for Australian manufacturers, resulting in improved access to the United States market for over 80 manufacturers.
We are also working on similar recognition arrangements with Brazil, China and Israel.
Our work with Indonesia through the Australian Government’s Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Package will also continue as will CASA assistance to PNG and other Pacific countries.
My goal is to continue to develop CASA into a regulator with the capabilities to function effectively and efficiently in a constantly evolving domestic and international aviation environment.
We will meet the Minister’s expectations by being a regulator that is robust, efficient and effective and maintain Australia’s enviable safety record – expectations you no-doubt all share.
There is a lot of work still to be done but I am confident that CASA is on the right track.