Aviation regulation - the balancing act
RAAA 17th National Convention 2016
Hunter Valley - 21 October 2016
- Thank you for the introduction. It’s great to be here today at this 17th annual Convention.
- Great to see many known faces in the audience and to touch base with people who worked in the industry for so long. Over the next few months, I intend to meet with anyone who has an interest in improving aviation safety. I will be most interested to hear your views on what is going well and what isn’t and what we can do together to move forward on improving or enhancing aviation safety - an objective we all have in common.
- It’s terrific to be back at CASA after an absence of more than seven years. Since I was last in CASA, the organisation has undergone some significant change. Most recently, my predecessor, Mr Mark Skidmore led the major restructure of the organisation, and I pay tribute to the work he did in providing a renewed focus on stakeholder engagement and collaboration to deliver improved aviation safety outcomes. Not to mention the important work he did in championing the development of CASA’s regulatory philosophy, which sets out ten key principles to guide and direct the way our organisation will regulate the Australian aviation. The regulatory philosophy is an important milestone for both CASA and the aviation community.
- I should let you know too, that the CASA Board has already commenced arrangements for the recruitment of a new CEO/DAS, but an appointment is not expected until well into the New Year, noting that the last appointment took 6 months.
- In the meantime, don’t be fooled by the Acting CEO/DAS title. I don’t work in caretaker mode and my appointment has been agreed by Cabinet and as far as I’m concerned I’ve got full authority, which I will use, and I have got full accountability, which I will wear for the decisions that I make and the decisions that go with the position.
- Talking about me, I joined the public service in 1989 after a 15-year career as an Army Officer, where I served in various Australian and overseas locations. Since then, I have served at senior levels at the Department of Defence, Veterans’ Affairs, Finance and Infrastructure. Most recently, I ran the group at Infrastructure, responsible for transport security, aviation and airports, local government and territories, Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project and the Western Sydney Airport project.
- This appointment in CASA is a unique opportunity to serve the Australian public in a different capacity - even if it turns out to be for a relatively short time
- What CASA does has been determined by the Australian Parliament and is set out in the Civil Aviation Act. The reality is that over time these functions have not changed in any significant way and I cannot see major changes in the foreseeable future. Like it or not, sound aviation regulation has contributed to a safer aviation system in Australia.
- CASA’s key role is the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australian territory and the operation of Australian aircraft outside Australian territory. We are also responsible for ensuring that Australian airspace is administered and used safely. Aviation safety is a responsibility we assume on behalf of the Australian people through their elected representatives in Parliament, and I take it very seriously.
- Since its establishment, CASA has been alternatively characterised as being too heavy-handed or too soft in its oversight of the Australian aviation industry. To me, such characterisations of a regulator are in some ways inevitable. There will always be points of tension between the regulator and the regulated community. No one enjoys being told what to do or how to do it. This is normal and I see it as a sign of a healthy relationship. The challenge though is to recognise the points of tension and address these in a positive way, and advance the regulator-industry relationship to a mature level.
- My focus is on delivering a fair, firm and balanced aviation safety regulation system and promoting a positive and collaborative safety culture throughout the aviation community. Many will argue that CASA doesn’t always get this right, a point with which I agree. However, achieving this outcome often requires us to balance many competing considerations, with safety considerations being given the highest priority. This was emphasised by then Deputy PM, Mr Truss when tabling the Government response to the ASRR, where he clearly stated that safety should be the primary consideration for CASA and the industry in performing their functions. Further, reading from the speech he made at the House of Reps, then Deputy PM, Mr Truss acknowledged that:
‘…the role of the regulator is a difficult one. CASA serves not only the industry but the public more broadly. CASA is a part of a system which is charged with protecting all passengers, their crew and the community. Members of the travelling public are not usually able to make their own individual assessment of all the safety issues and rely on the regulatory system for assurance…in such a complex environment the government expects the regulator to be firm but fair in how it conducts its role…’
- Recently, I heard similar sentiments from Minister Chester at the Waypoint industry forum in Canberra. The Minister reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to ensuring that CASA maintains an appropriate safety regulatory framework that will provide the platform for the industry's future growth, and urged the industry to support CASA to perform as a firm regulator to achieve effective safety outcomes.
- So, the real challenge here is to find the right balance. We cannot simply take a ‘light’ approach to safety, nor can we overburden the aviation community with regulatory red tape. We need to get the right safety outcomes without unintended consequences, unreasonable requirements or unnecessary costs to the industry. It is not an easy balance to strike, yet that is our job.
- Of course, this doesn’t mean CASA must be a ‘heavy-handed’ regulator either; our intention is to keep everyone flying in a safe environment. I intend to lead CASA to be a fair, firm and balanced regulator. To achieve this, we need to work hard to ensure we have a robust and effective safety system that allows risks to be identified without sanction, and addressed quickly. A system that only interferes with the legitimate day-to-day activities of the aviation community when necessary in the interests of safety. This balancing act between a weak regulator and a harsh binary (black and white) regulator is a fair but a firm regulator.
- After my appointment on 10 October 2016 and my first CASA Board meeting, I am absolutely confident of their commitment and support for me to lead and position CASA to be a fair, firm and balanced regulator. Some of our board members are here so feel free to ask them. At the same time, I look forward to your support to contribute to this significant commitment through a collaborative and co-operative approach.
- Aside from talking in general terms about my approach, there are a few contemporary matters I intend to address.
- Updating the rules is part of the ongoing process of improving aviation safety. The rules must keep up with changing times.
- The Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) comprise of 55 Parts. 44 Parts have been made and 11 Parts are outstanding, most of which have been legally drafted, and consulted.
- I am advised that in May this year, we released a detailed timetable to address industry views on a range of aspects of new rule making including capacity to manage major changes to the regulations and when the regulations should be developed, consulted and introduced. This timetable delayed some of the planned making of regulations from the timetable envisaged in the ASRR.
- I also understand that CASA is undertaking post-implementation reviews of 14 Parts already made. [Flight Crew Licensing suite (Parts 61,64,141,142); Part 21; Parts 42/145; Parts 45/47; Part 66, Part 90, Part 92, Part 99 and Part 139].
- We have allowed plenty of time for consultation on the development of new regulations so we can listen to feedback and respond to the views of the aviation community. Importantly, we have taken into account our own ability to provide information, support and guidance on the introduction of new regulations.
- One contentious issue has been fatigue rules. The new CAO 48.1 fatigue rules came into effect in April 2013 with a three-year transition period. In November 2015, the transition period was extended to 1 May 2017.
- As most of you are aware, the implementation period for new fatigue rules has been further extended by one year. Air operators will now have until 1 May 2018 to transition to the provisions of the Order. The air operators that have already transitioned to the fatigue rules can continue to operate under the new provisions.
- The extension is in response to extensive feedback from the aviation community. As is often the case, the feedback has been polarised-one group believes that fatigue is a real but a hidden problem and generally supports the changes-the other group criticises CASA for being too tough on operators and driving up costs when margins are already tight. Such polarised views are a common challenge for a regulator.
- Acknowledging that there is no silver bullet to complex issues, I propose to use the extended transition period to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of fatigue limits, which I expect will include independent scientific advice based on overseas experience and operational evidence. I understand that yesterday, in a speech here, the fatigue rules were referred as a debacle. I note that in today’s Australian, we are criticised for delaying the rules and kowtowing to industry pressure.
- Whilst you can be certain that outcomes of the review will be implemented, you can be just as certain that someone will still be unhappy and no doubt, views will remain polarised. This is the nature of the environment in which I work.
- But, one important point to note here is that people should not expect me to be commissioning review after review until everyone is happy. That result is I’m afraid, unachievable. It’s Nirvana!
Class 2 medicals
- Another contentious issue has been Class 2 Medical Certificates. Some organisations are calling for CASA to reduce the level of medical certification procedures to assist the industry members to reduce costs and timeframes for renewals, and to assist in maintaining a GA presence in the aviation industry.
- They are calling to introduce the standard for the Class 2 medicals to be that of an AustRoads Unrestricted Private Drivers Medical with no routine requirement to attend for medical examinations subject to some exceptions. Noting that the average cost to obtain a certificate is around $300 (CASA cost is only $75) and the renewals for a complete application happens within about 10 working days, I’m not sure of the concerns.
- Nevertheless, since the current approach to risk assessment was established, many aspects of aviation have certainly changed and there have been advances in medical practice and increase in life-expectancy of the population. But at the same time, there are clear linkages between ageing and health. Both perspectives need to be taken into account.
- We have clearly heard the calls for review and have already announced the initiative to publish a Discussion Paper before the end of this year to consider the acceptable levels of risk in pilots to better inform future regulations and I fully support the initiative. Be assured, this process will allow for consultation with relevant stakeholders including individual pilots and their respective associations, so I encourage you to actively participate in these discussions.
RPAS (AKA Drones)
- The CASR Part 101 changes that commenced on 29 September 2016 will reduce the regulatory burden for low risk unmanned aircraft operations and facilitate growth and innovation in the sector.
- This is a proactive step and frankly, a great amendment. It provides direct savings to affected individual businesses as a result of the amended regulations are estimated to be more than $5,000.
- RPAS operators will still need to comply with the strict operating restrictions which dictate where an RPAS can be operated, the maximum height of operations, that they be operated within visual line of sight only and that they not be operated near people, property or aircraft. The rules remain unchanged with this amendment.
- The clear safety benefit of this amendment is that now more operators who were previously operating in a non-compliant manner are readily subscribing to the regulatory system and the much simpler notification requirements (very similar to the Canadian system). Between the time the capability to report sub 2kg operations became available¾29 September 2016, and Wednesday this week¾over 1 350 notifications from sub 2kg operators have been received by CASA.
- By bringing more operators under the regulatory system, CASA is able to more effectively educate and inform operators of their safety responsibilities.
- However, as you might expect and in common with other regulatory proposals, again the positions are polarised. Some existing RPAS operators (and other interested parties) have raised concerns over the latest amendments, claiming that it will increase safety risk because not all commercial operations will need to be licensed or certified by CASA. Frankly, I consider this to be a nonsense-given the free availability of recreational drones-but the issue must be dealt with.
- Also, one Senator has recently moved a disallowance motion for the below 2kg amendment, which has been deferred until late November.
- Nevertheless, to address the concerns raised, Minister Chester has announced a review of aviation safety regulation in relation to the operation of remotely piloted aircraft systems. This review will be undertaken by CASA in early 2017 and will examine the regulations governing RPAS regulation in Australia, looking closely at aviation safety enhancements.
- Finally, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, just last week, moved that an RPAS inquiry be undertaken and reported by 27 April 2017. Of course, we welcome the opportunity for CASA to participate in this inquiry and tell the real story. Let’s hope the number has grown to 5000 by then!
- With all this happening in the background, let me be clear that amended regulations still apply until the outcomes of any disallowance process are known.
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)
- Let’s touch on noise around ADS-B. The technology has been gradually introduced in Australian skies since 2007 to supersede the legacy radar system, enabling far greater surveillance coverage across Australia and introducing a range of improved safety and efficiency benefits.
- The take up rate of ADS-B technology by aircraft owners and operators remains high. According to reports we receive from Airservices, the majors-100%, Bizjet-94% and turbo prop-94% aircraft are already compliant; predicted equipage rate for all IFR flights by February 2017 is 92% is based on operator provided information; actual equipage is expected to be higher than the predictions. Right now 100% of IFR fights in the Perth region are compliant. All pilots and operators of instrument flight rules aircraft are expected to install ADS-B before 2 February 2017 if they wish to continue to fly under the instrument flight rules from this date.
- There are requests from some sections of the industry to delay implementation of ADS-B until 2020, questioning the costs cited in the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) and the consequential cost impact on GA. Over the last five years, there are many operators, individuals and organisations who have made a commitment to fit ADS-B. They have fitted it in good faith on the basis that the mandate was in place by February 2017.
- Noting that I have been in place for just than two weeks, I won’t be agreeing today to delaying implementation. However, I am looking closely at the situation with ADS-B and, as some of you might be aware, I had a pleasant discussion about this matter with one of the elected representatives on Monday evening during the Senate Estimates process.
- I do wonder though whether a decision to delay the mandate might actually increase costs for industry, but maybe that’s a thought for another day.
The Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASSR)
- CASA’s schedule for implementing the Government’s response to the ASRR was embedded into the CASA Corporate Plan and we provide a progress report to the Minister Chester on a quarterly basis. 32 of the 37 ASRR recommendations related to the functions and performance of CASA. We have already completed over 20 of these and are making good progress on all remaining recommendations (except the delays agreed with the Minister/industry in making regulations).
- When I was appointed, Minister Chester made it very clear to me the implementation of the reforms contained in the Government’s response to the ASRR remains the highest priority. The Government expects CASA to complete implementing required reforms by the end of this year, except where CASA and the aviation community have agreed that regulation implementation should be deferred.
- In conclusion, I am really pleased and excited to be here leading CASA. Having been here before, I have some experience of the role of the regulator. No doubt it is a challenging role. To quote an abstract from the Sport Pilot, October 2016 edition, which I read just yesterday, CASA’s top job is
‘…widely regarded as the toughest and most thankless job in Aviation...’
- My aim is to achieve the right safety outcomes reached through proper processes, real consultation and transparent decision-making. Some people will like my approach, some will not. Luckily, I don’t need any friends, but I expect that eventually everyone will respect if for what it is.
- Thank you!