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CASA Annual Report 2003 04 Part 2: Operational Report

Operational report

Cross-agency activities

CASA’s aviation safety functions fall within the Commonwealth’s broader responsibilities and involvement in aviation related matters.

The majority of CASA’s inter-agency activities are within the Transport and Regional Services portfolio. However, CASA also works with industry and other government agencies in furthering Australia’s aviation interests.

In 2003–04, CASA was involved in a number of major inter-agency projects.

/National Airspace System

Throughout 2003 and 2004, CASA continued its association with the airspace reform initiatives introduced by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, the Hon. John Anderson MP during 2002. Specific activities were the ongoing review of the design and implementation safety cases put forward by the National Airspace System Implementation Group as well as the training and educational material that forms part of the proposed airspace structure.

The CASA CEO and Chief Operating Officer have provided advice on airspace changes through the National Airspace System Project Advisory Group and the National Airspace System Implementation Group. While airspace change has historically been a difficult task to complete, CASA will continue to offer its strong support to this initiative and fulfil its role with probity and propriety.

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/Photographic licences

While CASA has no formal responsibility for aviation security, a number of security initiatives during the year required action by CASA. The most significant of these was the Australian Government’s announcement, in December 2003, of introduction of new photographic pilot licences by 1 July 2004.

CASA’s preparation for the introduction of the new scheme included:

  • background checking of pilots as part of the licensing process
  • upgrades to the Licensing Aircraft Registrations and Publications system (LARP) to support data capture and document production
  • installation of dedicated equipment including scanners, printers and laminators and the purchase of tamper-resistant materials
  • working with the Office of Transport Security in DOTARS to finalise the administrative arrangements for the anticipated background and security checking that was expected to come into effect at the same time.

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sample of the new photographic licence

CASA Flying Operations Inspector, Allister Polkinghorne, featuring in a sample of the new photographic licence.

The new photographic licence identification card contains a picture of the licence holder, which is produced with similar security to passport photographs. This means they will be difficult to forge and will resist tampering. The card, which will be replaced every five years, is placed in a pocket in the front of the licence booklet. The first page of the licence document features the same photograph that appears on the identification card, but as a reproduction without the high-tech security. This means it will be possible to reprint the licence at a minimal cost whenever qualification details need updating.

The identification card will provide CASA and the aviation industry with greater certainty about the identity of pilots. Over the next two years more than 33 000 new photographic pilot licences will be progressively produced.

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/Air traffic management

The global aviation industry is undergoing significant technological change particularly in the area of new generation aircraft types and aviation infrastructure.

As a result, there has been a marked increase in the number of new technologies available to Australian operators, evidenced by the decision of Australia’s major airlines to upgrade and expand their fleets. While the advent of new technology has the potential create a number of opportunities for the aviation industry, it has also provided challenges for CASA in 2003–04.

The Australian Strategic Air Traffic Management Group (ASTRA) is Australia’s whole-of-industry Air Traffic Management (ATM) planning body, which consists of airlines, airports, regional aviation, pilots, general aviation and various government agencies.

The key achievement for the Australian Strategic Air Traffic Management Group in 2003 was publication of the second edition of the Australian ATM Strategic Plan, which was launched by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services in September 2003.

A significant aspect of this plan is introduction of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B is a technology that provides a ‘radar-like’ surveillance capability to Air Traffic Services at significantly lower infrastructure costs. ADS-B enables the automatic broadcast of such things as aircraft identity, present position and altitude. As the reports are broadcast, suitably equipped aircraft, as well as Air Traffic Control, can also receive and display the information on a Cockpit Display of Traffic Information enhancing situational awareness and potentially improving safety. Australia is one of the first countries to develop and plan the introduction of ADS-B.

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CASA provided significant support in the development of ADS-B in 2003–04 including:

  • support for Airservices Australia’s operational trial in the Burnett Basin – progress this year included approval for limited ADS-B services in the trial, release of an Australian Technical Standard Order for ADS-B avionics, and development of operational standards for Air Traffic Control services
  • a visit to the FAA’s Capstone Program in Alaska to observe airborne and ground ADS-B systems in operation, review training programs, and gain a better understanding of the FAA’s methodologies for certification, approval and use of the technology.

In addition to ADS-B there have been a number of developments in other Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.

Global Navigation Satellite System receivers that are manufactured to the latest technical standards will shortly be available for use as an alternative, sole-means navigation system. This is of particular benefit to general aviation and will help facilitate reduction of the ground-based navigation aid infrastructure and reduce costs to industry for such services.

There have also been some significant developments in the use of the Global Navigation Satellite System for the major airlines. CASA has been able to approve GPS non-precision approaches for Boeing B737-800 aircraft and is also working on a ‘special’ approval for Required Navigation Performance-based approaches.

Following recommendations from the Air Navigation Commission Conference in September 2003, ICAO made the decision that a new classification of approach – Approach with Vertical Guidance – should be the minimum standard of approach throughout the world. CASA is participating in an Australian Strategic Air Traffic Management Group coordinated study to review the application of these approaches in Australia.

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Aviation drug and alcohol testing review

On 18 March 2004, the ATSB released its final report on the fatal aircraft accident that occurred on Hamilton Island in September 2002.

The ATSB issued four recommendations concurrent with the release of the report, three of which addressed the potential use of alcohol and drugs by safety-sensitive personnel in the Australian aviation industry.

Recommendations R20040039 and R20040040 were issued to CASA and DOTARS. These recommendations proposed that the two agencies examine the safety benefits of introducing a drug and alcohol testing program. The ATSB suggested that, where possible, the program should harmonise with existing and evolving national and international regulations.

As a result of the ATSB’s recommendations, CASA and DOTARS established a Review Team and terms of reference were developed. Key issues identified in the terms of reference included:

  • whether drug and alcohol testing should be on a random or regular basis
  • who would administer the testing process
  • the need to define safety-sensitive personnel
  • whether testing should be part of a company’s safety management system
  • alternative and/or supplementary programs that are used for alcohol and drug management
  • the costs associated with establishing programs and the ongoing testing regimes.

Submissions addressing the key issues were called for by 30 June 2004 from all sectors of the aviation industry, as well as the travelling public and other interested parties.

Comments received from submissions, along with research on international approaches to this issue, are currently being considered by the review team.

It is anticipated that a report will be produced at the conclusion of the review and submitted to the Minister later in 2004 for consideration.8

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Contaminated fuel received by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation

In February 2004, the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority informed CASA that some aircraft operating in New Zealand using Jet A1 fuel were experiencing unusual blockage of fuel filters caused by a black sludge or film accumulating on the filters. Analysis of the sludge/film indicated that it was primarily inorganic in nature, comprising the elements sulphur, iron, sodium and calcium. The blockage was experienced across aeroplanes and helicopters using fuel filters of 10 microns or less.

On 6 May 2004, the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority hosted a meeting of fuel companies and representatives of other aviation sectors and recommended that the airlines and the fuel companies should remain vigilant in their checks on fuel filters and testing of fuels. Some additional tests were also recommended.

CASA contacted distributors in Australia about the contamination and was assured that the Jet A1 fuel requirements in Australia were being met by fuel produced in Australia and the probability of fuel imports was considered extremely remote.

On 21 May 2004, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation informed CASA that the jet fuel supplied to them during late April 2004 resulted in the blockage of fuel filters caused by sludge or film accumulating on the filters. Recognising that the jet fuel specification for military aircraft is different from Jet A1, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation carried out tests which confirmed that the fuel met the specification, and that the blockage could not be linked to the additive package unique to military fuel specification. It is suspected that this, as yet unknown, substance could also contaminate Jet A1 fuel.

Following this notification, CASA recommended:

  • aeroplane and helicopter operators using Jet A1 fuel remain vigilant in their checks of fuel filters
  • if any fuel filter blockage is noticed due to sludge or film, a fuel sample be taken, the blocked filter quarantined for further analysis, and the local CASA office informed.

CASA remains in contact with the fuel companies and the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, and is monitoring the situation.

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/Aerospace Action Agenda

The Aerospace Industry Action Agenda, a joint initiative of the Australian Government and the aerospace industry, aims to strengthen Australia’s competitive position in the aerospace industry particularly in the fields of engineering design, advanced composite materials and airframe structures.

The Aerospace Industry Action Agenda Report was officially launched in Melbourne on 16 March 2004 by the Hon. Warren Entsch MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. The report contains 16 recommendations, three of which directly involve CASA, and address matters relating to supporting infrastructure and aircraft certification for global competitiveness.

In February 2004 a 17-member Joint Steering Committee, comprising government and industry representatives, was appointed to oversee development of the Aerospace Industry Action Agenda.

The steering committee has also established a number of working groups to research and advise the committee on the key issues facing the industry while overseeing implementation of specific recommendations.

CASA has been tasked with convening a working group to include to representatives of DOTARS, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, Austrade, the Department of Defence and industry to progress those recommendations involving CASA.

It is anticipated that as the Action Agenda is implemented over the next three years, it will continue to provide opportunities for the Australian Aerospace Industry to develop and sustain its competitive capabilities in the global aerospace market as well as increase its annual exports.

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