CASA CEO, Bruce Byron speech at the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association conference
CEO at the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association conference
26 March 2004
Thank you for inviting me here this morning to make the keynote address for your annual conference.
On behalf of the Australian aviation community may I welcome IFALPA to our shores, or perhaps, I should say, to our airspace. The work of the Federation, its Member Associations, its Technical Committees, and, ultimately individual members, has done a great deal for the advancement of aviation safety world-wide, and you are to be congratulated for what you have contributed, and for what I am sure you will continue to contribute.
I would like to say something about the current aviation environment in Australia, and the priorities that CASA, as the safety regulator, is likely to focus on over the next few years.
Talking Point – Role of Chief Executive Officer.
Australian aviation has been going through ‘interesting times’, as many in this room will be only too well aware. We have seen the demise of one of the two major operators who for a long time dominated the domestic market. We have seen ownership changes, new entrants, expanding fleets, new alliances, and more competition. We have seen cost pressures, new security issues, and changes to airspace arrangements. We have seen the introduction of more modern and more fuel-efficient aircraft.
In terms of CASA’s own activities, we are in the process of a major re-write of the Regulations with the implementation of those impacting on the industry over the next few years, and we have recently started operating under a new and more flexible set of enforcement arrangements, which also will impact on industry. So, lots of change, and it is difficult to see the future, at least in the near-term, being very different.
So where does Australia’s aviation safety regulator fit in to this environment of change, and what initiatives are we at CASA likely to have to take to ensure our safety focus remains sharp over the next few years? Before I give you my views on that, I should briefly say something of my background, so you know where I am coming from in setting the path I see CASA moving along. Firstly, I am a professional pilot, air force trained, in which I spent 20 years with a strong emphasis on training. My final appointment, in the early eighties was as Commanding Officer of the RAAF’s Central Flying School. After that, I managed a corporate pilot operation whilst developing a safety consulting activity. In the airline sector, I have managed the transition of Kendell Airlines to high capacity jet operations. Most recently I worked with Virgin Blue. These direct roots in the industry have meant I have had to formally isolate myself from decisions relating to companies with which I have worked for a period of time. However, given my strategic focus, and the responsibilities of the Chief Operating Officer, this has not posed any problems.
In the recent past I have had the role of independent chair of the Aviation Safety Forum, which as some of you will be aware, is a body with a broad-based industry membership, and which provides advice to CASA across the spectrum of aviation issues.
So I can claim reasonable ‘currency’ on the practical side of industry operations, and the safety interests of the travelling public. And I was for two years a member of the CASA Board, and a party to the sometimes tough decisions that have to be taken by the regulator. So I have seen things from both sides of the fence, and I suggest that is no bad thing in any endeavour.
Having just used the phrase ‘both sides of the fence’ can I introduce my comments on CASA’s place in the future of Australian aviation by saying that I see fences and barriers between the regulator and the aviation industry as being things of the past. Certainly CASA has to maintain a suitably independent position in terms of its regulatory responsibilities. But we also need to operate cooperatively with our stakeholders, and with as much harmony and common purpose as is reasonably possible. CASA’s relationship with the aviation industry is a cornerstone for our future success.
One of my highest priorities is to work towards establishing the best possible professional working relationship between CASA and the aviation industry and also between myself personally and industry players.
Talking Point – Percentage of Time with Industry.
I see aviation safety as a shared responsibility between CASA and the industry. We need an industry that is willing and able to meet its part of those safety responsibilities. And we need a CASA that is both independent in the discharge of its safety surveillance and enforcement obligations, but at the same time is responsive to the needs of the industry. And we also need an industry which can develop and grow, and not be constrained by rules that don’t do anything for safety.
The existing industry consultative bodies, the Aviation Safety Forum and the Standards Consultative Committee will remain in place and where possible, strengthened. But it is not enough to set up mechanisms to facilitate communication and exchanges of ideas.This gathering today, and the strong technical expertise represented by IFALPA, its affiliated bodies and their individual members represent a considerable resource for the advancement of aviation safety. I am keen to cultivate interest from your organisations, and others, in joint studies. I will say a little more about that in a few moments. We live in a dynamic world, there are a myriad of issues to be dealt with and it is easy for organizations, regulators included, to find themselves diverted, perhaps putting out spot fires, juggling priorities, finding things slipping off the radar that should be front and centre. For us at CASA there is no doubt as to what our focus should be – core safety-related functions.
Talking Point – Roles of CEO versus COO.
In many areas Australia already compares favourably with the rest of the world in aviation safety, but we can’t rest on that. We also have to be careful not to hide behind the defence that Australia is a special case and we need to have special rules that can’t be compared with what happens elsewhere. We do have situations that may require a unique solution. But these are not that common.
Among the things that contribute to best practice are rules that are simple and easy to follow. As many of you will know we are currently devoting substantial resources to rewriting virtually all of our regulations, with the theme ‘Safety through Clarity’. A lot of real progress has been made in updating the rules and making them simpler, and our people have been working very hard to meet the deadlines previously set.
But it is critically important for the future of Australian aviation that we get absolutely the best set of rules we can. There are few chances to do a major re-write and if we don’t make the most of this opportunity it may be some time before another comes along. So we need to get it right and to me, that means making sure that our rules address known safety risks identified through an objective process. One of my first decisions has been to put back the introduction of the new operational rules so, with additional consultation with the aviation industry, we can achieve the best outcome, I make no apology for this, because I want the best outcome, rather than meeting an arbitrary deadline with a product that is less than optimum.
In my own working through of the vision I have for CASA, and in the discussions I have had with both government and industry, there are a number of points that have emerged.
We need to have an organisation that operates effectively and efficiently, and responds in a timely manner. We need to be accountable for our actions. We need an unreserved commitment to genuine communication and consultation, and a willingness to change our views, if that is the sensible thing to do.
We need to show fairness and good judgement, as well as flexibility and responsiveness. The aviation industry does not stand still, and CASA needs to move with it. If we have regulations that are out dated, or are not reflecting the real world, then we need to be prepared to change them. If any of our rules don’t really contribute to safety, but just make life harder for the industry, then we should scrap them.
But we still need to be independent and unbiased when we come to enforcing the regulations.
Given that we are funded by the taxpayer and by the industry, we have a duty to conduct our operations as effectively and efficiently as we can. We need to focus on our core safety related responsibilities and ensure that we concentrate our resources on where they are most needed.
Talking Point – Best use of Resources to Achieve Safety Outcomes.
For example, it has long been a priority for CASA that we focus our attention on protecting the travelling public, and that remains the case. And yet we still find ourselves with a significant involvement in the private pilot segment of the industry, experimental aircraft, warbirds and the like, where passenger carrying is not a major issue. It may be that we need to put more effort into finding a way to focus our resources where they will make the greatest impact on aviation safety, without, of course, leaving a safety vacuum in any particular segment of the industry. We need to look for innovative solutions.
We need to constantly monitor our costs.
Talking Point – Development of Staff / Training etc.
Consistency is something close to my heart, particularly having been a consumer of CASA’s activities as a member of industry.
CASA’s biggest single Division is called Compliance. One of our smallest is called Safety Promotion. In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be great to see that reversed. With a few compliance and enforcement people to keep an eye on the cowboys that are inevitable in any form of human endeavour, aviation included, and most everyone else focussed on training and education, and the promotion of a safety culture that regards any unsafe practice as simply unacceptable. Well, we are not yet at that stage. But I have in mind a number of initiatives to get the momentum going. The initial move has been in the GA end of the industry, but I think the principles might well apply elsewhere. The idea is to take a look at the quality of aviation training, and where there are deficiencies identified, or where good programs can be made even better, to do something to assist. I plan to assemble a panel of GA senior instructors and CASA people to collaboratively work together to establish practical ways to best assist the flying training segment of the industry to do even better. They would advise me on action and initiatives we could take, and the nature and quality of outputs we should be looking to achieve. Of course, this initiative, and two others I announced this week are oriented to the GA part of the industry. However, I see training as a key issue in all areas of aviation.
Talking Point – Objective Approach to Drive Core Functions.
I believe there is a need for an objective approach to identifying real safety risks. Indeed, there is a sound argument that all of CASA’s core safety-related functions should be driven by analysis and knowledge of past and likely future safety risks. We have not had sufficient focus on this in the past and we are in the process of doing something about it.
CASA will conduct a broad review of the safety of the Civil Aviation system. The review will be tasked to identify the major risks, by sector and will test CASA’s activities against those risks. Industry will be invited to participate through analysis and ideally, by contributing safety data.
To support an increased focus on ensuring that our operational decisions are based on objective analysis, I have established in CASA, in the Office of the CEO, a new position of Strategic Research Adviser, to undertake and coordinate practical research initiatives into aviation safety. In the last few years I have been impressed by the quality of the new generation of aviation professionals entering the industry, including many with aviation technical or management tertiary qualifications. These are likely to be the future leaders of the industry, including CASA.
To link our need for better analysis on which to base our decisions, and to encourage and support some of our brighter aviation talent I have approved the offering of four 4 scholarships, each to the value of $25,000 to be awarded to bright postgraduate students in aviation studies and related fields to undertake practical research in aviation safety. I believe these are important initiatives where CASA can show some leadership. But the value of initiatives such as these can be dramatically multiplied by working in cooperation and collaboration with industry. I hope you share this view and that it will be possible for us to work together on safety-oriented projects toachieve meaningful safety outcomes. This might be from something as simple as proposing useful topics for research projects, to jointly working on a major exercise.
The first module of the broad safety review I mentioned earlier review has been an analysis, with data provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, of findings related to GA fatal accidents, to check trends and make sure we have not over-looked systemic issues. The initial results of this study were announced on Wednesday of this week. There is a tendency in aviation to focus on accident rates rather than probable cause, and this new approach ties in with the idea that the regulations we develop need to be more focussed on identifiable safety issues. There is clearly diminished value in devoting resources to making and enforcing regulations which may have theoretical appeal, but in practice do little for safety. The same could be said for our compliance activity. In the case of this first research study, the principal causal factor, unsurprisingly, was human factors, which is likely to gives us a fairly direct link to training and education.
Can I tie all this together by saying that the CASA I see evolving over the next few years is an organisation with a clear focus on core safety-related functions.
My best wishes for a successful conference.
Chief Executive Officer
26 March 2004