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As a Commonwealth statutory authority, CASA is subject to scrutiny by the Australian Parliament. CASA’s activities may be subject to investigation or consideration by administrative agencies or the courts. In addition, CASA receives informal feedback on its performance through media coverage and complaints from industry or members of the public.
CASA welcomes external scrutiny as a means to confirm what it is doing well, and to identify ways to better meet its obligations and achieve its vision of Safe skies for all.
In May 2015, CASA provided a submission to and appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into the Australian Defence Force’s use of unmanned platforms.
Also in May 2015, CASA provided a submission to and appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines. CASA responded to three additional questions on notice after the hearing.
On 20 October 2014, 24 February 2015 and 27 and 28 May 2015, CASA appeared at the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Budget Estimates hearings. Issues raised at the hearings included:
- in October – reducing red tape, CASR Part 61, colour vision deficiency in pilots, helicopter mustering (CASR Part 138), and credit card use
- in February – welcome to the new Director of Aviation Safety, community service flights, CASR Part 61, the Aviation Safety Regulation Review, consultation with industry, remotely piloted aircraft, the proposed Yass Valley wind farm, and foreign operators
- in May – the Ombudsman report into responding to coronial recommendations; remotely piloted aircraft; foreign operators; key performance indicators; cockpit security regulations; maintenance company investigation; multi-crew cooperation training; Cessna supplemental inspection documents; Melbourne and Essendon airports confidential reporting occurrence (REPCON); certification of airworthiness; CASR Part 61; and Bankstown flying training schools.
Questions on notice
During the reporting period, CASA responded to 45 questions from the Budget Estimates hearings addressed to CASA, and provided input to a substantial number of corporate questions on notice addressed to the portfolio.
Aviation Safety Regulation Review
On 14 November 2013, the Australian Government announced the establishment of the independent Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR) to examine Australia’s aviation safety regulatory system.
The ASRR report was tabled in Parliament on 3 June 2014. It contained 37 recommendations, of which 32 related to the functions and performance of CASA. After consideration of public and industry comments on the report and advice from the key aviation agencies, the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development tabled the Government’s response to the recommendations and related issues on 3 December 2014.
The Minister provided a Statement of Expectations to the CASA Board on 14 April 2015. The Statement of Expectations included a specific requirement that CASA implement the CASA-related recommendations from the Government’s response to the ASRR report in an effective and timely manner.
Refer to pages 76 to 80 for a performance progress report against the recommendations as at 30 June 2015.
Eagle v Civil Aviation Safety Authority  FCA 1016
Mr Eagle was employed by Qantas as a pilot. On 26 and 27 January 2010, he underwent sleep study investigations and was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnolence. On 15 October 2010, he applied for a renewal of his medical certificate. On about 7 October 2011, a consultant neurologist advised that he did not agree with the diagnosis of idiopathic hypersomnolence. On 12 April 2012, CASA issued a medical certificate to Mr Eagle.
Regulation 67.175 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 provides that a person may apply to CASA for the issue of a medical certificate. CASA must issue a medical certificate if the applicant meets the requirements of Regulation 67.180(2), which relevantly provides that the requirements are: ‘(a) the applicant has undergone any relevant examinations that, in the opinion of CASA, are necessary in this particular case; and … (e) either: (i) the applicant meets the relevant medical standard; or (ii) if the applicant does not meet that medical standard – to the extent to which he or she does not meet the standard is not likely to endanger the safety of air navigation …’
On 12 April 2012, Mr Eagle filed an amended statement of claim seeking damages from CASA. On 18 September 2014, the Federal Court of Australia dismissed the application. It held that in the circumstances of Mr Eagle’s history and medical opinions, the mere receipt of a clinical opinion could not be considered sufficient to provide the requisite satisfaction before Mr Eagle could be issued with a medical certificate. The Court also held that the implied duty as alleged by Mr Eagle, to issue a medical certificate without unreasonable delay, was inconsistent with CASA’s statutory obligations, which required it to regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration and to issue a medical certificate only if it would not be likely to have an adverse effect on the safety of air navigation.
Ekinci v Civil Aviation Safety Authority  FCAFC 180
On 24 January 2014, CASA cancelled the air operator certificates (AOCs) of Air Combat Australia Pty Ltd and Cloud Nine Helicopters Pty Ltd, and the certificate of approval (CoA) of Cloud Nine Helicopters. It also suspended the flight crew licences of the appellant (Reha Ekinci) and cancelled his aircraft engineer licence, chief pilot approvals, chief flying instructor appointment and endorsement training approvals.
On 27 June 2014, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decided the preferable decision was not to cancel the AOCs and CoA but to impose conditions on all certificates which prevented Mr Ekinci from holding the position of chief executive officer and required employment of a licensed aircraft engineer other than him. Mr Ekinci appealed the AAT’s decision to the Federal Court. CASA cross-appealed the decision.
On 23 December 2014, the Federal Court of Australia allowed the appeal and cross-appeal, in part. It held that the AAT’s decision to impose conditions on the AOCs and CoA was not illogical or unreasonable in the legal sense. Having attained the relevant satisfaction that a holder of an authorisation was not a fit and proper person to have the responsibilities and exercise and perform the functions and duties associated with such an authorisation, CASA was entitled to suspend the authorisation for such a period it considered to be appropriate and without necessarily having to take some additional step which was designed to ensure that the person will be fit and proper in the relevant sense at the expiration of a suspension period.
It also held the combined effect of sections 28(1)(a) and (b)(ii), (iii) and (iv) of the Civil Aviation Act required CASA (and the AAT) to be satisfied that the chain of command of both Air Combat and Cloud Nine was appropriate to ensure that their operations would be carried out safely and that the employees and ‘key personnel’ (which is defined in section 28(3) to include a person who carries out the duties of a chief executive officer) have the appropriate experience safely to conduct those operations under the AOC before CASA can lawfully issue an AOC.
Having regard to the evidence and the AAT’s findings regarding Mr Ekinci’s conduct and lack of fitness and propriety, it was open to the AAT to conclude that Mr Ekinci was not an appropriate person to be involved in the senior management of the two companies in order to satisfy the requirements of sections 28(1)(a) and (b) of the Act. However, it found procedural fairness required the AAT to put Mr Ekinci on notice that it was contemplating making an order imposing conditions on the AOCs and to provide him with an opportunity to respond, by calling evidence as to the effect of such conditions and by making submissions.
CASA’s legal costs for 2014–15 are outlined in Table B.14 on page 218.
Coroners have the authority to investigate deaths, identify other injuries and make recommendations that may prevent deaths and non-fatal injuries. Coroners’ findings vary from brief descriptions about the place of death, the identity of the deceased and the cause of death, through to detailed descriptions of the circumstances leading to the death and detailed recommendations concerning what could be done to prevent similar deaths and injuries. Such recommendations may deal with the administration of aviation safety by CASA.
CASA’s Accident Investigation Review Committee is responsible for reviewing, and where appropriate acting on, coronial inquest findings and recommendations.
Table B.8 on page 216 shows the number of coronial inquiries that involved CASA in each year from 2010–11 to 2014–15.
Reports by the Auditor-General
In 2014–15, one report involving CASA was tabled by the Australian National Audit Office. The report was a performance review of business continuity management in CASA, the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Services. The report, ANAO Report No.6 2014–15, Business Continuity Management, was tabled in Parliament on 6 November 2014.
In line with policy requirements and expectations of the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), the report acknowledged that CASA had established relevant governance structures; assessed risks; identified critical functions, services or assets; undertaken business impact analyses; and developed business continuity plans. CASA had also assessed its business continuity risk at an entity-wide level, and developed a business continuity management program to manage its risk exposure.
Being a Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 body at that time, CASA was not required to comply with the PSPF, but had nonetheless developed its business continuity management approach generally in line with the PSPF and with a focus on applying a risk management approach to develop and implement a program tailored and relevant to CASA’s business objectives and operating environment.
The report provided CASA with three minor findings to better support the management of disruptions. CASA appreciated the opportunity to participate in the review and recognises the continuous improvement that can be gained through the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report.
Reports by the Australian Information Commissioner
No decisions made by the Australian Information Commissioner during the reporting period had a significant effect on CASA’s operations.
Investigations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Three investigations involving CASA were initiated by the Ombudsman in 2014–15, one of which was closed during that period.
In addition, the Ombudsman initiated an investigation under its ‘own-motion’ powers into CASA’s processes for responding to coronial recommendations, publishing a report on his findings and recommendations in April 2015 (Responding to Coronial Recommendations: The Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s Regulation of General Aviation, Report No. 02/2015).
The Ombudsman did not review the substance of CASA’s responses to coronial recommendations, but looked exclusively at the processes CASA used to consider, action and respond to such recommendations. The Ombudsman made eight recommendations. CASA agreed with six of the recommendations fully. It agreed with one recommendation with some qualifications and with another recommendation ‘in principle’.
In his conclusion to the report, the Ombudsman commented:
CASA deserves credit for its open and constructive response to our investigation and to our recommendations. It has given a number of undertakings that we are confident will improve the transparency and accountability of its responses to coronial recommendations.
Reviews of regulatory decisions
Certain types of regulatory decisions made by CASA are subject to merits review by the AAT. Merits review involves the reconsideration of an administrative decision. On the facts before it, the tribunal decides whether the correct decision (or, in a discretionary area, the preferable decision) has been made in accordance with the applicable law.
A person who is the subject of a CASA decision may apply directly to the Federal Court for a review of the decision under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. In some cases, a decision of the AAT may be reviewed in the Federal Court.
Tables B.5 to B.7 on pages 214 to 215 provide details of AAT merits reviews of CASA regulatory decisions, the categories of CASA decisions appealed in the AAT, and applications to the Federal Court for judicial review of regulatory decisions.
The Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) offers industry a transparent and accessible mechanism for making complaints about the administrative actions or services provided by CASA staff, delegates or authorised persons.
The ICC reviews the complaints to determine whether the actions or services were wrong, unjust, unlawful, discriminatory or unfair. The ICC operates within governance arrangements that support a complaints-handling process aimed at resolving problems between members of the industry and CASA officers and ensuring that any deficiencies in CASA’s processes and procedures are identified and rectified.
In line with the Government’s response to the ASRR’s recommendation 37, the ICC now reports directly to the CASA Board.
Complaints in 2014–15
In 2014–15, the ICC received 124 complaints, a reduction compared to 2013–14, when 135 complaints were received. Of the complaints received in 2014–15, 75 were investigated by the ICC, 37 were referred to other areas of CASA and 12 complaints about the aviation industry were not within CASA’s jurisdiction.
The number of out-of-jurisdiction complaints decreased significantly (by 71.4 per cent), from 42 in 2013–14 to 12 in 2014–15. This may be attributable, in part, to the ongoing availability of the online aviation information resource centre.
As in previous years, the majority of complaints (64.5 per cent) related to the activities of the Industry Permissions Division (39) and Operations Division (41).
Complaints for the Industry Permissions Division decreased (by 48.7 per cent), from 76 in 2013–14 to 39 in 2014–15. Complaints for the Operations Division remained fairly constant, with 45 complaints in 2013–14 and 41 in 2014–15.
Of the 39 complaints received for the Industry Permissions Division, 18 related to aviation medicine.
Figure 10 shows the complaints received by CASA from 2012–13 to 2014–15 and the categories into which those complaints fell.
Figure 10 Complaints, by category, 2012–13 to 2014–15
Processing of complaints
The ICC aims to finalise straightforward complaints within 10 business days of receipt of the complaint. For more complex complaints, the ICC aims to finalise the complaint within three months.
The average number of days it took the ICC to finalise a complaint in 2014–15 was 30 business days. Eight complaints took longer than three months to finalise, due to their complexity and the additional time required to investigate. Wherever possible, interim measures were implemented to assist the complainant during the course of the investigation.
In 2013–14, a more sophisticated complaint-handling database was under development. However, this project was unable to be realised in 2014–15, due to technical issues.
The information in Table 15 reflects complaint data for the reporting period.
Table 15 Number of days a complaint remained open in 2014–15
|<10 days||<20 days||<30 days||<40 days||<50 days||>60 days|
|Number of complaints||54||1||9||2||6||18|
Strategies to address the causes of complaints
The largest category of complaints about the Industry Permissions Division related to the processing of medical certificates. As was the case in previous years, complaints about medical certificates were approximately evenly divided between complaints about the administration of the application (including lost paperwork, delays and the quality of information provided) and medical decision-making.
A common complaint in relation to medical decision-making was that insufficient weight was given to the views of the applicant’s designated aviation medical examiner or treating physician, particularly in cases where those medical practitioners supported the issuance of a non-restricted medical certificate; or that too many additional medical reports were required before a decision could be made by CASA.
In previous years, the ICC has received a number of complaints with concerns about the explanations given in decisions restricting the scope of medical certification. Aviation Medicine Branch has worked with Legal Services Division to assist in this aspect of service delivery. Decision letters that outline the refusal or suspension of a medical certificate are now drafted with the assistance of the legal area, with this procedural change resulting in a decrease in the number of complaints lodged with the ICC in relation to this issue.
To address other concerns and complaints made about aviation medicine, CASA is currently undertaking a full review of its aviation medicine function. This review includes:
- working with the Aviation Medicine Branch to develop a communication and engagement strategy for the aviation medicine function
- reviewing aviation medicine complaints and developing updated guidance materials and web information for common aviation medicine issues
- completing an internal review of CASA’s approach to developing aviation medicine regulatory standards, policy and guidelines, and identifying recommendations for improvement
- improving the business processes within the Aviation Medicine Branch
- introducing a new online system that will enable a designated aviation medical examiner to provide medical certificates to the applicant at the time of the medical examination, for those applicants meeting the required criteria
- providing a report to the CASA Board.
Complaints about remotely piloted aircraft
Complaints relating to applications for remotely piloted aircraft increased in 2014–15. In particular, during the latter half of 2014–15, a number of complaints about the length of time taken to process applications were received. The rise in complaints has coincided with a rise in the number of applications received for remotely piloted aircraft.
The remotely piloted aircraft systems team employed four new inspectors, improved its processes and published additional explanatory material on the CASA website in the first half of 2015. The number of complaints has decreased significantly since these initiatives were implemented.