Helicopter Chief Flying Instructor Conference
CASA's Role in Improving the Flying Safety Standard
Speech to Helicopter Chief Flying Instructor Conference
Wednesday 8 September 2010
Thank you for the opportunity to address the 2010 Helicopter Chief Flying Instructor Conference.
This is a particularly important conference for a number of reasons.
Firstly, because it is an industry led initiative.
Secondly, because it represents a recognition that safety improvements must be driven by an industry with the right safety culture.
Thirdly, because it is an excellent opportunity for CFIs and Chief Pilots to meet and discuss matters of mutual interest, something we don't often get to do.
And finally, because the helicopter industry is probably the fastest growing and diverse segment of the aviation industry, with close to two helicopters being added to the registry every week.
The conference also presents an excellent opportunity for CASA to be here with you - not only present topics from our perspective - but to listen to the industry presentations and interact with you over the next two days.
In keeping with the theme of the conference of "Improving industry standards through cooperation and knowledge sharing", I would like to share with you CASA's perspective on some of the challenges facing the helicopter industry now and in the future and some of the challenges facing CASA.
When I joined CASA, I determined that we needed to realign the organisation to ensure that we clearly met the functions detailed in the Civil Aviation Act.
There are three key sections of the Act that I would like to highlight to you.
Section 3A of the Act states that our main purpose is to maintain, enhance and promote aviation safety with a particular emphasis on preventing aviation accidents and incidents.
Section 9 sets out our functions - including issuing licences, setting standards, conducting surveillance and enforcement, reviewing and analysing safety trends and risks, conducting safety education and to encourage the industry, particularly management, to accept responsibility for aviation safety and compliance.
Finally, section 9A states that when we perform our functions and exercise our powers we must regard safety of air navigation as our most important consideration.
Part of my strategy to ensure CASA continues to fulfil its functions of maintaining and enhancing aviation safety was to improve our own governance procedures, by strengthening the focus on CASA's purpose, policy and practice to achieve our optimal position.
Our Purpose is clear - Parliament and the Australian people expect CASA to maintain, enhance and promote aviation safety.
Our Policy is set by Government, and the Aviation White Paper contains many "navigation aids" that set out the direction we must take.
Practice is what we do to achieve our position. In this area, my focus has been on governance, efficiency, effectiveness, consistency and standardisation. In this area we have made significant achievements, but there remains work to be done.
Underlying all this is CASA's great strength, our people. I continue to be impressed by the depth of experience and the professional dedication our people demonstrate.
Through all of this, and in particular through our people, we will achieve the Position we want. That is to strengthen our capability to oversight industry and be a world class regulator.
In addition to the broad purpose and functions given to CASA under Act, CASA - through our Corporate Plan - establishes goals we are to achieve during the next two years. One of the Goals identified is an Enhanced focus on regulating aviation safety, and a key feature to achieving this goal is an increased level of surveillance of the helicopter industry.
In addition to increased surveillance, one of the key areas for the helicopter industry that will help to promote safety is flying training. Flying training sets the standards for the next generation of pilots. By ensuring that from the outset pilots have a high safety standard they will be able to influence ALL sectors of the helicopter industry, which have their own unique set of challenges.
Helicopter Sector Challenges
In the past two decades there has been ongoing and significant growth in the number of helicopters operating in Australia. The largest change has been in the multi-engine offshore and medium sized single engine end of the market.
There has been a 58 percent increase in the size of the Australian helicopter fleet since 2004, and the proportion of helicopters has risen from 9 percent to almost 13 percent of the entire Australian aircraft fleet.
This is no small feat considering that this includes the period of the worst set of global economic conditions since the Great Depression.
In addition to the increase in numbers, new helicopters have introduced modern technology to the helicopter industry, including glass cockpits, composite construction and low inertia rotor systems. This will require new approaches to training, in a similar way that the glass cockpit has changed the way the fixed wing training is evolving.
The oil and gas industry is driving the introduction of larger modern helicopters, with expansion in this industry looking set to continue for a number of years. This expansion will draw on the pool of experienced pilots in the remainder of the helicopter industry, increasing competition for an already limited number of pilots.
The Emergency Services sector is continuing to modernise its fleet of helicopters. The introduction of Night Vision Goggles has taken the sector to a 24 hour a day emergency response service. The community at large expect the helicopters to be available, but at the same time expect the highest levels of safety.
The mining industry is looking towards the EMS operations to ensure that they meet their duty of care to the workers in remote operations. In the near future we may see the larger mines having their own dedicated EMS helicopters stationed close to the mine sites.
This time every year sees an influx of applications for the addition of fire fighting to AOCs. This draws heavily on CASA staff, and we are all too aware of the time pressures to meet the start of the fire season.
The larger number of aircraft being employed each year to combat fires requires a greater detail to safety. Last season saw a fatal helicopter accident, and a near fatal mid-air collision. Lessons must be learned and safety measures applied without the addition of restrictive legislation.
The pilots flying the fire fighting helicopters are becoming specialists in their own right.
Mustering is still seen by many as the start of their career. The past few years had seen a decline in the number of fatal accidents occurring in this sector of the industry. However, there appears to again be an increase in the under recording of hours on mustering helicopters. In the past, this has led to a high level of accidents and a poor image for the helicopter industry as a whole, as the public do not differentiate between the sectors of the industry.
From a regulators point of view the flying school is the place in which the whole safety ethos of this industry must commence. The lessons learnt at an early stage are what a pilot will take with them for their entire aviation career.
CASA in the past two years has been instrumental in redefining the standards required to possess a licence. This commenced with the formation of the Flight Training and Testing Office (FTTO) and focused on the fixed wing Grade 3 and helicopter Grade 2 Instructor Ratings.
At the commencement of testing by the FTTO there was a high rate of failure for the Grade 3 applicants. To their credit the flying training organisations reacted positively with the standard of applicant being presented now of a much higher standard then when the FTTO commenced it’s testing.
Of increasing concern is the ageing of the Grade 1 Instructors and ATO's, with the average age being closer to 60 than 40. The helicopter community must promote instructing as a career and not just a stepping stone, otherwise the experience levels of our instructors will continue to fall. This in turn will again have an impact on standards.
CP & CFI applicant knowledge deficiencies
Flying Operations Inspectors conducting Chief Pilot interviews are noticing a falling trend in the knowledge of the applicants. The areas of deficiency are aligned with the Day VFR syllabus and are considered the minimum acceptable standard to hold a CPL.
The majority of the applicants are failing prior to the conduct of the check flight. The most common areas of failure are:
- Inability to interpret a TAF or Area Forecast
- Inability to prepare a flight plan, including calculating minimum fuel required.
- Inability to determine the MTOW and In Ground Effect (IGE) and Out of Ground Effect (OGE) hover capabilities for conditions taken from the TAF or actual conditions on the day of interview.
Most failures are at a level below that required to pass a CPL(H) licence test and in some instances have resulted in the applicant having their licence suspended.
In the case of Chief Flying Instructors the same trend is being noticed. The candidates are failing in the general knowledge sections of the tests.
The majority are in the periphery of instructing, topics not generally considered as the main part of the Instructor, e.g. Helicopter performance, meteorology, flight planning. It is interesting to note that the areas of deficiency being identified in Instructors are the same as those in which Chief Pilot candidates are failing.
Differences in sector flight test pass/fail rates
There is an emerging difference in the pass/fail rates on flight tests between the fixed wing and helicopter sector of the Industry. Roger Weeks will discuss this further in his presentation and I’m sure will be a good point of discussion for the remainder of the conference.
High accident rate
Relative to other sectors of the industry, helicopters have a higher rate of accidents. The statistics to 2009 show that helicopters made up 12 percent of the fleet and account for 25 percent of the accidents. And as I highlighted earlier, the industry is only getting larger.
A study of the causes of these accidents highlight that most of the fatal accidents are occurring in the areas of: wire strike, vortex ring/overpitching, helicopter maintenance and CFIT. All these accidents can be prevented by improved training and concentrating on more than just the manipulative skill of the pilot.
In oversighting the helicopter sector CASA faces challenges of its own.
The industry as a whole is familiar with the problems of an ageing fleet, ageing workforce and a more difficult economic climate. CASA is not immune to the problems facing the aviation industry and has some unique challenges of its own.
Recruitment and retention of helicopter inspectors and examiners
Since 2005 CASA has seen a steady decline in the number of helicopter FOIs from 15 to the current level of 10. At the same there has been a steady increase in the number of AOCs to approximately 240.
CASA has for the past two years continued to run a recruiting campaign to attract Flying Operations Inspectors and Flight Training Examiners to its ranks. Due to the expansion of the helicopter industry the response has not been overwhelming. The end result is the workload of current FOIs is increasing, so I ask that you have some patience and understanding when dealing with your FOIs. CASA will continue to recruit FOI’s to meet the need of an expanding industry.
I have placed a strong emphasis on the completion of the regulatory reform program, and those parts related to the helicopter industry (Part 133 and 138) are well under way.
CASA will be running workshops for Part 138 in the future and I invite you to take part in these workshops. By taking part you will have your say on the future regulations that affect your industry.
So, back to the topic of my speech: "CASA’s role in improving flying safety standards". How do we do it?
Firstly, we don't and can't do it by ourselves. The industry must continue to drive its own safety culture, and conferences such as this are welcome developments in achieving this.
What CASA does, particularly in relation to the helicopter sector, is to provide oversight through our network of Regional Offices. We also formed the National Helicopter office to ensure your sector received the focus and attention it needs. The Flying Standards Branch continues with the safety initiatives in the flying training sector by working with Approved Testing Officers. Our Standards Division is working on helicopter regulations. And, of course our safety promotion and education efforts are widespread.
Let me conclude by congratulating the organisers of this conference and all of you for taking the time away from your organisations to attend this important safety event.