Review by the Dirctor of Aviation Safety
Review by the Director of Aviation Safety
The operational environment for the regulation of aviation safety is dynamic and ever-changing. It is up to CASA to identify and make the improvements necessary to ensure that we are the most effective regulator we can be.
In 2011–12, the foundations were laid to support a number of key areas of operation within CASA. For example:
- new systems were introduced to support human resource management, financial management information and e-learning
- the standardisation of surveillance activities was increased through the development of a surveillance manual
- the majority of regional offices have transitioned to certificate management teams
- a dedicated training facility was opened in the Brisbane office
- a new enterprise agreement was endorsed.
Strong safety oversight
The year started with a significant aviation safety outcome as CASA took action to suspend the Air Operator’s Certificate of Tiger Airways Australia on 1 July 2011 (see page 27).
This action was not taken lightly and was based on a thorough investigation and careful assessment of a great deal of information. Having formed the view that the continued operations of Tiger Airways at that time would have constituted a serious and imminent risk to air safety, CASA acted responsibly to suspend the certificate.
Taking such action certainly did not give anyone in CASA any pleasure. Nonetheless, it was the sort of decision that CASA, as Australia’s aviation safety regulator, sometimes has to make to ensure that Australia has a safe aviation industry.
The fact that we took this action against a large regular public transport operator should not be considered remarkable. CASA has a range of tools available to achieve required safety outcomes and uses those tools when necessary to protect safety. No operator or authorisation holder is immune or exempt from this.
In another significant safety decision, CASA suspended the Air Operator’s Certificate of Alligator Airways in early May 2012, having formed the belief that to allow the airline to continue to fly would pose a serious and imminent risk to air safety.
The work by CASA inspectors was made more challenging during this particular action due to the sheer distance between the airline’s base in Kununurra, Western Australia, and CASA’s offices.
It is a credit to our staff all over Australia who, when enforcement actions such as these arise, spend extended periods away from their families in order to leave no stone unturned during the surveillance period and in the preparation of supporting documentation. I am proud of the way in which CASA staff support one another during these peak times so that CASA’s business-as-usual activities can continue.
In both cases, CASA utilised the multidisciplinary certificate management team approach. As at 30 June 2012, the certificate management team methodology was in place in all CASA regional offices except the Sydney office, which will transition to the certificate management team approach in August 2012.
Another significant aviation occurrence during the year was the decision by Qantas to ground its fleet in October 2011, following escalating protected industrial action. CASA played no part in this decision by Qantas, but was obliged to conduct a return-to-service exercise at the conclusion of the process to ensure that the aircraft that had been grounded were safe to fly. This included ramp checks by Operations Division inspectors at all mainland capital cities, and flight deck surveillance by flying operations inspectors. CASA was satisfied that Qantas had effectively managed safety throughout this period.
Updating the rules is part of the continual improvement of safety; rules cannot remain static—as safety knowledge and understanding improves, the rules must evolve to reflect better safety practices and to incorporate new technology. Developing and implementing new standards and regulations are a key priority for CASA. In April 2012, the Operations Regulations Implementation Division was established to oversee and facilitate the transition to new regulations.
Implementation of the new maintenance regulations was partly undertaken during 2011–12 and is now scheduled for completion by 2013. This program of work is the largest of its type ever undertaken by CASA.
Industry training was conducted for more than 260 maintenance organisations during 2011–12. This major achievement was a credit to CASA’s people, who travelled all over Australia to meet with industry and explain what the new maintenance regulations will mean, and to the many participants who took the time to get involved and raise their questions in a face-to-face setting.
Although a number of maintenance organisations, maintenance training organisations and regular public transport operators have made the transition to the new regulations, many more remain to be converted.
CASA is making appreciable progress toward finalising the new regulations covering operations and licensing. This will build on the new suite of maintenance regulations and help harmonise us with the rest of the world. It will, however, represent a change for the industry and CASA.
The successful implementation of the new regulations will be a task that requires skilful work by all CASA people, and I am confident that we can meet this challenge in the months and years ahead.
Safety Systems Office
In 2011–12, CASA’s Safety Systems Office completed its first year of operation and supported CASA’s three key safety-related committees: the Safety Review Committee, the Safety Action Group and the Accident Investigation Review Committee.
The Safety Review Committee is CASA’s peak internal body for consideration of operational safety issues aimed at achieving continuous improvement to the overall safety level of civil aviation activities in Australia. It is also responsible for making recommendations for actions or interventions that will address emerging adverse trends and risk factors.
A key part of the work undertaken by the Safety Systems Office during 2011–12 was the development of the CASA surveillance manual, as part of a project to complete a detailed review of CASA’s surveillance policy, processes and procedures.
General aviation task force
In September 2011, CASA established a general aviation task force, to help us engage with people involved in general aviation and get their views on how CASA regulates aspects of various general aviation operations (see page 28).
The general aviation task force is an important initiative that recognises the significant changes and challenges facing the general aviation sector. It is about helping CASA to deliver intended safety outcomes to the highest possible level, without imposing unnecessary burdens on the aviation industry.
With the assistance of the task force, CASA is sharpening its focus on general aviation pilot licensing requirements, the need for an Air Operator’s Certificate for certain kinds of aerial work operations, the need for full drug and alcohol management plans for very small general aviation operations, and aspects of aerial agriculture operations.
The establishment of the general aviation task force reflects our commitment to ensuring that our regulatory processes are effective, appropriate and responsive to genuine safety-related concerns. I thank the many interested members of the general aviation sector who have participated in the task force’s presentations around Australia.
Change to pilot medicals
In a major addition to the way CASA manages pilot medicals in Australia (see page 110), in June 2012 we put in place a simplified and streamlined medical certificate system for pilots who operate aircraft for private purposes. This was done after wide consultation and a detailed analysis of the safety issues.
Pilots who qualify to use the new system can obtain their medical certificates from any general practitioner, instead of having to visit a designated aviation medical examiner and apply for a class 2 medical.
For many pilots this will reduce the time and cost of obtaining a medical certificate. The new system is open to all CASA-licensed pilots who operate aircraft in a private or recreational capacity, subject to a number of important safety restrictions. Our aim is to balance safety with ease of access.
New mentoring program for CASA women
I was very pleased to introduce CASA’s first structured mentoring program for women in November 2011 (see page 57). This program is a part of CASA’s ongoing commitment to attracting and retaining the highest quality, skilled and professional people, and providing a work environment within which they can thrive and be successful. This is yet another way of exemplifying how CASA stands by its core organisational values, including, in this instance, ‘We value our people’.
CASA already has a number of high quality and high performing women in managerial and supervisory roles, all of whom have secured their positions on merit. As the number of women who make career choices that take them into what have traditionally been predominantly male roles increases, I fully anticipate that more women will win managerial and supervisory posts in those domains on merit.
Programs such as this support and encourage women to develop their skills and experience in management and leadership.
Under the new program, 20 of our female employees were matched with senior mentors and provided with a structured program of self-development opportunities.
CASA recorded an operating deficit of $1.8 million in 2011–12, after recording a $1.2 million deficit in 2010–11.
The Australian Government has allocated an additional $89.9 million over four years (2010–11 to 2013–14) to fund additional aviation safety activities. This is achieved through an increase in the aviation fuel excise of 0.702 cents per litre from 2.854 cents per litre to 3.556 cents per litre.
CASA is budgeting for a break-even position for 2012–13, with small surpluses expected in the coming years.
Outcomes not achieved
The aerodrome audit program fell behind schedule due to factors such as widespread flooding and staff illness and absence. CASA’s Airspace and Aerodrome Regulation Division is making progress to get the audit schedule back on track.
The Office of Airspace Regulation planned to complete the national review of group/sector studies by the end of June 2012. Five of these studies are undergoing review and have not been finalised. CASA expects the remaining studies to be completed by the end of October 2012.
Due to some technical challenges in the integration of CASA systems, the web gateway project that was planned for 2011–12, to allow applicants to apply and pay for their regulatory services, was suspended. The future progress of this project will be dependent on the replacement of CASA’s Aviation Industry Regulatory System.
The CASA Corporate Plan 2012–13 to 2014–15 sets out our goals, strategies and initiatives to ensure that CASA meets the Government’s and the Australian public’s safety expectations.
The plan expresses what we have set out to achieve and how we will measure our performance to improve aviation safety in Australia and contribute to global aviation safety initiatives through the International Civil Aviation Organization.
CASA faces a number of demanding challenges in the period covered by the plan. To meet these challenges and deliver the best possible aviation safety outcomes for all Australians, we will need to work together as a motivated and cohesive team. Like other regulators, CASA must cope with the dynamics and pressures of industry, and the influence of the international and national economic environment.
We are faced with increasing levels of complexity through the entry into the market of low-cost and additional foreign operators; aircraft which are bigger, have greater fuel efficiency and are more technologically complex; greater competition for qualified staff; and an ageing general aviation aircraft fleet. On top of this, more people are flying each year.
Through everything we do as the Australian aviation safety regulator, we face these challenges and ensure that safety is always at the forefront of our regulatory decision making.
This year saw solid progress for CASA in laying the foundations for a more efficient, effective, consistent and standardised working environment within the organisation. I have been most encouraged by the progress made.
I am very proud of the enormous level of knowledge, skill and expertise within CASA and firmly believe that the individual and shared contributions that our people make every day are at the heart of what makes us an effective and well-regarded aviation safety regulator.
I thank all of CASA’s people for their hard work, passion and shared commitment as they do their very best to keep our skies safe for all air travellers.
John F. McCormick
Director of Aviation Safety