Review by the Director of Aviation Safety
John McCormick, CASA Director of Aviation Safety
I am pleased to present the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s Annual Report for 2008–09, the first during my tenure as Director of Aviation Safety. The report covers the end of the term of my predecessor, Bruce Byron, and the period since my appointment in March 2009.
Since commencing at CASA I have spent a great deal of time listening to managers and staff and external stakeholders, reviewing the way our organisation works, and critically examining our governance structure. As the information in this annual report will attest, CASA is a dynamic organisation with dedicated staff possessing a depth of skills and experience.
There is room for improvement in the area of CASA’s governance—a critical function that defines the organisation’s standards and procedures and provides the framework for evaluating performance. I strongly believe that good governance underpins CASA’s ability to meet its obligations as defined under the Civil Aviation Act 1988. Improving CASA’s governance and associated processes and procedures was a key focus for me in the later part of 2008–09, leading me to make some minor adjustments to the CASA structure. These will be complemented by the new CASA Board, when both the new structure and the Board come into effect on 1 July 2009.
Section 9 of the Civil Aviation Act broadly defines CASA’s key role as the safety regulator of civil air operations. This is articulated in our high-level corporate vision statement of ‘safe skies for all’. Every person in the organisation, whether directly or indirectly, has a role in ensuring CASA achieves its vision, and 2008–09 was no exception.
I firmly believe that CASA’s greatest resource is its people. In November 2008, CASA conducted an employee survey to assess the levels of engagement across the organisation. The results indicated that employees are passionate and engaged in their jobs, are committed to the organisation and are generally satisfied with the work that they do. As expected, there were also some areas that could be improved, and responding to the survey results was an element guiding the organisational realignment of CASA.
Like any organisation, CASA faces recruitment and retention challenges. One challenge of which I have become aware since commencing as Director of Aviation Safety is the age profile of the organisation. While it is critical that the work undertaken by CASA is done by skilled professionals with a great depth of experience in the field, this has meant that a significant proportion of CASA employees are at a similar age and may consider retirement within the next few years. This has the potential to leave a significant gap in CASA’s key operational staff unless we act now.
One of the strategies to mitigate this was the launch of the ‘career site’ on the CASA website, which was developed to attract candidates and improve recruitment outcomes. The site includes CASA’s selling points as an employer, a range of staff testimonials, an explanation of the recruitment process and recruitment tips. A number of national campaigns to attract greater pools of candidates (particularly for operational roles such as airworthiness inspectors and flying operations inspectors) were conducted during the year.
In October 2008, a new collective agreement was certified by the Workplace Authority to further strengthen our attractiveness to experienced staff and to validate our status as an employer of choice. The new agreement introduces significant additional benefits for staff, including a 4.0 per cent pay rise on certification, and further increases of 1.5 per cent in October 2008 and 4.0 per cent from 1 July 2009. The agreement also introduces extra increments in most employment classifications, improves access to carers leave and compassionate leave, and increases the paid maternity leave provisions from 12 weeks to 14 weeks. It also includes the requirement for CASA to establish defined work level standards for all employment classifications, to provide greater role clarity for all staff, and improved provisions for access to professional development opportunities.
Retaining existing staff was also a key focus, and in 2008–09 CASA’s learning and development specialists developed and implemented a range of new programs to enhance staff capability in areas such as leadership, regulatory skills and technical expertise. This was in addition to maintaining the existing programs, including the Diploma/Certificate IV in Aviation Safety Regulation.
Strengthening and improving operational oversight and surveillance was a key priority in 2008–09. The Australian Government introduced legislation to improve CASA’s enforcement powers across a number of areas, including consignment or carriage of dangerous goods and the oversight of foreign aircraft operations. CASA inspectors also increased activity on the ground throughout the year, including a two-week intensive surveillance sweep across northern Australia in June 2009. The ‘Croc Sweep’ covered more than 12,000 kilometres and involved 18 CASA staff conducting 182 ramp checks across 25 aerodromes. The exercise was a great success in terms of identifying safety issues and following up with enforcement action where appropriate, as well as enabling safety education to be provided to operators in the more remote parts of Australia who would not normally have such an opportunity.
In addition to ensuring compliance within the industry, CASA is committed to encouraging growth in the industry and facilitating access for new entrants to the market where appropriate. In January 2009, after an 18-month assessment process, Virgin Blue trading as V Australia was issued with an Australian air operator’s certificate. This was the culmination of significant effort on the part of a small team of staff in CASA’s Brisbane operational headquarters.
The Civil Aviation Act outlines CASA’s safety-related functions, which include encouraging the aviation industry to accept its obligation to maintain high standards of safety, by providing comprehensive education and training programs and accurate and timely safety advice.
The effective promotion of CASA’s safety messages is almost as important as the messages themselves.
Thanks to the efforts of CASA’s technical specialists and safety promotion and communications team, 2008–09 saw unprecedented activity in this area. This included the development and communication of safety education products and messages such as the Aerodrome Safety Instructor Pack, education materials addressing recurring maintenance safety issues in the workplace, and the Safety Behaviours Human Factors for Pilots instructor pack with DVD, resource and facilitator guides and pilot’s workbook. The CASA online store was set up to enable industry members to more easily obtain these and other safety education products.
CASA staff also had a strong presence at a number of public forums, including the Avalon Air Show and the Australian Women Pilots’ Association Awards. In addition, CASA’s Flight Safety Australia magazine, widely acknowledged as the aviation industry’s most authoritative aviation safety magazine, now reaches over 86,000 subscribers and aviation reference number (ARN) holders. CASA also reached an unprecedented number of aviators across Australia, particularly in rural and remote areas, through 104 aviation safety seminars held during the year.
CASA’s program of regulatory development achieved some significant milestones in 2008–09. One notable example was the finalisation of the new Civil Aviation Safety Regulation 1988 (CASR) Part 99, which establishes a framework for the development of drug and alcohol management plans covering persons involved in safety sensitive aviation activities, and a regime for random drug and alcohol tests conducted by or on behalf of CASA. Also significant were amendments to Civil Aviation Orders 82.3 and 82.5, which lay out the requirements for safety management systems and human factors training for regular public transport operations, and amendments to Part 5 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, which introduced the multi-crew pilot licence. Substantial progress was also made during the year on the suite of maintenance regulations and the accompanying Manual of Standards. In addition to introducing new regulations, I am also committed to revising existing regulations to ensure they remain relevant.
In addition to its key function of regulating aviation safety, CASA has a role in facilitating the development of the safety capabilities, skills and services of the industry ‘for the benefit of the Australian community and for export’, under section 9(3)(e) of the Civil Aviation Act.
To this end, in 2008–09 CASA worked to assist the Australian industry to gain access to new markets, through the type certification of new products in Australia, and the facilitation of bilateral working arrangements for the recognition of Australian products and parts in other countries. Of note is Australia’s Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement with the United States, which is currently being amended to enable recognition of Australian parts manufacturer approvals in the United States. Agreement on the technical wording and intent of the amendments was reached in 2008–09, and I look forward to the formalisation of the amendments in the second half of 2009–10.
Also significant was the signing of a working arrangement with the Civil Aviation Authority of China, to enable the Australian certification of the Jabiru J160-C aircraft, engines and propellers to be recognised in China. This recognition opens up enormous market potential for the Australian manufacturer, and has been the catalyst for discussions around the possible development of an arrangement for mutual acceptance of airworthiness certification more broadly between China and Australia. Similar negotiations with Brazil, in relation to mutual recognition of airworthiness certification, were also initiated during the year.
Closer to home, CASA invested significant resources to assist our Pacific neighbours with their safety oversight, signing a working arrangement for the provision of technical assistance and expertise on a cost-recovery basis with the Pacific Aviation Safety Office on 15 October 2008. CASA also continued to provide support to Indonesia through the Australian Government’s Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Package. This included delivering comprehensive training for 54 Indonesian flying operations and airworthiness inspectors, assisting Indonesia to conduct en route surveillance and systems audits on 12 of its aviation operators, and facilitating a small number of industry education activities in Indonesia.
CASA airworthiness specialists also facilitated the growth of the Australian industry through testing of new aircraft child restraints, aircraft structures, evaluation of flight simulators, and type certification of new products and parts.
The year ahead
Our priorities for the year ahead will be to bed down CASA’s new structure, and refocus on our core function of regulating aviation safety. I am committed to implementing the necessary processes and governance to ensure that greater consistency of the interpretation of legislation and regulations is achieved, thus enhancing the overall standard of our regulatory activity.
The direction from the Australian Government through the Aviation White Paper will also guide activity in the coming year. Indications from the Aviation Green Paper are that, in addition to strengthening governance arrangements, CASA will be expected to increase its emphasis on safety management systems, accelerate the finalisation of the regulatory reform process, and continue to maintain a high standard of aviation safety in the context of global developments.
The year 2009–10 will also see a greater focus on the safety oversight of the general aviation and sport and recreational aviation sectors. A significant proportion of Australian aviation activities—and, sadly, aviation fatalities—takes place in these sectors. To improve safety outcomes in these sectors I am committed to establishing a greater CASA presence in regions where there is a lot of general aviation activity and where a considerable number of accidents have taken place in recent years, such as regional and remote areas across the north of Australia. We have also established a new sport and recreational aviation advisory body, commencing in July 2009, which brings together the representative organisations of the sport and recreational sector, who collectively represent around 47 per cent of aviation activity in Australia. It is critical that the views of such a large proportion of the industry are heard and that necessary safety actions are taken by CASA.
I am committed to working productively with the aviation industry.
July 2009 will see the introduction of the new CASA Board, consisting of Chair Allan Hawke and members Trevor Danos, Helen Gillies and David Gray. I am eagerly anticipating the influence that the Board will have in improving aviation safety outcomes for Australians. I am committed to working with the Board to create a stronger CASA for the future through robust and comprehensive governance.
I look forward to my next annual report introduction being one that reports on the significant achievements of 2009–10, for which the groundwork was laid in 2008–09.
Director of Aviation Safety