Review by the Director of Aviation Safety
Given the significant changes for CASA in the last year, it seems appropriate to reflect on the performance in the past year and provide some thoughts on where I think CASA will go in the coming year.
At the outset, I must say I am very proud of the tremendous progress made by CASA over the past 12 months. The past year was one of focusing on enhancing aviation safety.
CASA has been restructured to align CASA with the Civil Aviation Act 1988. As Australia’s aviation safety regulator, we are striving to become more efficient and effective. As I have always said, CASA must be a regulator that is focused on its legislated safety-related functions and responsibilities and on delivering a consistent message to industry on safety and related regulatory matters. To this end, CASA needs to refocus its limited resources on the safety functions outlined in the Civil Aviation Act.
The goals I established for CASA during 2009 will enable us to strengthen our commitment to do our very best to lift aviation safety in Australia to even higher levels.
Enhanced focus on regulating aviation safety
With an enhanced focus on regulating aviation safety during the year, CASA has strengthened its specialist surveillance capability, including helicopter surveillance, dangerous goods oversight and en-route surveillance of foreign operators.
Four satellite offices have been established across northern Australia, in Horn Island, Broome, Gove and Kununurra. The location of the offices allows CASA to further extend its surveillance reach on a more permanent basis, with a greater on-the-ground presence for local operators, pilots and aircraft maintenance personnel.
To further strengthen CASA’s presence in northern Australia, CASA commenced a post-implementation review of the satellite offices. The scope of the exercise will be to establish the level of surveillance being conducted in northern Australia and to determine the feasibility of establishing CASA satellite offices in other areas of Australia.
We have implemented changes to the operating procedures around non-towered aerodromes and brought our Class D airspace into line with international standards. To support the transition, CASA carried out its largest program of training and education, targeting the stakeholders at General Aviation Aerodrome Procedures (GAAP) and Class D aerodromes—aircraft operators, pilots, aerodrome operators and air traffic controllers—to heighten their awareness and understanding of the operational risks associated with flying at GAAP aerodromes. The feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are hoping to build on the campaign style of education and communication for future major regulatory changes.
Many of the aviation safety regulations have been reviewed and revised, and that process will continue into 2010-11. The Aviation White Paper presented CASA with some significant regulatory reform challenges, including a requirement to complete the reform in 2011. ‘Regulatory reform’ is partly a misnomer—we currently have an effective set of regulations in place, but we are enhancing, modernising and refining them.
To date, approximately one-half of the 60 proposed CASR Parts have been made and implemented. The remaining half, however, form the core of our aviation safety regulatory program, comprising the Maintenance suite, Operational suite, and Flight Crew Licensing suite. The Sport and Recreational Aviation suite of CASRs are also yet to be finalised and implemented.
Finalising and implementing the core CASR suites involves a huge amount of work and considerable resources for CASA and the Attorney-General’s Department, not to mention the resources that industry has to devote to reviewing and commenting on our consultation documents and draft regulations. In addition to drafting the legal text of the new regulations, we also have to ensure that we publish adequate advisory and guidance material, supported by training and education materials, for both industry and CASA staff.
To ensure that the work is given appropriate attention, CASA and the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing have formed an Aviation Safety Regulation Taskforce to complete work in a timely manner.
The National Helicopter Office was established in August 2009 to create a centralised point of contact for industry and CASA staff. The office oversights night vision goggle approvals for helicopters and coordinates a range of helicopter activities.
The new Sport Aviation Office has been created to oversee the sport aviation sector and is functioning effectively. The office will be looking into creating a sport aviation policy framework and providing performance standards for the sector.
The Office of Airspace Regulation in CASA has a comprehensive work program and has already undertaken a number of airspace assessments at aerodromes across the country. CASA has developed the Airspace Reform Work Program for 2010-13 to reflect the priorities of the new Australian Airspace Policy Statement.
On 30 June 2010, CASA marked the first full year of our random drug and alcohol testing program. At that point, 10,193 alcohol tests and 9,484 drug tests had been undertaken by CASA. Industry has given positive feedback on the initiative, which will enhance an already strong safety culture.
A comprehensive training and professional development program has been put in place to ensure that our staff have ongoing training. Technical training was identified as an issue by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in its 2008 audit and in the US Federal Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) audit. We have responded by developing a comprehensive technical training and professional development program to enhance staff capability in areas such as leadership, regulatory skills and technical expertise.
More than 6,800 pilots took part in CASA’s popular AvSafety seminars during 2009-10. There were 151 seminars, mainly held in regional centres. Venues ranged from hangars and aero clubs to under the outback stars, delivered from the back of a ute. There were
12 seminar topics on offer, including situational awareness, controlled flight into terrain, violations of controlled airspace, fuel-related accidents and airmanship.
As well as delivering the seminars, CASA’s 11 member team of safety advisers made 1,032 onsite visits to aviation organisations and personnel. The visits covered a wide range of safety and regulatory issues and provided valuable education and training for pilots, engineers and other aviation personnel.
Ageing aircraft are an ongoing issue for Australian aviation, where there is an average age of 35 years for single and twin piston fixed-wing aircraft. CASA recognises that high replacement costs are forcing operators to continue using old aircraft. Industry’s challenge is to ensure that older aircraft are maintained to the same high standards as new aircraft, and actively manage the safety risks that inevitably develop as aircraft systems wear, break or leak. The 2009 Aviation White Paper identified ageing aircraft as a priority, and this year CASA commenced an Ageing Aircraft Management Plan to study and report on the issue.
Enhanced governance and operational efficiency
CASA has recently undertaken a number of reforms to strengthen its governance, including the development of an overall governance manual, the clearer documentation of policies, processes and procedures, the closer alignment of CASA’s organisational structure with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Act, targeted training to improve workforce capability, an enhanced accountability framework and the deployment of more resources to surveillance and oversight.
There have been changes to the senior management structure, with the creation of a new Deputy Director role focusing on the development of key aspects of Australia’s State Safety Program and CASA’s Safety Management System, and an Associate Director role overseeing the further development of CASA’s regulatory and governance policies and practices.
The Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) position has been reformed to provide members of the public and aviation industry with an identifiable and accessible means through which they can register complaints against CASA. To complement the role of the ICC, CASA has established a new committee, the Ethics and Conduct Committee, to ensure that allegations or complaints about employee behaviour that have not been able to be resolved through the normal managerial process are dealt with impartially, openly and expeditiously.
We re-established a Standards Division within CASA to be the focal point for the development of appropriate, clear and concise regulations and standards—a core function under the Civil Aviation Act.
We also established the Knowledge and Information Management Services Branch to develop and maintain governance, policies and procedures pertaining to information management, including data quality and management. The process of aligning policies and processes continues, with Stage 1 of the Business Modelling Project already completed. While there are organisational benefits, there is also a flow-on effect for industry. Alignment of policies and procedures across the organisation should go some way to ensuring consistent advice and service irrespective of the area of CASA that people are dealing with.
An audit of Australia’s air safety system by the US Federal Aviation Administration’s IASA program confirmed that Australia has retained its Category 1 IASA rating. The FAA was invited by Australia last year to conduct the audit of aviation safety regulation and oversight. Australia’s overall system of aviation safety oversight was found to meet applicable international standards.
CASA received independent assurance for its risk management approach by achieving a score of 8.4 out of 10 on the Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Survey. The total population average result for the 130 participating agencies was 6.3.
The Industry Permissions Division handled around 65,000 service requests, 45,000 phone inquiries, 7,000 new Aviation Reference Numbers, and 30,000 email inquiries.
CASA reviewed all Airworthiness Directives for aircraft below 5,700 kg to cancel unnecessary directives and thus reduce unnecessary administrative burden on industry.
CASA is making its mark helping the environment. We received a certificate of accreditation for our implementation of a waste management program consistent with the ACT Government’s ACTSmart Office Active Recycling program.
Enhanced relationships with key aviation participants
Australia’s general aviation parts manufacturing industry now has easier access to the lucrative US market. The Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement between Australia and the US has been amended to simplify the process for Australian companies exporting aviation products to the US.
The FAA carried out an extensive review of the Australian parts manufacturing approvals process run by CASA before agreeing to amend the implementation procedures for airworthiness in the bilateral agreement.
In February this year, CASA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The memorandum is an important formal framework that builds on the existing relationship between the two organisations.
Industry consultation and input are central to the success of all major initiatives that CASA drives. CASA is keen to engage industry consultative bodies, including the Standards Consultative Committee and the newly formed Regional Aviation Safety Forum, which together provide a variety of avenues to discuss aviation safety issues. The Regional Aviation Safety Forum, in particular, provides a more informal avenue to raise issues that are of concern to operators in the regions.
The inaugural Sport Aviation Safety Forum was established in July 2009 to bring together all the recreational aviation administration organisations as a group and to provide a single communication point for CASA.
The Australian Government has provided a significant budget boost to aviation safety, with an additional $89.9 million in new funding allocated over four years. The additional funding will be used for a range of purposes, including employing additional safety specialists, safety analysts, airworthiness inspectors and other staff. The additional funding will also support expanded and ongoing staff training and make permanent random alcohol and drug testing, as well as a number of other programs that until now had been funded on a temporary or ad hoc basis. The fund will also enable the Office of Airspace Regulation to continue to have the resources to effectively regulate Australia’s airspace.
Our way forward
It is fair to say that we are a very different organisation from the CASA of past years, and I have no doubt that CASA will be an even more effective organisation this time next year.
On the whole, there will be further changes as we go along but I do not expect them to be major; rather, there may be further improvements and streamlining as our processes become more efficient.
Like other safety regulators, CASA faces a number of challenges from a changing international environment, dynamic international and domestic industries and the need to ensure that safety-related considerations are at the forefront of our thinking.
CASA will continue its commitment to making further improvements to the way it operates and will strive to achieve its high-level goals.
As a high priority, work will continue to develop new standards and regulations. A number of the key parts of the CASR are now well advanced. CASA will stay abreast of change within the aviation industry by carefully analysing safety and operational data to look for trends and emerging risks which need to be addressed. This approach will further help to focus on CASA’s core activity—the regulation of aviation safety. CASA strives to be efficient in the processes it uses to deliver regulatory services, while not losing sight of its core safety objectives.
The success of any organisation depends very much on the quality of its people. CASA has a dedicated and professional staff who, through their commitment, knowledge and skills, contribute tangibly to aviation safety in Australia.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to our staff for their effort, for demonstrating CASA values to achieve common goals, and for their patience on a journey that has been challenging and sometimes difficult. I have witnessed their great willingness and enthusiasm to be part of the drive to revive CASA’s role and its functions and to make our organisation the nationally and internationally recognised exemplar of best practice in aviation policy, regulation and training it deserves to be.
In closing, I would like to leave you with words from the Aviation White Paper:
Safety is crucial to the aviation industry and must underpin every aspect of its operation. Safety needs to be at the foundation of every agency, every business and every flight.
While Australia has an enviable safety record, CASA is not taking future success as a given. The 100 million passengers who fly through our skies every year expect and deserve nothing less than our continued vigilance.
John McCormick, CASA
Director of Aviation Safety