Review by the Director of Aviation Safety
Everyone in aviation understands that safety is not static. The Australian aviation community must continually strive for improvement in order to meet safety challenges, today and in the future. That is why CASA, as Australia’s aviation safety regulator, needs to create a living safety regulation environment that continuously monitors, checks and improves safety performance.
CASA is a relatively small organisation with just under 790 staff. We have been working on ways to be smarter in how we use this small but talented pool of people. Everyone in CASA can take pride in the achievements of the past year.
Looking back on 2010–11, I can see that many programs, initiatives and activities have been successfully conducted, benefitting both aviation safety and the performance of CASA. Examples include:
- delivering the suite of maintenance regulations
- strengthening our safety oversight of key sectors
- providing targeted education to the aviation industry
- further refining our organisational structure to deliver efficiencies and enhance accountability
- processing approximately 90,000 applications for regulatory services
- introducing online learning for the aviation industry.
Enhanced focus on regulating aviation safety
New safety regulations
A major milestone in the revision of Australia’s aviation safety regulations was reached in 2010–11 with the making of a new and improved set of safety standards for the aviation maintenance industry under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR).
The regulations in the new maintenance suite cover continuing airworthiness requirements (CASR Part 42), maintenance personnel licensing (CASR Part 66), approved maintenance organisations (CASR Part 145) and maintenance training organisations (CASR Part 147).
The regulations will deliver a clearer focus on safety outcomes, while allowing maintenance organisations flexibility in the way they conduct their operations. Maintenance organisations will now work to a set of rules more closely aligned with those of other leading aviation nations.
The rules covering continuing airworthiness and maintenance organisations presently apply only to regular public transport aircraft and associated aeronautical products, and are being phased in over two years. Revised maintenance regulations for other sectors of aviation, such as charter, aerial work and private operations, will be developed at a later date, after wide consultation with participants in these sectors.
CASA conducted a comprehensive information and education campaign early in 2011 to ensure that the aviation industry was ready for the new regulations well before the commencement date. More than 7,000 licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (lAMEs) have been issued with new licences under Part 66 of the regulations. Eligible lAMEs have retained their existing rights to work on aircraft and CASA has undertaken a rigorous transition process to make sure that the new licences accurately reflect their privileges.
Air operators and maintenance organisations required to move to the new maintenance regulations will be given a high level of support from CASA. In total, about 200 aviation maintenance organisations and 32 air operators will be moving to the new maintenance requirements set out in CASR Parts 42 and 145 over the next two years.
It is expected that CASA will spend more than 11,000 days working with air operators and maintenance organisations that are moving to the new rules. Within CASA, there will be a strong emphasis on ensuring that a consistent and standard approach is taken to the transition.
Strong safety oversight
CASA’s safety oversight of the aviation industry is being strengthened by a new focus on areas where aviation activity is growing. Our resources covering South Australia, Western Australia, North Queensland and the Northern Territory will be more effectively organised. The changes will mean improved oversight of aviation operations supporting the mining industry, including the expanding helicopter sector, particularly in the north-west of Western Australia.
Relative to other sectors of the aviation industry, helicopters have a higher rate of accidents. Recent statistics show that helicopters make up 12 per cent of the aircraft fleet while accounting for 25 per cent of the accidents. CASA will subject Australia’s helicopter industry to an increased level of safety surveillance, and will focus on helicopter flying training to achieve higher standards for the next generation of pilots.
This year, we introduced a new way of working in all our regional offices to provide a more standardised approach to safety oversight and the delivery of regulatory services across both general aviation and air transport operations. New, multidisciplinary teams (Certificate Management Teams) are being formed in each office, to manage the oversight of air operators, maintenance organisations and other certificate holders, working to standard processes. The new approach will allow CASA to move further towards effective risk-based safety oversight.
Enforcement is a critical component of CASA’s regulatory responsibility. In 2010–11, a total of 135 infringement notices were issued by CASA for breaches of the aviation safety regulations. Of the 32 matters referred by CASA to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution, there were 11 convictions and one acquittal. CASA also issued 39 Show Cause Notices and suspended or cancelled 35 licences and certificates over the course of the financial year.
CASA took timely and appropriate action to manage the risk to aviation safety caused by a cloud of ash expelled by a volcanic eruption in Chile in June 2011. CASA established a mechanism permitting the reclassification of airspace in emergency circumstances, which allowed for the continuation of air traffic control services for aircraft avoiding ash-affected airspace.
CASA also updated its detailed advice to the aviation industry on operations during volcanic ash events. A new airworthiness bulletin provides an overview of CASA’s recommendations on operations in or near airspace known to be, or suspected of being, contaminated by volcanic ash, or at aerodromes with runways contaminated by ash.
On 1 July 2011, CASA took action to suspend the Air Operator’s Certificate of Tiger Airways Australia Pty ltd under the ‘serious and imminent risks to air safety’ provisions of the Civil Aviation Act.
I am pleased to say the vast majority of people have supported CASA’s actions, although some people have been disappointed and inconvenienced by disruption of their travel plans. Taking this action did not give CASA any pleasure, as it is our desire to see a safe and vibrant aviation industry at all times. However, in the interests of the travelling public and the general community, stern action was required to ensure that essential safety standards within the airline were maintained.
State Safety Program
A milestone in Australian aviation safety was reached in 2010–11 with the publication of Australia’s first State Safety Program under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
The program sets out the legislative and organisational framework of aviation safety in Australia, in terms of four key components of the continuous improvement of aviation safety: policy and objectives, risk management, safety assurance and safety promotion.
The new State Safety Program is the result of work by a range of Australian Government agencies, including the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, Airservices Australia, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Department of Defence, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and CASA.
Safety education and training
Providing education and training to help ensure that the aviation industry maintains high safety standards is one of CASA’s central roles, as clearly stated in the Civil Aviation Act 1988. CASA analyses data to identify risks and develops education and training programs to combat these risks, using an effective mix of face-to-face communication, written materials, online information, interactive web tools and audiovisual productions.
The quality of our safety education and training products is vital—better safety information equals better safety outcomes. For this reason I am pleased that CASA’s Flight Safety Australia magazine received the 2010 Cecil A Brownlow Award from the international Flight Safety Foundation. I am very proud of our magazine, which is now recognised as a world leader in aviation safety communication and education.
Having CASA staff fully trained is a strategic priority that is of particular importance to me. In 2010–11, we put extra effort into making sure that our technical staff have the up-to-date expertise and regulatory skills that they need to continue to support a world-leading aviation safety regime.
CASA has done some excellent work in bringing together a comprehensive and structured training program for all inspectors, covering both classroom and on-the-job training. I would like to thank the development specialists and subject matter experts who have been involved in this work. The material they have produced is of the highest quality and will serve CASA well into the future.
CASA’s first intake of university graduates commenced in the middle of 2011. Six people with undergraduate qualifications in aviation management and engineering will work with CASA for two years as part of a new graduate development program. The program will bring fresh ideas and talent into our organisation and help to build capability for the wider aviation community.
Enhanced governance and operational efficiency
CASA welcomes the Government’s clear endorsement of the principles of open government, accountability and transparency. We are answerable to the Minister and to the Parliament, and work to ensure that our accountability mechanisms are accessible and effective. Therefore, I am pleased to note that CASA’s Annual Report for 2009–10 received the Silver Award in the 2011 Australasian Reporting Awards.
As described in last year’s annual report, in 2009–10 we undertook a substantial restructure of CASA to better align resources to CASA’s core function of regulating aviation safety. In 2010–11, we continued to fine-tune our organisation to improve the way we work.
A number of changes came into effect from 1 July 2011, including:
- a reorganisation of some of our regional offices
- a series of appointments to key positions in the Operations Division
- the strengthening and streamlining of safety oversight and analysis
- the establishment of a task force to look at a range of general and recreational aviation issues
- the introduction of the Certificate Management Teams approach in all regional offices.
As part of the ongoing process to ensure that CASA is properly structured to meet its organisational goals effectively and efficiently, a new Program Management Branch was established in the Office of the Director of Aviation Safety.
Policies and procedures
In 2010–11, CASA made excellent progress in its ongoing project to align policies and procedures across the organisation. This process is steadily improving consistency in the way CASA operates.
Internal consistency means more consistent regulatory advice and decision-making for the aviation industry, which is essential to achieving the best possible safety results. I have been impressed by the efforts of CASA staff to bring processes together towards our goals of standardisation and consistency.
The rollout of the Certificate of Approval Manual in 2010–11, along with appropriate training for staff in regional offices, was a great step forward in standardising our processes nationally. Work on the Air Operator’s Certificate Manual is continuing.
The Industry Complaints Commissioner has been working with other government aviation complaints handlers—Airservices Australia, the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, the Office of Transport Security and the Australian Safety Transport Bureau—to improve both access to complaints channels and the experience of complainants. In particular, the members of the group have been collaborating to ensure that, where appropriate, a complainant receives a ‘whole of government’ response to any issues raised that involve more than one agency.
A new online Delegate Management Notification System was launched during the year, to accurately track the work being done by people in the aviation industry who hold airworthiness delegations from CASA. The new system means that CASA can build a comprehensive and timely picture of the work undertaken by airworthiness delegates, which will allow CASA to better support the people who hold delegations and to improve safety monitoring.
A total of 87 per cent of CASA staff voluntarily participated in the staff engagement survey in 2011. There was very strong support for CASA’s mission and objectives as Australia’s aviation safety regulator. Overall, the staff survey indicated steady progress across a number of areas, when compared to the equivalent results obtained in the 2008 staff survey.
In 2010–11, CASA successfully prepared for several important investments in information technology, including the replacement of CASA’s human resources management and financial management information systems, and the assessment and selection of a replacement for the Aviation Industry Regulatory System (AIRS).
A new data management tool, EMPIC-EAP, was purchased to replace a number of CASA systems which have become increasingly difficult and expensive to support. Progressively EMPIC-EAP will be integrated into CASA’s information technology environment to achieve a level of inter-application communication and data sharing that was not previously possible. This will reduce the cost and effort required for maintenance, upgrades and training, and provide standardised business processes.
Enhanced relationships with key aviation participants
Keeping the aviation industry and the travelling public informed about aviation safety is one of CASA’s functions. Because CASA’s audience is very diverse and widely dispersed, we use many different communication channels, such as:
- our flagship safety publication, Flight Safety Australia magazine, and our industry newsletter, The CASA Briefing, both distributed in hard copy and available online
- a comprehensive website and targeted email notifications
- a wide range of information products, including paper-based publications, videos, CDs, DVDs and posters
- face-to-face meetings, seminars and conferences.
In May 2011 we took our communication efforts a step further by moving onto the online social media channel Twitter. Interested observers anywhere in the world can be promptly informed of CASA activities and regulatory developments through our account, @CASABriefing.
Major changes were made to CASA’s website in 2010–11. A large number of quick links, as well as search functions for the Australian Civil Aircraft Register and Air Operator’s Certificates, were added. The area for CASA’s latest news items was increased, making it easier to see quickly the newest updates to the website. A new front page was developed in response to feedback from website users.
Consultation with the aviation industry on safety and safety regulation is an important part of CASA’s business. As required by the Civil Aviation Act, we strive to conduct ‘full and effective consultation and communication with all interested parties on aviation safety issues’. Over the years this has been achieved in a number of ways, including through continuous dialogue, meetings, working groups and formal consultative bodies.
We have decided to widen the range of our formal consultative groups by creating two new bodies. One will focus on the high-capacity passenger-carrying sector, while the other will look at general aviation issues. These will be standing consultative groups which will usually meet twice each year. I expect to form the passenger-carrying consultative group in 2011–12 and the general aviation body in 2012–13.
CASA’s contribution through cooperation with other Australian aviation agencies enabled Australia to maintain its status as a Member State of Chief Importance at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Other Member States of Chief Importance include the united States, the united Kingdom, China, Brazil and France.
CASA recorded an operating deficit of $1.2 million in 2010–11, after recording a $1.8 million deficit in 2009–10.
The 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 rate of 0.702 cents per litre from 2.854 cents per litre to 3.556 cents per litre.
CASA is budgeting for an operating deficit in 2011–12 of $4.5 million. At the same time, however, CASA is budgeting for small operating surpluses in the forward years 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2015–16.
Our way forward
The CASA Corporate Plan 2011–12 to 2013–14 presents CASA’s direction and priorities for the next three years. It was developed by the Board and CASA staff to continue to deliver the Government’s aviation policy agenda as principally set out in the 2009 National Aviation Policy White Paper and the Australian Airspace Policy Statement 2010. The plan expresses what we have set out to achieve, and how we will measure our performance, in delivering the Government’s program to continuously improve aviation safety.
The direction in which CASA is heading will further strengthen an already strong and cohesive CASA, and enhance our reputation among our key stakeholders and the wider community. The plan will ensure that the vision we have today accords with what tomorrow’s environment will require.
CASA has seen many positive changes in recent years, and I am confident that CASA will be an even more effective organisation in years to come. The new Corporate Plan presents a well-structured approach to our long-term commitment of making CASA an organisation that:
- provides comprehensive, consistent and effective regulation to enhance aviation safety
- strives for continuous improvement and good governance
- endeavours to form effective and appropriate relationships with the wider aviation community.
These goals are reflected in our organisational goals and a series of specific initiatives that will drive the achievement of higher levels of aviation safety. While striving to continuously improve all areas of the organisation, we will focus on five major deliverables:
- standardisation, consistency and efficiency
- continuing to build the skills of our staff
- delivery of regulatory services to a growing aviation industry
- successful implementation of the new maintenance regulations and effective planning for the delivery of the suite of operational regulations
- ongoing surveillance of the Australian aviation industry.
I expect everyone, from our frontline inspectors to the people who perform support functions, to play an important role in achieving the objectives set out in the Corporate Plan.
The many accomplishments I have described were achieved on top of CASA’s day-to-day operations to ensure the continued safe operation of the Australian aviation system.
The tens of millions of people who fly safely in Australia every year do not need to think about our proud aviation safety record. That quiet confidence is the best testament to the hard work that we all do at CASA, and to the commitment to maintaining high safety standards that is demonstrated by most people in the aviation industry.
I am very proud of the tremendous progress made by CASA this year, and thank everyone for their effors in making CASA an even more effective aviation safety regulator.
John F. McCormick
Director of Aviation Safety