Review by the Director of Aviation Safety
Monitoring and reporting on corporate performance is an important feature of CASA's governance framework. It allows CASA and others to check organisational progress against the key goals set in our Corporate Plan and the performance of key regulatory functions as specified in the Civil Aviation Act.
The 2012-13 year was my fourth year as CASA's Director of Aviation Safety. It was a year of consolidation of the structural changes and key programs of work that I introduced earlier in my term. These are now embedded in our day-to-day work practices and are starting to deliver tangible dividends in our core regulatory, safety and support functions. This has taken time and effort, and requires a culture that strives to continually improve the way we perform our regulatory functions to enhance aviation safety. Although this is still a work in progress, we have made, and continue to make, significant advances in these important areas.
The environment in which CASA operates is vibrant and constantly changing, and it is against this backdrop that the performance of the organisation is assessed and validated.
New aviation regulations
The high point of the year was the continued delivery and implementation of key aspects of the regulatory reform program in relation to the suite of new maintenance rules, rules for flight crew licensing, and rules for the management of flight crew fatigue. All of this work has been undertaken with the active cooperation of the Australian aviation industry.
Following a two-year transition period which started in June 2011, 27 regular public transport air operators and 114 associated maintenance organisations are now operating under the new set of maintenance regulations which came into effect on 26 June 2013. The new Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Parts 42 (Continuing airworthiness) and 145 (Maintenance organisations) cover all regular public transport operators and their maintenance organisations.
That these operators and organisations effectively transitioned to the new regime by the date required by the legislation is a testament to the dedication and hard work of CASA and industry participants.
Flight crew licensing and training regulations
Australian aviation now has modern regulations covering flight crew licensing and training. The new regulations were made in early February and take effect from 4 December 2013. This intervening period between the making of the rule and the effective date will allow CASA and the industry time for a smooth transition. Over a four-year period from December 2013, all pilots will have their licences moved across to new CASR Part 61 (Flight crew licensing) and will retain their current flying privileges during and after the transition. Flying training organisations will have three years from December 2013 to move across to the new CASR Parts 141 (Recreational, private and commercial pilot flight training other than integrated training) and 142 (Integrated and multi-crew pilot flight training and contracted recurrent training and checking).
The introduction of the new licensing rules will bring safety benefits to Australian aviation. Safety standards will be lifted in a number of key areas, providing a closer fit with international licensing standards. Training standards will also be more clearly defined. In addition, the new suite of rules addresses important lessons learned from past accidents in the areas of low-level flying and night visual flying.
Flight crew fatigue regulations
New rules are now in place for the management of flight crew fatigue in Australian aviation, after changes to the Civil Aviation Orders relating to fatigue management took effect from 30 April 2013. Air operators have three years to transition to the new requirements, which provide a three-tiered approach to the management of fatigue. Operators may choose which method they will use to comply with the new rules, allowing greater flexibility while at the same time requiring additional levels of risk management where appropriate.
It is important to recognise that the total regulatory reform program does not simply come to an end once the regulations are signed. Instead, it is the start of a lengthy education and training program to ensure that everyone who needs to know about the changes and new regulations is properly prepared. I commend everyone involved in the regulatory development process for their enormous output of work over the past four years and thank them sincerely for a job very well done.
A comprehensive risk-based surveillance system was established in July 2012 through the release of the CASA Surveillance Manual and associated guidance material. This was a major body of work for CASA, involving an education program for the entire surveillance-related workforce to bring them into line with the new methodology. Significant progress has also been made in the standardisation of CASA's approaches to surveillance and planning across the traditional air transport and general aviation operational areas, with new IT systems deployed to support these critical processes. Although there is still work to be done, I am proud of the very favourable international recognition this work has attracted, which has been reflected in the invitations we have received to present on our approach to risk-based surveillance at major international forums.
Remotely piloted aircraft
The remotely piloted aircraft systems sector, previously referred to as 'unmanned aircraft systems', has experienced major growth in the past 12 months, and participation levels continue to rise steeply. It was originally thought that remotely piloted aircraft would be similar to the type seen in military systems but that is proving not to be the case. Instead, the technology has advanced so quickly in this area that small, off-the-shelf types are able to provide advanced capability for a range of applications. The regulation of these aircraft is made more difficult for CASA because they can be bought online at a low cost, making them appealing to a large number of prospective users. CASA will continue to work on the development of policies and practices to support safe operations in this sector, along with the close review and revision of the rule suite to ensure that these devices continue to be safely accommodated.
The safety of other airspace users, as well as the safety of people and property on the ground, is CASA's number one priority in this rapidly growing sector. To this end, a key challenge for the organisation will be in the area of public education to ensure that operators understand the potential impact of their activities on other airspace users and people on the ground.
Parliamentary engagement and accountability
During the reporting period, CASA welcomed the opportunity presented by the parliamentary committee process and its participation in the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Inquiry into Aviation Accident Investigations in October 2012 and February 2013 to provide our organisational experience and perspective to parliamentary representatives on the 2009 accident at Norfolk Island.
Although no lives were lost in the accident, there is no doubt that the experience has left a lasting legacy for those involved. In my role as Director of Aviation Safety, the safety of all air travellers is paramount and the lessons learned from all accidents and incidents are given the highest priority when making further improvements to the system of aviation safety.
As reported in the 2011-12 annual report, CASA is continuing to implement the EMPIC-EAP software application system, used by many civil and military aviation authorities globally, which will replace a number of outdated systems that have become expensive to support. The implementation process has involved a substantial staff training component, which will continue until all of the modules are in place. The feedback I have received so far is that this application provides a considerably enhanced capability for the system operators. Exploratory work has been undertaken to investigate the possibility of further efficiencies being gained through enabling industry to access a large number of regulatory services online. The introduction of EMPIC-EAP and related information technology products and applications will enable CASA to automate processes to the greatest extent possible.
Improved safety performance analysis
The integration of a number of systems has provided CASA with the ability to access and analyse significantly more safety-related data. This has allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of the industry's safety performance and the capability to identify and respond to emerging risks earlier, and is leading us towards the capability to identify issues predictively.
Coordinated enforcement process
As Australia's aviation safety regulator, taking appropriate enforcement action is a key component of fulfilling our safety obligations. There is inevitably commentary following CASA's decision to take enforcement action, but in every case a great deal of careful and responsible work has preceded the decision.
As CASA's Director of Aviation Safety, I do not shy away from these decisions. In every case leading up to such decisions, our people are required to ensure that our actions are supported by clear evidence, are consistent with other decisions of a similar nature, and are transparent and appropriate in all other respects. The process is rigorous and includes review at the most senior levels within the organisation. CASA is held to account for our actions by the Federal Court and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, where the propriety of our actions and decisions is independently tested, and very rarely found to be deficient.
As an organisation, CASA must be fair, consistent and impartial in making its decisions. We are also required to comply with other guidelines, such as the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth. Of the approximately 300 matters referred for coordinated enforcement in 2012-13, 46 notices were issued, inviting recipients to 'show cause' why an authorisation should not be varied, suspended or cancelled in the interests of safety, 103 infringement notices were issued and 14 matters were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
A further 87 infringement notices were issued for passenger offences, including noncompliance with safety instructions, not wearing seatbelts, smoking in an aircraft, entering an aircraft while intoxicated and being offensive and disorderly in an aircraft.
One area within CASA that has had a particularly challenging workload over the year has been the Office of Airspace Regulation. The Office has been heavily involved in the Sydney Basin Airspace Review as well as in investigating airspace issues in relation to a possible second airport in Sydney. In addition, work done by the Western Australian Air Traffic Task Force has led to a number of recommendations for CASA to allow for the adequate surveillance and monitoring of air traffic in Australia's west. To assist us with the considerable task at hand, CASA has purchased a fast-time simulation tool to assess the traffic flows at an aerodrome and a computer-aided design tool to assess the obstacle limitation surface of surrounding aerodromes and airspace boundaries. These systems will significantly reduce the time taken to conduct the necessary level of review and assessment of airspace.
CASA recorded an operating surplus of $12.0 million in 2012-13, compared to a $1.8 million deficit in 2011-12. The difference of $13.8 million reflects the overall result of an increase in income of $12.7 million and a decrease in expenses of $1.1 million.
CASA's retained surplus is budgeted to remain constant in 2013-14, but is expected to improve in the following years as a result of operating surpluses. Further information on CASA's financial results is on pages 24 to 28.
Outcomes not achieved
CASA had aimed to have in place an arrangement on maintenance with Transport Canada by the end of 2012-13. This has not been achieved due to competing workloads in both organisations. The arrangement is still being finalised and reviewed to ensure that all relevant references to CASR Part 145 are incorporated.
The CASA-wide online performance assessment system was not implemented due to technical issues resulting in the delayed delivery of the human resource management system, which affected the delivery of the online tool to support the program. Following the lessons learned from a pilot study in Operations Central Region, these issues have been rectified. It is expected that the full release of the module for staff covered by the CASA Enterprise Agreement will occur in the first quarter of 2013-14.
The CASA Corporate Plan 2013-14 to 2015-16 sets out our goals, strategies and initiatives to ensure that CASA meets the Government's and the Australian public's high expectations for aviation safety. The work detailed in the plan demonstrates our commitment to continuously improving aviation safety standards and performance in Australia.
Like all aviation safety regulators, CASA faces a number of continuing and emerging challenges. They include the procurement and implementation of the new Air Traffic Control Future System; the impact of increased activity in the resource sector and new developments; remotely piloted aircraft; and increased competition for safety-critical staff. As we confront these challenges, aviation safety will, as always, remain at the forefront of all our activities and regulatory decision-making.
As an organisation, we are committed to updating and improving safety standards through the introduction of new regulations, and where necessary the enforcement of existing regulations, while continuing to undertake comprehensive surveillance to ensure that all sectors of the aviation industry meet their safety obligations. Complementing this is the development and delivery of effective safety education programs to provide the industry with the knowledge and guidance it needs to achieve the highest safety standards.
Over the past four years, CASA has established the foundation for a more efficient, consistent and standardised working environment. I have been most encouraged by the progress made. New systems and processes that have been progressively put in place over the past 12 months will continue to provide the platform for us to deliver on our corporate goals.
The program of work planned for the future years will position us to effectively deliver the day-to-day business of maintaining, as well as improving, the nation's aviation safety performance.
As I look back at 2012-13, I see a year in which hard work resulted in many achievements by our people. We have every right to be proud of a job well done, but never finished. As the aviation safety regulator we have a difficult and sometimes thankless role to perform, and we are fortunate to have dedicated and talented people to take up this challenge. Australia's enviable aviation safety record is testament to our high safety standards and the commitment that our people bring to continually improve our performance as the nation's aviation safety regulator.
John F. McCormick
Director of Aviation Safety