Review by the Director of Aviation Safety
This 2013–14 annual report will be my final annual report as CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety. I step down on 31 August 2014, following an extension to my original five-year term, which formally concluded on 28 February 2014.
I have been immensely proud to have had the opportunity to lead Australia’s aviation safety regulator for the past five-plus years and regard my time as Director as a personal and professional highlight. I sincerely thank CASA’s people for their dedication and support throughout my tenure.
Over the term of my tenure, CASA has made significant performance improvements in all of its regulatory activities. Australia has one of the best aviation safety records in the world and that is in no small way attributable to the combined efforts the CASA team has expended on diligently and professionally conducting our affairs as Australia’s aviation safety regulator. CASA continues to be highly regarded internationally by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other leading aviation states and regional authorities.
The 2013–14 year has been a period of continuing consolidation of the large body of work introduced during my term, in addition to the improvement of the work we do in all sectors of Australian aviation.
- refocusing CASA on the regulation of aviation safety as its core activity
- improving standardisation, consistency and efficiency
- ensuring staff are properly trained and deployed
- completing the major part of the modernisation of aviation safety standards
- reforming CASA’s surveillance and safety management systems
- addressing emerging issues such as remotely piloted aircraft and ageing aircraft.
CASA operates in a dynamic environment with change ever present, and it is against this background that the organisation’s performance is assessed and validated.
The triennial ICAO Assembly was held in Montreal, Canada, from 24 September to 4 October 2013. In addition to re-electing Australia to the Council as one of the 11 States of Chief Importance in Air Transport, this important conference discussed and ratified the recommendations from a number of working groups, panels and task forces.
Australia submitted a paper titled ‘Current and Future Work on the Appropriate Use and Protection of Safety Information’, which relates to the protection and sharing of aviation safety information. CASA’s Associate Director of Aviation Safety, Dr Jonathan Aleck, led the Safety Information Protection Task Force and is to be congratulated for the way in which he enabled the members of the task force, who come from a variety of legal jurisdictions, to reach agreement on how the ICAO standards and recommended practices should be amended to deal with what has been a very vexing issue. See page 023 for more information.
Regulatory development program
CASA made significant progress in its regulatory reform activities in 2013–14. With respect to initial and continuing airworthiness, CASA commenced phase 2 of maintenance regulations development. This work will refine and extend the application of the maintenance-related Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Parts to charter, aerial work and private operators and their aircraft.
Significant progress was made in finalising the operational regulations, with a number now provided to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development for processing through to the Minister and Executive Council and making by the Governor-General. Other CASRs are progressing through the drafting and industry consultation stages.
Revised timetable for implementation of licensing regulations
I deferred the commencement date for implementation of the new licensing suite of CASR Parts from 4 December 2013 to 1 September 2014 to allow CASA and the aviation industry more time to plan and prepare for the transition to the new rules. CASA received valuable feedback from people about both the new regulations and transition issues and I felt we needed more time to consider this input.
Although consultation was widespread on the new licensing suite, a significant level of feedback was received after the regulations were made in February 2013. This resulted in the development of a package of amendments to clarify the intent of the regulations, correct anomalies, and ensure requirements were simplified and unnecessary administrative burdens on small flight training organisations were reduced.
Industry visits and engagement
Throughout 2013–14, I continued my face-to-face visits to a range of aviation organisations in metropolitan and regional areas around Australia. These visits have been extremely valuable, allowing me to hear about the issues and concerns of people in the aviation industry, as well as providing the opportunity to directly communicate CASA’s position on a broad spectrum of issues.
The organisations I spent time with represented many different sectors, including helicopter charter and flying training, fixed wing flying training, charter and regular public transport, aviation medical services, and maintenance.
Industry engagement has also taken place on a large scale with nearly 900 pilots attending special information sessions in six capital cities on the new pilot licensing suite of regulations – Part 61 of the CASR.
Since July 2013, CASA has run seminars and conducted visits to aviation organisations with a particular focus on the latest regulatory changes. Other topics of discussion have included electronic flight bags, fatigue management and performance-based navigation. In total for this reporting period, we have reached more than 7,700 people through these seminars, visits and presentations. Although not representative of everybody in Australian aviation, these figures represent a lot of people and a great deal of work by many in CASA.
Remotely piloted aircraft
An area which has experienced significant growth in the last 12 months has been the highly publicised sector of remotely piloted aircraft. As at 30 June, CASA had over 100 approved operators of remotely piloted aircraft, which represents a significant increase compared to the number of approvals in place in June 2013.
There have been a number of stories in the popular and professional media highlighting the rapid developments in this sector in addition to showcasing the serious misunderstandings by enthusiasts of the potential of these devices to cause harm to people on the ground and damage to property and other aircraft.
Approximately 10 years ago, Australia published a set of aviation safety regulations to assist in the development and operation of remotely piloted aircraft. CASA is now reviewing these regulations and finalising a set of advisory circulars to assist operators and prospective operators to understand the safety requirements. The issues involved are complex and challenging, and include the underlying question of how best to manage safety risks without imposing unnecessary burdens on the remotely piloted aircraft sector.
As is the case with all of CASA’s rule development activities, there will be extensive consultation with those engaged in the remotely piloted aircraft sector and no changes will be made to the regulations until all interested parties have the opportunity to contribute to the review of the current regulations.
On 19 June 2014, for the second consecutive year, CASA’s annual report (2012–13) received a Gold award at the Australasian Reporting Awards 2014 presentation. Over the last 10 years CASA has received four bronze and four silver awards for its annual reports from the Australasian Reporting Awards. Receiving gold awards for the last two annual reports is recognition of the hard work CASA has done to improve and build on its reporting performance in that time.
Staff engagement survey
In November 2013 CASA undertook an employee engagement survey seeking staff views on a variety of issues, including communication, teamwork, leadership and personal development. In what was an outstanding result for a staff survey, CASA had a final response rate of 91 per cent, a 4 per cent increase on the previous (2010) survey. As a result of the survey, focus groups were established to look at strategies and initiatives to address any areas where improvement could be identified.
Very strong support was identified among staff for CASA’s vision, mission and values as Australia’s aviation safety regulator. The overall result suggests a highly engaged, skilled, dedicated and focused workforce, understanding and accepting of its lines of accountability and confident and supported by management in properly performing its regulatory task on behalf of the Australian people.
Workforce Productivity Review
During the year, I established a Workforce Productivity Review Committee to ensure CASA continues to focus on optimising our workforce. The recommendations from the committee’s activities were used to establish a productivity baseline for the 2014–15 financial year.
CASA recorded an operating deficit of $4.2 million in 2013–14 compared to a $12.0 million surplus in 2012–13. The difference of $16.2 million reflects the overall result of a decrease in income of $3.7 million and an increase in expenses of $12.5 million. This was mainly due to a reduction in other gains, a reduction in aviation fuel excise receipts and an increase in employee benefits expenses. Further information on CASA’s financial results is on pages 018 to 022.
Outcomes not achieved
CASA’s Office of Airspace Regulation planned to complete the national review of group/sector studies by December 2013. However, this was delayed due to higher priority work such as the Sydney Basin aeronautical study and the preliminary airspace assessment of the airport which is under construction at Wellcamp, near Toowoomba, Queensland. The remaining studies have now been completed and provided to Airservices Australia for feedback, with the expectation they will be finalised and published by the end of July 2014.
Other outcomes not achieved during the reporting period included assistance to Papua New Guinea for transport safety, following the delayed completion of a key report (see page 103); the postponement of selected training activities (see page 085); and finalisation of CASA’s People Capability Framework and succession-planning approach (see page 087). I expect the completion of these pieces of work during the next 18 months.
In September 2013, I led an executive management workshop to examine how we could continue to improve our internal processes and procedures with the aim of more efficiently producing our sole Portfolio Budget Statements outcome:
Maximise aviation safety through a regulatory regime, detailed technical material on safety standards, comprehensive aviation industry oversight, risk analysis, industry consultation, education and training.
The outcomes from this valuable executive review included developing a system of rigorous performance targets, adopting an approach to stakeholder management which encompasses all sectors and interest groups, and simplifying the regulatory environment where possible. Identifying ways to reduce costs both internally and externally was another key outcome which has been incorporated as initiatives in CASA’s 2014–15 to 2017–18 interim corporate plan. The interim plan provides CASA with a continuing schedule of work pending the expected release of the Minister’s Statement of Expectations later in the year.
When CASA develops new regulations, carries out surveillance, conducts an audit or delivers safety education, our aim is to improve the outcomes of our aviation safety system. I am heartened by the Government’s repeated assurance that aviation safety remains its top priority and I expect outcomes arising from the Government’s Aviation Safety Regulation Review and the expected release of the new Statement of Expectations will reconfirm that commitment in shaping CASA’s future direction.
As I conclude my term as Director of Aviation Safety, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to all of CASA’s people for their commitment and dedication to our role as Australia’s aviation safety regulator. Their dedication to keeping the skies safe has been unwavering and it has been a privilege to have worked alongside them. Australia should be rightly proud of our enviable aviation safety record and the esteem in which we are held among our international aviation regulatory counterparts.
I will watch CASA’s continued development and improvement with interest and wish my successor well in a role that is demanding but highly rewarding and satisfying.
John F. McCormick Director of Aviation Safety