Safeskies conference - 2007
Safeskies Aviation Safety Conference - 2007
Canberra, November 2007
Thank you and good morning ladies and gentlemen. Before I start I would like to add my congratulations to that of others - to Peter Lloyd and your organising committee on another successful Safeskies Conference. Certainly I have had a great interest in Safeskies since I came into this job and we at CASA assist with financially getting the conference up and running. I am delighted to see that the conference has progressively moved from a group of like-minded people in the senior levels of aviation to include those who actually deliver safety outcomes represented by people here from the aviation industry. This is absolutely vital from my point of view if it is to have practical application as a conference, and if it is to be effective in actually achieving some sort of safety outcome. So, congratulations Peter and your group in making Safeskies even more practical and relevant.
You may be aware that as an adjunct to this conference, this is the second time that CASA has taken the opportunity to run in parallel a breakout session workshop with flying instructors, chief flying instructors, and approved testing officers, and this is happening at different times during the conference. I had a talk to them an hour or two ago. It is very important from our point of view that we use an opportunity like this where there is a gathering of people with an interest in aviation safety to be able to engage and influence, from CASAs point of view, safety issues, particularly in the flying training area. This is an area which I think for many years the regulator neglected but which, for the last few years, we have re-engaged. Indeed we are increasing our engagement to the extent that those of you who have an interest in this area will see that, as I have been telling the Flying Training group, selected CASA inspectors are getting into the role of flight testing new instructors, new instructors being the key element in the building block of a good safety system - from a pilot point of view anyway.
Mike has given you an outline of what the Aviation Policy Group (APG) is all about, so I will not seek to duplicate any of that. John Blackburn has given you a perspective from Defence and I think it is heartening from an industry viewpoint to hear the words about cooperation and communication, particularly as they relate to air space management and that type of thing. It has certainly been an opportunity for us to discuss these issues and achieve some very positive outcomes. In support of Mike's comments, I would like to say to you that certainly one of my goals in seeking to build CASA into a more efficient organisation, which was certainly something that took a bit of time, but also as a more effective operation, has been to get rid of one of the most common and yet insidious characteristics of any organisation, and that is the evolution of ‘silos'.
For those of you from overseas who may not be familiar with that term, the reference is to those tall, cylindrical grain storage structures that you might see on Australian farming land and they usually stand out rather starkly. In organisations a silo culture manifests itself in the form of a build-up of groups which tend to be inwardly focussed. They do their own things and they tend to guard their ideas and information from other groups. It has probably got something to do with our tribal ancestry. Silos, both the grain-holding variety and the ‘virtual' silos that I am talking about, are hard to demolish, but in CASA we have made good progress.
I would like to make the point that the APG in its relatively short life has greatly contributed to reducing the risk of each of our organisations, those within the Transport and Regional Services portfolio and Defence, of becoming ‘super silos', which is always a risk. We each, after all, have a common interest in improving and enhancing aviation, particularly aviation safety, and we should all be working in unison and with common goals. The APG, unquestionably, is helping to achieve that.
There is a wide range of issues that I would love to talk about to a distinguished audience such as this. However I thought that I had better stick to the theme of the conference and that is safety management systems and the theme headline Making Safety Management Systems Work. By definition that means some sort of practical approach and I would like to make the point that in terms of looking at what CASA does, particularly in relation to safety management systems which are starting to pick up pace at the moment, we are taking a practical approach. Aviation safety outcomes are practical issues. They are not theoretical issues. There is good theoretical background that can be used in some of these areas but we must be making sure, as we are doing with new regulations, that they have some resemblance to a positive aviation safety outcome. They have to have a practical application. That is the approach that we are certainly taking and I will focus on that in the brief time I have.
CASAs overarching role, in my view, is to positively influence the safety outcomes that somebody else, in this case the aviation industry, delivers. That is the practical bottom line. We at CASA do not fly aeroplanes, we do not maintain them. We are about influencing the safety outcomes that somebody else delivers. We do that through a range of activities. There are a lot of things that we do, but you can boil it down to these principal ones.
The traditional contribution of the aviation safety regulator is evident in the first three points. Write a rule, check compliance, enforce. Each of these actions is important and will continue to be so, but I am quite firmly of the view that it is by influencing the industry, and this includes by encouragement, to take responsibility and to manage its own safety, particularly the safety outcomes, that is the way we ought to be moving. We have focussed on that process over the last 18 months. CASA is increasingly devoting more of its resources to that end. This is unambiguously the direction that leading aviation states are also taking.
I have recently returned from a Regional Conference of Directors-General of Civil Aviation and within our region, as well as other regions represented at the conference, there was quite clearly a meeting of the minds on this approach. That takes us to the meaning of safety and how all of us, including the regulator and the industry, can most effectively manage that safety. This is an issue that I have been talking about wherever I get the opportunity to speak to people within the industry: what actually is safety?
We all know what a lack of safety looks like. It is manifested by accidents and incidents. However, it is unrealistic to assume that we can prevent all incidents. We are very lucky, in many circumstances, to be able to reduce the accident rate to a low level, but I believe a goal of what I would call absolute safety is unlikely to be achieved. In practice there is a realistically achievable bottom line, and I do not believe it is particularly useful to seek to achieve unachievable theoretical goals. That is not appropriate in this game. We can, however, manage our approach to safety more effectively. I keep coming back to that word ‘effective.' Rather than looking for the Holy Grail of absolute safety, we have to focus on becoming more effective, I believe, by a focus on actively and positively managing safety, and that really boils down to managing risk.
A positive safety outcome is actually achieved by managing the risks. Risks do not stay the same all the time. And it is the operator, not the regulator, who is best positioned to manage the risks on a day by day basis. A regulator has a high level of responsibility, but the day to day responsibility rests with people in the industry. However, to be effective, this management of risk cannot just be a matter of identifying a risk, fixing it and declaring victory. That is just symptom management. We have all read accident investigation reports where an array of contributing factors, not always related, has been involved. This understanding has led, over the years - and we have already heard it this morning - to a greater recognition of the need for a systematic approach to managing safety now increasingly formalised as a Safety Management System. We have been talking about this for some years and I have worked in a number of airlines where we have actually implemented those safety management systems. So, SMS is not new to a lot of people.
The importance of operators having an effective SMS in place is with us now. It is recognised by ICAO and that international recognition, particularly the establishment of an international overarching framework, is spreading and it is now appropriate for states, including Australia, to move forward with a bit more speed. CASA mandated SMS for Australian airports some time ago and the mandating of structured SMS in accordance with an overarching framework with guidance from ICAO for other aviation operators is not too far away. So it is coming, ready or not.
A few words about the safety management system, hopefully to show that we are not really talking about rocket science here. As I have said, a lot of organisations have had these systems in place for some years. It is really something that is common sense and that many organisations have had in place to varying degrees. At the highest level the safety management system should have the following key elements.
You will see all sorts of lists of what should be in a safety management system, but in CASA we have settled on these, and they are consistent with the ICAO primary headings. Other elements and characteristics that should be included in the safety management system will fit under these four broad areas. We have now positioned ourselves for the introduction of SMS more broadly, and more effort has been applied, particularly on extending the quality of our resources to support the oversight of a system approach to managing safety. It is all very well for a regulator to mandate something. It is all very well for industry to take a particular approach, but if we at CASA have a role to play, such as in oversighting, we must be in a position to be effective in that oversighting. If that means we have to change our approach, we should do that, and we have been making changes, particularly over the last 18 months or so.
So, these are the primary elements that we have settled on. A lot of detail, of course, sits below these. For us to be in a position to oversight this changed approach, obviously our organisation has had to change. We have done this with a repositioning exercise over the last few years, not all of which has been particularly easy.
Change is not easy for a lot of people and particularly for fairly conservative organisations. Nevertheless, we have done it. The sort of things that we are talking about is making sure that we have an organisation that is more industry-facing and not inwards looking, like I was referring to in mentioning the silos, and certainly making sure we are focussing on aviation safety outcomes.
We have moved our operational positions out of Canberra. It certainly was not relevant for them to be in Canberra - that is not where aviation activity industry is primarily located. We have established Brisbane as our primary operational headquarters. Mick Quinn - you have already heard his name here today - will be taking up the role of Deputy CEO Operations later this year in our operational headquarters in Brisbane, and we have signed up for a new building there to concentrate our resources in that area. We have also increased our operational resources in some of the other major locations, notably Sydney and Melbourne, where there is quite a bit of change in the industry.
Our Canberra-based strategy and support activities still remain and Deputy CEO Shane Carmody has been on board for a year to manage those functions, which are very important. Our legal service is one, and particularly as we are trying to become a more information-driven organisation, our information systems are also very important. We bought a very expensive IT system some years ago, and we are making sure that it is going to deliver our information management approach.
The thing I would like to particularly highlight is that we have changed our workforce. If we are going to change the way we oversight the industry using new systems, it begs the question of, “Well, do you have the right people?” And whilst our traditional technical capabilities are vital and necessary and will always continue to be required, we have found that with the systems approach we need to have additional skills. We have already employed over the last 18 months a large number of safety systems specialists and air transport inspectors, who have different skills to those we have traditionally sought. We also have a number of new flight safety advisers whose job it is to work within the industry encouraging them to identify and manage their risks.
We have now had a program in place for two years working with Swinburne University to develop a Diploma of Aviation Regulation. Eventually any inspector coming into CASA in any role will be required to have that qualification to do the job. Also, we are significantly revamping our oversight program. At the Directors-General of Civil Aviation Conference I mentioned earlier, I put forward the argument that regulators in all states, in oversighting a safety management systems approach by industry, need to make sure, not only that they have the right resources in terms of numbers, but that they have properly skilled resources. This was accepted and taken forward as a conference resolution to ICAO. So, it is likely that will become a feature of an international oversight emphasis for states.
Part of this process of encouragement and of getting industry to take accountability for delivery of safety - and that is the regulator's task, to encourage industry to take that role rather than focus purely on regulatory compliance - is something that has really been dear to my heart for some time. I like to emphasise, especially at forums such as this, that responsibility for the management of safety does not end with the pilot or the engineers, or simply in just having a safety management systems book on the shelf, that is not enough. There is clearly responsibility on the part of senior management.
Indeed, there is an obligation under Australian law for senior management at the highest levels to actively manage their organisations, people and processes and in my talks over the last three years with CEOs of airlines, airports, maintenance and other organisations, I have made the point that this is not something where they simply have to make sure is a resource that is in place. It is something that they have to drive. I am keen to ensure a greater level of engagement at the most senior levels of the aviation industry management.
Now, that brings me to my concluding point. As part of my desire to see a greater acceptance by and engagement with their safety responsibilities on the part of senior industry management, right up to the CEO, particularly the CEOs of aviation organisations - and including the boards of directors of organisations - I have gone beyond just talking about it. I do a lot of talking about it, but now I have written a book. Well, actually it is a small booklet, and it is called Safety Management and the CEO . I have written most of it myself because really it reflects the sorts of discussions that I have had with individual CEOs in talking to them about how they manage their safety departments, their flight operations, their engineering, given that it is the CEOs that are the people ultimately accountable.
And it comes under the statutory responsibility of CASA to assist industry satisfy its safety obligations. We have dealt a lot over the years at the technical level, but we now need to engage far more with CEOs of aviation industry organisations. The flavour and the language of the booklet had to be particularly targeted at a CEO level and that is why I got personally involved. The booklet is released for the first time at Safeskies and copies will be available this afternoon. Also, we are sending copies to every CEO in the aviation industry who manages a CASA certificated operation.
Bruce Byron AM
Chief Executive Officer