Sport Aviation Forum
Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick
30 June 2010
I am very pleased to be able to give the opening address at today’s Sport Aviation Forum. This is an important event for the sport aviation industry and brings together representatives of the sport and recreational aviation sector with key CASA personnel.
I would like to discuss with you some of the broad expectations the Government has of CASA, what action CASA is undertaking to meet those expectations and, in turn, the expectations CASA has of the Recreational Aviation Administration Organisations (RAAOs).
The Government has been quite clear on its view on aviation safety and articulated this in the National Aviation Policy Statement – The White Paper. The White Paper emphasised the Government’s absolute priority that safety must underpin everything else in aviation. The maintenance of a safe, secure industry remains the overriding priority of the Government for aviation in Australia. Importantly it added that the industry must share this priority to underpin its future sustainable growth.
In this context the Minister has made it quite clear to CASA the sort of regulator the Government wants CASA to be; a regulator that is:
- efficient; and
One of my key aims is to ensure that CASA is a regulator that is clearly focused on its safety related functions and responsibilities under the Civil Aviation Act and on ensuring the aviation industry is fully aware of its own obligations to maintain the highest standards of aviation safety.
Of course, we also understand the industry’s need for a predictable and consistent regulator. I have made it clear that CASA must focus its limited resources on the safety functions outlined in the Act.
We are only a relatively small organisation of around 700 staff. We have been working on how we can be smarter on how we use this small but talented pool of people. The Government’s announcement of additional resources is most welcome, but it will not distract us from maintaining our focus on safety – only strengthen our oversight of the industry.
We have undertaken a substantial restructure of CASA in the last year to align resources to CASA’s core function of regulating aviation safety. CASA’s work units are also now aligned more closely with International Civil Aviation Organization safety annexes.
In the interests of enhancing the effectiveness of its regulatory activity, CASA is implementing new processes and governance arrangements to ensure greater internal consistency of the interpretation and application of legislation.
This will provide a clearer understanding of how we regulate – and importantly - the basis for more consistent action and advice to industry.
Governance has also been enhanced by the expertise of the CASA Board. The Chair, Dr Allan Hawke and the other Board members will work to ensure CASA has the ability to meet its obligations as defined under the Act.
The robustness of any organisation depends very much on the quality of its people.
CASA has a dedicated and professional staff but, like many in the aviation industry, we have an ageing staff profile. We also have similar difficulties in attracting and retaining skilled staff who continue to be in high demand across the industry.
Technical training was identified as an issue by the International Civil Aviation Organization in its 2008 audit and this is a priority for us, with a range of new programs to enhance staff capability in areas such as leadership, regulatory skills and technical expertise.
We are delivering comprehensive initial, on-the-job, recurrent and specialist training programs for our technical staff and inspectorate staff.
This includes continuous monitoring and access to professional development and evaluation.
In terms of efficiency, a key area that has been earmarked is the area of regulatory development. Regulatory development is partly a misnomer – we have robust regulations in place – but we are enhancing and refining them.
Significant progress has been made. New and amended regulations have been put in place such as:
- new regulations for the development of drug and alcohol management plans;
- amendments setting out the requirements for safety management systems and human factors training for regular public transport operations, and
- amendments to introduce the multi-crew pilot licence.
However our efficiency as a regulator will be substantially enhanced when Australia’s aviation regulations are fully updated to align with best practice international safety requirements.
To achieve this, CASA, the Department of Infrastructure and the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing have formed a taskforce to expedite the delivery of the regulatory reform program.
We are working on three key areas of regulatory reform that have been targeted for finalisation by the end of 2010. These are:
- maintenance; and
- flight operations.
However, there is also the implementation of these rules to consider, and this will involve significant work to transition the industry and CASA to the new rules.
It is a process that industry has been – and will continue to be – closely involved in. Industry consultation and input is key to the success of the regulatory reform program. It is important to acknowledge the invaluable input the industry provides to the regulatory reform process.
But the practice of the past, where consultation to achieve consensus frequently paralysed action, sometimes for years, will not continue.
Such a stalemate does not assist either industry or CASA.
Consultation does not equate to agreement, and while all views will be seriously considered and taken into account, at the end of the day CASA, as the regulator, will still make the decision.
Effective decision making is one of the core functions of the regulator’s role. CASA effectiveness is based on our ability to analyse risk and make a decision.
As an example, many of you will be aware of the changes that are being put into place at the GAAP aerodromes at Archerfield, Bankstown, Camden, Jandakot, Moorabbin and Parafield.
The revised procedures are the result of numerous surveillance activities undertaken by CASA as well as reviews by independent consultants and accident reports from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
It would be fair to say that this action by CASA received mixed reviews from industry but it was a decision that had to be made in the interests of safety.
CASA has rolled out a comprehensive information program on these changes over the last few months.
This step was just one of a series of actions that CASA has undertaken to strengthen our safety oversight of the general aviation and sport and recreational aviation sectors.
To improve safety outcomes in these sectors CASA will have a greater presence in regional and remote parts of northern Australia, where there is a great deal of general aviation activity and where a considerable number of accidents have taken place.
We have opened offices in Horn Island, Gove, Kununurra and Broome. These work-bases will provide better on-site support to CASA inspectors working in the Torres Strait, Arnhem Land and the Kimberly regions and will provide inspectors and other CASA staff with space to meet and talk with people from the local aviation communities. This will make the time spent by CASA in these regions more efficient and effective.
CASA’s Expectations of RAAOs
I have outlined for you some of the actions we are taking to make CASA a more robust, effective and efficient regulator. I would also like to outline some of the expectations CASA has of the RAAOs.
Australian sports aviation operates under self-administration. This means that CASA sets the regulations, and then works with the RAAOs to ensure that regulations are applied and enforced. The RAAOs provide CASA with specialist knowledge and insight into the sport aviation industry so that the sector may continue to operate safely.
As you are aware, the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 were not intended to regulate this class of aircraft or activities. RAAOs oversighting these activities do so under exemptions and delegations. This set of rules allows specialist aircraft that do not meet certification standards to operate through a series of exemptions from the regulations which apply to broader aviation activities.
However, these exemptions are conditional.
CASA expects that the RAAOs main purpose for existence to be to oversight members’ activities and assure CASA that these activities are conducted safely. CASA needs to be fully confident that RAAOs have the capacity to provide the required safety outcomes. If organisations can not assure CASA of this, then CASA can not allow the organisation to continue to administer its activities under the exemption.
However, CASA provides considerable assistance to help RAAOs meet this expectation. We want to see a successful sports aviation sector. But one that can operate safely.
I will be launching the sport aviation self-administration hand book today to help define organisational performance standards, governance standards and the expectation CASA has of RAAO board members. We have commissioned the development of industry risk profiles for each RAAO and established the Sports Aviation Enhancement Program to reduce risk and improve governance across the sector.
We have also established a Sports Aviation Office. The Sports Aviation Office applies a risk-based assurance model to oversight of sports aviation and the RAAOs. A key part of this is undertaking corporate and functional audits of the RAAOs – which we will be increasing. In addition, the Sports Aviation Office acts as a focal point for contact between the sector and CASA.
The Sports Aviation Office is also tasked with working in close cooperation with the RAAOs and I am hopeful that together we can consolidate the considerable improvements we have seen in the sector.
In closing I would like to leave you with words from the Australian National Aviation Policy Statement:
“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.”