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Address by Jonathon Aleck – November 2014

Address by Jonathon Aleck – November 2014, which goes to the matter of ‘trust’.

The industry is clear – it does not trust the regulator.

The ASRR report by David Forsyth and the many submissions could not be clearer – No trust in the regulator and also the safety investigator.

There is no mention of Mark Skidmore, in a positive light, just a relieving DAS, who is overseas, who the industry does not trust nor know.

Jonathon Aleck has been around for over 20 years, yet the problems persist. An asute observor would be asking the question: “Is Jonathon Aleck part of the problem or part of the solution??”

A close look at how CASA has handled many issues, it has shown favouritism, improper actions and an ability to prosecute people using the hand-over-heart “…I believe…” of issues which are never properly tested and often supported by poor evidence or no evidence at all.

Regulatory update

National Conference of the Australian Airports Association

23 to 27 November 2014 – Gold Coast

Good afternoon, and thank you very much for this opportunity to bring you up-to-date on some of the current regulatory developments in which the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been involved-in many cases, with the active participation and valuable contribution of the Australian Airports Association and its members.

I am here today on behalf of our acting Director of Aviation Safety, Terry Farquharson, who is overseas. Although Terry could not be here with you here himself, he extends to all of you his best wishes for a successful and rewarding conference.

Like you, I am mindful that CASA, as much as Australian aviation generally, is in a period of change and transition. As you know, our Director Designate, Mark Skidmore, is actively preparing to formally assume his duties as CASA’s new Director of Aviation Safety early in the New Year, under the strategic direction of an enlarged and differently composed Board, the full membership of which has not yet been announced. But, however much change and a measure of uncertainty remain the order of the day, I do not believe I will be saying anything different, or differently, here today, to what I would be saying to you on behalf of CASA, yesterday, today or even tomorrow.

Your organisation’s charter rightly focuses on the facilitation of cooperation among all member airports and their many and varied partners with a view to the success of your respective enterprises, whilst contributing to an air transport system that is, amongst other things, safe. Rightly too, in a complementary way, CASA’s remit places safety itself in the primary position, to which a range of other relevant considerations are necessarily subordinate.

Whether specifying, interpreting, applying or, where necessary, enforcing regulatory requirements, CASA is bound to regard safety as the most important consideration. This is what our Act has provided since CASA’s predecessor, the Civil Aviation Authority, was established in 1988, and there is no indication of which I am aware that this will be changing any time soon. At the same time, however, it is crucial to recognise that, whilst safety must be our most important consideration, it is not, and may not properly be, our only consideration. In exercising our powers and performing our functions, CASA is neither discouraged nor prevented from taking a wide range of other relevant and important considerations into account. In fact, we are required by law to do so.

This critical recognition, which I fear is sometimes lost in the otherwise appropriately privileging ‘rhetoric of safety’, resonates well with the Government’s policies on regulation, and it is entirely consistent with the first Key Performance Indicator in the Government’s recently released Regulator Performance Framework, which directs that regulators must ‘not unnecessarily impede the efficient operation of regulated entities’-a formulation that departs in a deliberate way from the original draft KPI, which called for regulators to ‘facilitate the efficient operation of regulated entities’.

I’ll return to this subtle but important point in a moment.  For now, though, let me canvass some key developments in connection with CASA’s airport-related regulatory activities.

Aerodromes-Safety challenges

CASA regulates well over 300 aerodromes in Australian territory, stretching from the Cocos Islands in the West to Lord Howe Island in the East, and from Boigu Island in the North to Wilkins, Antarctica, in the South. They range from some of the busiest international airports in the world in the hearts of our major cities, to remote aerodromes that serve as a lifeline to some of the smallest communities in some of the most isolated parts of Australia.

CASA understands the importance of a safe and vibrant aviation sector to Australia’s prosperity. Aviation contributes over $32 billion to Australia’s GDP, and we recognise the vital role we play in delivering safety, as the Government’s highest aviation policy priority. Your own figures indicate that, in 2011, Australia’s airports generated a total economic contribution of just over $17 billion, the equivalent to around 1.2% of GDP.

Aerodromes are at the forefront of concern for all aviation safety regulators, and no less so for CASA. The main object of the Civil Aviation Act is to establish a regulatory framework within which particular emphasis is placed on preventing aviation accidents and incidents. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, over 70% of all accidents in 2013 occurred at or around aerodromes. And whilst all safety occurrences involve a range of causal and contributing factors, airports are in the challenging and often unenviable position of ‘hosting’ accidents and their aftermath-even in those cases in which an event may have had nothing whatsoever to do with the operation of the aerodrome at or near which it occurred.

Aerodromes-Responding to safety challenges

In Australia, airport operators have themselves-yourselves-proactively approach your responsibility to enhance safety at aerodromes in a variety of ways.  You do this by:

  • ensuring that people are equipped with the right skills;
  • providing relevant training for staff and management;
  • introducing and refining safety management systems; and
  • investing in infrastructure.

Particularly impressive in these times of economic challenge has been the introduction of solutions involving considerable investment in infrastructure, solutions which have involved the:

  • lengthening of runways and widening of landing strips;
  • addition of Runway End Safety Areas and dual taxi lanes on aprons;
  • installation of advanced  surface movement guidance and control systems (A-SMGCS); and
  • installation of runway stop bars and upgraded approach lighting.

CASA applauds these developments.  And for our part, we look forward to providing more and better advice, education and training opportunities for Australian aerodrome operators, generally and in more particularised ways, to support your safety-related efforts and initiatives.

 Regulation reform-Examples and status of recent and proposed changes-Review of MOS Part 139

Regulatory reform is a key issue for all sectors of the aviation industry, and in this connection, I am pleased to say that CASA has commenced a comprehensive review of the Manual of Standards (MOS) for Part 139 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998. I know that this has been a long-standing concern of the Australian Airports Association and its members, and I acknowledge the hard work the Association has put in to analyse the MOS and to provide a host of constructive suggestions for important changes. In conducting the review, CASA will draw on the work of the Association and consult extensively with airports.

In working to introduce meaningful, necessary and appropriate reforms to MOS Part 139, CASA will continue to-

  • align Australian with international best practice;
  • respond to advances in global aviation;
  • have regard to lessons learned-ours and yours; and
  • ensure that transition periods for the implementation of new standards are realistically calculated to allow industry to adjust to and accommodate changes at a reasonable pace.

And as said, we will continue to consult meaningfully and collaboratively with industry and other stakeholders.

I understand this particular piece of work may take up to two years to complete. At the end of the process, however, airports will be better and more efficiently regulated within a modern, functional and rational framework that is consistent with world best practice and relevant international standards.

 Deregulation agenda of the Australian Government

Any meaningful conversation about regulatory change nowadays properly begins with a clear recognition of the importance of deregulation. And on that score, I can tell you that CASA is fully committed to the Government’s deregulation agenda. We are conducting an ongoing program of reform to remove redundant provisions in regulations, and have already removed over 3,000 items from our legislation this year.

We have made, and are making, changes to simplify and improve administrative processes and to remove redundant or otherwise unnecessary requirements. And integral to CASA’s Regulatory Policy and Practice Initiative is a calculated effort to refine our regulatory approach, so that the capital ‘R’ by which we may come to be better recognised as a regulator will be linked more closely to being ‘Rational’, ‘Reasonable’, ‘Responsive’ and ‘Realistic’.

As part of the government’s red tape audit, we have examined Part 99 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations, which requires certain aviation organisations, including many airports, to implement a drug and alcohol management plan (DAMP). Amongst other things, the regulations require DAMP organisations to conduct pre-deployment testing and education of all employees involved in safety sensitive aviation activities (SSAA), including contractors and subcontractors.

Recognising the difficulties a multiplicity of such regimes can create when the same individuals are effectively required to comply with requirements imposed under different DAMP and DAMP-like systems, we will be considering the development and introduction of a DAMP contract card, which can be issued to individuals who have undergone appropriate testing and education, who may then use a single card to demonstrate that they have done so and thereby satisfy the requirements of a number of different DAMP organisations. The aim here will be to eliminate the need for, and the costs of, complying with a multiplicity of organisation-specific obligations.

We intend to reconsider the definition of Safety Sensitive Aviation Activities itself, so that only those activities that involve genuine risks to safety will be covered. Reporting requirements for DAMP organisations will also be revisited.

Operations on narrow runways

A recent and important example of the kind of regulatory relief CASA is providing for operators and airports alike involves regulations relating to narrow-runway operations. No longer will aerodromes be required to widen runways to allow for the operation of aircraft which have been assessed as capable of operating safely on narrower runways. The expectation is that such aircraft will be issued with an approved narrow-runway flight manual supplement, giving operators the freedom and the responsibility to address what is essentially an operational issue, without the need for aerodrome operators to seek an exemption from previously applicable requirements.
The new rules commended less than two weeks ago, on 13 November 2014.

 Process and the role of the Standards Consultative Committee

As many of you know, the manner in which CASA consults with industry on proposed regulatory changes is, and has been, through the public Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) process. Not all of you may appreciate the extent to which industry and interested party consultation begins well before a proposed rule is formulated, however, and how that exercise progresses through an iterative process from start to finish.

CASA’s Standards Consultative Committee (SCC) and its subcommittees are important vehicles for industry consultation on all regulation reform. In relation to airport-specific legislation, proposals for legislative change are closely scrutinised by the Airspace and Infrastructure Users’ Group subcommittee of the SCC-the industry co-chair of which is none other than the executive director of the Australian Airports Association,, Ms Caroline Wilkie, who I am sure will ably represent the interests and concerns of airport operators in the upcoming review of the Part 139 Manual of Standards, and beyond.

Safety regulation-Surveillance of airports

Consistent with, and in some ways anticipating, the Government’s regulation reform agenda, CASA has adopted a risk-based framework across the whole of our surveillance programme. With regard to airports, this means that CASA can focus its efforts and resources on those aerodromes posing higher levels of risk to safety. Although passenger through-put certainly plays a significant part in the calculation of risk, this does not necessarily mean that, in all cases, those airports with the largest number of passengers will be regarded as posing the greatest risks to safety across all relevant dimensions. Australia’s largest airports will continue to be subject to regular surveillance, but other risk-based considerations will play a role in these evidence-based determinations.

This approach involves a departure from conventional fixed-cycle schemes of surveillance, although the time between surveillance exercises will naturally be a factor in these calculations. So, while some airports may continue to expect to be audited more frequently and at fixed intervals, others may find themselves inspected less frequently.

Safeguarding of airports-Protection of airspace

Let me say a word or two about airspace protection. CASA is alive to the concerns that have been expressed with increasing frequency about the-

  • encroachment of tall residential and commercial buildings in the vicinity of airports;
  • extent to which such encroachments compromise the safety of air operations at those airports; and
  • suggestion that CASA should play a more determinative role in the approval processes for potentially encroaching construction projects.

While community vigilance plays an important part in any democratic society, CASA believes the existing regime, whereby the protection of airspace is governed within a framework agreed by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, is adequate and appropriate.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is responsible for managing the protection of airspace around Leased Federal Airports (LFAs), and it does so informed by advice provided by CASA and Airservices Australia. CASA strives to provide responsive and timely advice to the Department on all applications involving infringement of prescribed airspace around federal airports, and we remain confident that the Department properly takes that advice in to account in forming its views.

At non-Federal airports, CASA will continue to provide advice to proponents and land use planning authorities in relation to proposals involving the infringement of airspace. Pursuant to guidelines of the National Airport Safeguarding Advisory Framework, we believe planning authorities should act in the light of CASA’s advice. In the end, however, we recognise that our authority is limited to the provision of such advice. Matters related to land use planning are best dealt with by elected policy makers and other planning authorities, and it would be inappropriate for the aviation safety regulator to have decision-making powers in connection with matters calling for a sometimes delicate balance to be struck between the safety and efficiency of airport operations and other broader policy-based considerations.

Establishing productive and collaborative relationships with industry

As I suggested I would do earlier, let me say something more about the establishment and fostering of productive and collaborative relationships with industry. I have what some may regard as a conservative understanding of the notion of ‘partnership’, as contemplating a relationship in which all parties share equally in both the costs and burdens, as well as profits and the other emoluments of success, in connection with the initiation and pursuit of a common enterprise of some kind.

I dare say no one here today believes CASA shares equally in the costs and other imposts Australian airports are obliged to shoulder; and we certainly do not share in your profits. In this sense, then, CASA is not, and cannot properly be a partner with those whom we regulate. This does not mean, however, that we cannot, should not or will not be a cooperative, constructive and collaborative contributor to your safety-related activities, or that we won’t do all we can do, consistent with our safety-related obligations, to minimise the costs and burdens attendant on necessary regulatory intervention-and to eliminate those costs and burdens where regulation is unnecessary.

In keeping with the Government’s red-tape cutting initiatives generally, and its Regulator Performance Framework more particularly, CASA has been, and looks forward to being, appropriately supportive of your efforts and undertakings, and in that modest way, to be a kind of ‘facilitator’ of your own deserved successes. Let me mention some examples of how this has worked well in recent times.

Airport Safety Week

In October, CASA was a proud sponsor of the Australian Airports Association 2014 Airport Safety Week. This was an excellent initiative, in which over 70 airports across Australia and New Zealand took part, with a focus on the personal safety of airside staff and the importance of providing a safe environment for all aerodrome users. CASA aerodrome and DAMP inspectors, as well as our safety promotion staff, played an active part in Airport Safety Week events at a number of venues.

As it happens, a number of CASA’s Aerodrome Inspectors are attending this Conference. Some of them will be making presentations and participating in the technical workshop, and all of them are ready, willing and able to field questions and engage with you on various regulatory and aerodrome safety issues.

Introduction of ILS Cat II operations at Sydney

Earlier this year, Sydney airport commenced ILS category II operations on its main runway (16R/34L). This will enable operations down to a runway visual range of just 350 metres.

One of the essential elements of the supporting infrastructure for Category II operations is a high intensity approach lighting (HIAL) system, and both ends of the runway at Sydney have natural features that presented significant obstacles to the installation of a conventional HIAL system. CASA worked closely and collaboratively with Sydney Airport to examine and approve the safety of an alternative to HIAL, called the approach lighting system with sequenced flashing lights to see these challenges effectively met and addressed.

By allowing operations to continue in weather that would previously have required them to cease, the introduction of Category II operations will provide important benefits to the airport, airlines and the travelling public.

Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport

One of the most exciting developments in which CASA has been pleased to have played a part in what I think everyone involved considers to have been a constructive, cooperative and appropriately collaborative exercise, was the opening of Australia’s newest airport, Brisbane West Wellcamp.

I am sure many of you were inspired by John Wagner’s presentation yesterday on the challenges and achievement of ‘building an airport from scratch’. I am sorry I missed that, but it is an achievement I have followed closely from the outset. It is still early days, of course, but not too early to recognise a ‘success story’ when we see one.

A great many challenges had to be faced and overcome in the development of Wellcamp, and CASA worked closely with all stakeholders to help ensure a range of airspace management issues were effectively and safely addressed. From a regulatory perspective, that effort culminated in the formal certification of Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport last month-an accomplishment for which I think it is still timely to say congratulations.

Concluding remarks

In closing, I want to allude to the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’-and even in a room of this size, an elephant would probably not go unnoticed. I refer here to the report and recommendations of the Aviation Safety Regulation Review.

Like you, I eagerly await the Government’s response to the report. Unlike you, I am not in a position to comment or speculate on what that response may or should be. What I can say, however, is that, while the Review identified a number of areas in which CASA’s performance can and should be improved, much of the constructive criticism reflected in the Review focused on problems of which CASA is and was aware, and in an effort to develop meaningful and enduring solutions to which we are already actively engaged.

Whatever else may flow on from the Government’s response to the Review, I am confident it will impel a redoubling of our efforts to improve our approach to regulation, and to enhance CASA’s role as Australia’s aviation safety regulator and our relations with all of our stakeholders.

A thematic thread running through the fabric of the Aviation Safety Regulation Review involved the idea of trust, as a feature necessary to any effective working relationship between a regulator and the regulated. In any relationship, trust must be earned; and if it is to be maintained, the basis on which it rests must be respected and protected. Once betrayed-or once it is even believed to have been betrayed-trust can quickly be lost, and regaining lost trust can be enormously difficult.

Building, or rebuilding, trust needs to be based on a foundation of reliance, which itself will be constructed, stone by stone, if you will, with repeated demonstrations of predictable, fair and reasonable behaviour.

With this in mind, I am half inclined to say: ‘Don’t trust us’, but what I really mean to say is ‘Don’t just trust us’.  Instead, look at what we do and put us to our proof when we say we will do, or have done, something. I am eager for you to see that CASA is a reliable regulator, and on that basis, that we are indeed trustworthy.

Trust, of course, is a two-way street. Relations of trust need to be mutual and reciprocal to flourish. And if reliability forms the basis on which trust is built, it is reasonable and proper that verification should be readily forthcoming from both sides of the relationship.

I, for one, am excited and optimistic about the future, and I look forward to working with the Australian Airports Association and its members-constructively, cooperatively, collaboratively-in the coming months and years, with a view to a safe and vibrant future.

Thank you.

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