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ASRR developments and CASA Board changes – New regs is the aim!!

The following is by Dr. Jensen of Western Australia.

The matter is well reported at:  pprune and the Truss Review [ASRR]

Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (11:17): I am very pleased to follow the member for Swan in supporting the Civil Aviation Amendment (CASA Board) Bill 2014. I rise to speak on this bill not for the specifics so much as the general—that is, the general thrust and meaning of this bill and what it hopes to address.

The increased diversity in the Australian aviation industry requires continuous improvement in the aviation safety regulatory system. While Australia has an enviable record in aviation safety, built on a strong regulatory system, any regulator must keep pace with the industry it regulates. Australia’s aviation safety governance structures and processes have continued to evolve since the initial establishment of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 covering the operations of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority—Australia’s aviation safety regulator. CASA was established in July 1995, under an updated Civil Aviation Act 1988, as the independent aviation safety regulator—a Commonwealth statutory authority with responsibility for the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australia and Australian aircraft operating outside Australian territory.

At the very heart of this bill is safety. How does a governing body catch up with an industry that is moving so quickly? This bill adds two members to the CASA board, taking the total from five members to seven. This includes the Director of Aviation Safety as an ex-officio member. The two additional members, importantly, will have operational and/or technical aviation experience. The provisions of the bill will provide for the CASA board to be comprised of six members appointed by the minister, plus the Director of Aviation Safety as an ex-officio member—in other words, seven members in total.

An expanded board with experience and background in aviation would be better equipped to implement CASA’s new strategic direction to be established by the government after considering the outcomes of the external aviation safety regulation review due to be completed in May 2014. There are other issues related to bringing CASA up to world best standard. It is the hope of all government members that the proposed changes in this bill will achieve that standard.

It is the hallmark of a good government, and especially this government, that common sense be at the heart of legislation. So yes, the size of the board is to increase, but this is to address the backlog of issues building due to the changing nature of aviation and the increasing complexity surrounding that industry. There are too many new issues to detail. Suffice to say that the world is a very different place from what it was in 1995. The common-sense aspect of this legislation is item 2 of the bill, which increases the number of written requests that the chair must receive from board members before the chair is required to call an ad hoc board meeting. With the increased size of the board, this amendment keeps in place the requirement that the chair must call an ad hoc board meeting if he or she receives a written request from at least 50 per cent of the remaining board members, including the director. This cuts down on the number of two-person board meetings. It cuts down on expenses claims for meetings that have no value. It is more democratic and more efficient.

Responsible government is responsive. This legislation, while in process for a considerable time, looks timely in light of revelations arising from an inquiry in the other place into CASA’s standards. During the inquiry into Qantas an engineering union official accused CASA of failing to properly supervise maintenance and of favouring the national airline. A Senate committee was told that the engines on a Qantas jet were not properly attached after it was serviced in Hong Kong, and CASA was accused of handling the incident inappropriately. There is no reason why CASA should not be a world leader, nor is there any reason why Australia should not set industry standards rather than follow industry leaders.

Let me expand on the specific example of the use of electronics during take-off and landing. In the United States it is possible to use electronic devices at all stages during flight, including take-off and landing. This is not the case in Australia. While this is not a big issue in and of itself, it is indicative of a governing authority that is behind the curve. So this legislation is timely. CASA is a slow body and governing processes are even slower. It is my ardent hope that this necessary increase in bureaucracy results in the speeding up of the process. Hopefully more hands will make light work of the increased demands on CASA.

At this juncture I would like to talk about how CASA impacts constituents in my electorate of Tangney. Tangney is an electorate that knows the benefit of both private and commercial flight and also the downsides associated with both—which were spoken about by the member for Swan. Jandakot Airport is a key stakeholder and, like any airport or private operator, should have a role in the greater discussion regarding aviation regulations and CASA. However, it is not only significant financial stakeholders that are impacted by any change to CASA or the regulatory environment surrounding aviation. A demonstration of this point is that, in October 2013, I was briefed by a constituent, Mr John Janssen, about how seemingly small changes can have a very significant impact. He wished to highlight what he had been alerted to by Mr Max Scorer—namely, that while the strictest standards of safety should be religiously enforced on commercial airlines it is sometimes not possible or practical in relation to recreational airplanes. Mr Scorer had recently retired from CASA—at the end of June 2013—after just on 30 years of service with CASA and its predecessors as an airworthiness inspector. Prior to his appointment in 1983 to the then Department of Aviation, he worked in the field of aircraft maintenance as a licenced engineer on large airline aircraft, light aircraft and corporate jet aircraft. He also spent some time as a flight engineer and in his younger years he served with RAAF City of Melbourne 21 Squadron. So to say he is a person of great experience would be no exaggeration. Mr Scorer approached me with a view to offering his services to the aviation industry to give something back to an industry that has provided him with a living for many years. In January 2014 he clocked up 50 years of service in aviation.

Mr Scorer gave me a presentation with regard to the recently implemented Civil Aviation Safety Regulation 1998 part 42. It is my belief that more of the aviation community should be aware of the situation as it now exists under part 42. One would obviously realise that the intricacies of government legislation can be complex, so I will try to explain the requirements as briefly as possible and attempt to give you some idea of what changing safety legislation could mean for the general aviation sector.

Under Civil Aviation Regulation [1988] 30, the regulation under which GA maintenance organisations presently gain approval, the norm has been for the operator’s chosen maintenance organisation to control all the pending maintenance requirements for their aircraft. In other words, the maintenance organisation would keep concise records of what is required to safely maintain the aircraft and comply with all CASA legislation. Much of this is provided to the customer as part of maintenance services and as a normal function of aircraft maintenance. It is called continuing airworthiness control or continuing airworthiness management.

CAMOs are granted approval under part 42G. The RPT sector, which used to operate under CAR 30, now operates under part 145—the actual physical maintenance function—and part 42G—airworthiness management—two different approvals. Part 42B, specifically 42.040 (2) says that the registered operator of an aircraft operating under an air operator’s certificate ‘must’ have a contract with a CAMO or form their own CAMO.

The requirements relating to gaining approval as a CAMO are very costly and difficult for the GA sector to achieve. For instance, a small maintenance organisation consisting of a chief engineer—quite often the owner—hangar foreman, and licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, unlicensed personnel and quite often a couple of apprentices will not be allowed to utilise any of those personnel to form a CAMO. It will not be acceptable for them to carry out the two roles as they have done in the past. The CAMO must have a management structure consisting of an accountable manager, responsible manager, quality manager, continuing airworthiness manager, airworthiness review manager and so on. All of these personnel have to have formal qualifications to be acceptable to CASA to fill these positions. For instance, to fill the position of continuing airworthiness manager you would have to be a LAME or equivalent. There are not enough LAMEs in Australia to carry out aircraft maintenance as it is; pulling them out of the system and putting them into a CAM role would severely hamper the industry in available personnel and impose a huge increase in cost to the operator.

At this time CASA has not approved any independent CAMOs. All approvals have been granted within the RPT sector. There are thousands of aircraft in Australia that are affected. There are many private aircraft owners who make their aircraft available to operators under leasing agreements. This helps in two ways: it lessens the cost of ownership where maintenance costs et cetera are concerned and it makes aircraft available to operators who would otherwise not be able to finance the purchase of the aircraft. If any such aircraft are operating under an AOC then the owner will have to contract the services of a CAMO to gain an ARC—no ARC, no flying. The maintenance organisations will not be able to issue a certificate to release the service following the maintenance unless the aircraft has an ARC.

These requirements will have far-reaching implications where the GA sector is concerned. The Royal Flying Doctor Service, for instance, will have to comply with the CAMO and ARC requirements. At the moment the operation of the ESSO helicopters in Victoria ferrying workers out to the oil rigs is a ‘private operation’. This operation, by the way, rivals the airlines in terms of departure and arrival frequencies. Via the new operational regs, this operation will be under an AOC.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is funded largely by donations. The requirement to either contract a CAMO or gain their own 42G approval will entail the use of some of those vital funds. The adoption of the European Aviation Safety Agency legislation, which is what the new legislation is based on, is all very fine for airline-type operators, such as Qantas or Virgin. However, it is a bit ludicrous to expect an organisation that is operating a couple of piston-powered Robinson R44 helicopters, carrying three passengers to a remote site to view cave paintings, to provide the same infrastructure as Qantas does for the Boeing 747s. As Mr Scorer pointed out, that needs to be back at the heart of law making. I believe this bill is a fine example of sense. Items 2 and 3 of the bill exemplify this common-sense approach. That is, with item 3 increasing the quorum limits, there is an added incentive to get more board members to attend, thus ensuring better delivery and decision making.

The Civil Aviation Amendment (CASA Board) Bill demonstrates this government’s ongoing commitment to aviation safety. The coalition government is taking decisive action now to strengthen the nation’s safety regulator and its oversight of the aviation industry. In the final analysis, it demonstrates the government’s clear commitment to deliver hope, reward and opportunity to all Australians.

Roll on the US-FAR’s for Australia and the dismantling of CASA.

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