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Battle looms with #casa over proper reform and #ozaviation regulation

Battle looms with #casa over proper reform and #ozaviation regulation

The need for proper reform in #ozaviation cannot be more in focus than at present.

  • 14th April 2016 deadline by Dick Smith for a Federal Court action;
  • 17th April 2016 for the meeting with Marc de Stoop with Minister Chester;
  • 17th April 2016 for a hearing of the action against a pilot in Cairns by #casa

Marc de Stoop has been on the trail of #casa for a period, with there being a number of meetings with #casa. However, there has not been any substantive reactions by the regulator.

Marc de Stoop questions #casa

Other aviation participants, including Sandy Reith have been equally persistent in their support for proper reform, which enhances the future of aviation, rather than the preferred course of #casa, which is the continued decline in aviation driven by the regulator and the inane regulatory suite.

The #asrr report by David Forsyth brought problems with the regulator into sharp focus, but were largely “…headed off at the pass….” by #casa. This has seriously and negatively affected the aviation industry as a whole and affected safety at the coal-face.

That #casa can blythly pay only lip service to the carefully researched and prepared #asrr report, shows clearly #casa does not want to listen to industry


The reaction occurred on Saturday, when #aopa member, Mark Skidmore [#casa CEO and aircraft owner] resigned from #aopa.

Quote:  From: “Caroline Skidmore” <csk09671@bigpond.net.au>
Date: April 2, 2016 at 8:02:06 PM GMT+11
To: <mail@aopa.com.au>
Subject: Cancellation of membership.

Please cancel my membership with immediate effect as I no longer want to be associated with AOPA.

Mark Skidmore

Member number 49388

This was on the back of Marc de Stoop seeking a meeting with Minister Chester. The meeting [on 17th April 2016] seeks a range of issues to be clarified and moved forward, given the parlous state of #ozaviation.

In fact, Marc laid the ground rules in August 2015 with his letter to #aopa members.


Dick Smith, as the following articles show, has continued in his direct action against #casa. The following refers to his action, where there are some very specific accusations made, which he properly supports.


Pilots accuse air safety boss of ‘dummy spit’ over criticism

Air safety boss Mark Skidmore has been accused of a spectacular “dummy spit” after quitting the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, apparently over its criticism of aviation red tape.

Mr Skidmore, aviation safety director at the Civil Aviation ­Safety Authority, sent an email to the AOPA at 8.02pm on Saturday advising it to: “Please cancel my membership with immediate ­effect as I no longer want to be ­associated with AOPA.”

Mr Skidmore did not give a reason for the resignation but it came a day after AOPA president Marc De Stoop met federal Major Projects Minister Paul Fletcher to present him with an expert briefing paper exposing “inappropriate … regulation that has decimated our once-thriving general aviation industry”.

Mr De Stoop told The Aus­tralian he was surprised and dis­appointed that Mr Skidmore, a former Royal Australian Air Force air vice-marshal, had ­resigned from the association.

“It’s unfortunate because it wasn’t a personal attack on Mr Skidmore; it’s just that we couldn’t get any significant traction (dealing with CASA),” Mr De Stoop said.

The 130-page “Project Eureka” briefing document is scathing of aviation bureaucracies, blaming creeping over-regulation for a dramatic decline in aircraft movements at secondary airports and in aviation mechanical engineering apprenticeships.

In a letter to Mr Fletcher, ­posted with the report on AOPA’s website on Friday, Mr De Stoop claims “government bureaucrats, through lack of understanding of the need for businesses to be commercially viable, have failed this industry”.

The letter quotes an author of the report, aviation safety expert Ken Lewis, as warning that CASA would seek to bury the document.

“The politicians will send it to CASA for guidance; CASA will then defer comment as long as they can, which will be after any coming election,” Mr Lewis’s ­advice reads.

Mr Skidmore fired off his email to AOPA the following evening.

Mr De Stoop said he did not believe Mr Skidmore’s resignation was an attempt to intimidate aircraft owners or pilots, but other aviation experts warned that may be the consequence.

Veteran aviator and former CASA chairman Dick Smith told The Australian he thought Mr Skidmore, who flies his own Globe GC-1B Swift, a stylish sports monoplane, was sending the wrong message.

“It’s outrageous that just ­because he’s an active general ­aviation pilot and for the first time in 10 years the AOPA actually criticises CASA, he as the director immediately resigns his membership,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s so pointed. Everyone will hear about this and the message will be, don’t join AOPA or identify with it.”

Mr Skidmore was understood to be travelling overseas ­yesterday; he did not respond to The Australian’s calls and emails.

Mr De Stoop said he understood that Mr Fletcher had been asked by Malcolm Turnbull to ­investigate ways that cuts to general ­aviation red tape could revitalise the industry.

AOPA represents 2600 general aviation aircraft owners and pilots in private, commercial charter and airline operations.

Mr De Stoop said its Eureka report recommended privatising Airservices Australia and using the proceeds to help revitalise the industry, while “radically” streamlining regulation.

 Controlled airspace still under a cloud 25 years on

  • The Australian

Dick Smith has lobbied for tighter safety standards for more than 25 years. Picture: Renee Nowytarger.

It’s a nightmare. No wonder I have sleepless nights.

A series of articles in this newspaper last year covered how commercial pilots at dozens of Australian airports (Ballina in NSW and Bairnsdale in Victoria are just two examples) are forced to blunder around in cloud attempting to call other aircraft to avoid a collision.

It’s a 1930s system of calling in blind uncontrolled airspace. There is not even a radio operator on the ground at these airports to confirm an aircraft’s radio is working correctly and to give local weather conditions.

After five flights around the world where I closely studied airspace procedures, I found the Australian system was unique and existed only because of union demarcation issues after controlled airspace was introduced worldwide in the 1940s.

In 1991 the Civil Aviation Safety Authority decided to follow proven international practice and introduce controlled airspace at these busy country airports so aircraft in cloud were directed by controllers and kept apart using a proven safety standard. Twenty-five years later not one Australian airport has been upgraded to this safer level of service.

How can this be, I hear you ask. The answer is resistance to change and a lack of leadership from those entrusted with aviation safety in this country.

Airline pilots are tested psychologically to follow existing rules and those who have flown only in the Australian system oppose change. Many believe only incompetent pilots require controlled airspace and a local radio operator. So far we have not had an airline accident caused by these 1930s procedures — but we have been close. Here are two examples:

On May 16, 1997, an aircraft was on approach in cloud to the airport at Bundaberg, Queensland, while another aircraft was on the same approach in the same cloud at the same time. Only luck prevented a collision. The investigators’ report revealed one of the professional aircrews had used the wrong “calling in the blind” frequency — a simple human error.

On June 23, 2006, a Rex airline aircraft was on approach to NSW’s Orange airport in cloud from the east as a commercial pilot in a Baron aircraft was approaching in cloud from the west. They were on a head-on course. A collision was prevented only when the pilot of one aircraft broke the rules and turned away at the last moment from the prescribed route.

As covered in this newspaper last year, on July 28, 2004, a Cheyenne aircraft was on approach to Victoria’s Benalla airport in bad weather. Because of an error of navigation the commercial pilot was many miles from the correct approach and all six on board were killed when the aircraft hit a mountain.

Previously an alarm had sounded numerous times in the Melbourne air traffic control centre; however, the controller was not required to inform the pilot as the aircraft was heading towards uncontrolled airspace.

Such is the resistance to change of those involved in the Australian Transport Safety Bureau that, even after these two serious incidents and one fatal accident, not one recommendation was made to even consider introducing controlled airspace at these airports as per the 1991 policy.

After numerous false starts to update controlled airspace, John Anderson, the federal transport and regional services minister at the time, appointed me to the Aviation Reform Group in early 2002. This group was to recommend how much-delayed airspace reforms should go ahead.

Other members of the five-person group included the chief of the air force at the time, Angus Houston. A unanimous decision was made to move to the National Airspace System used in the US and this was accepted by the Howard government and announced as policy. Houston was particularly supportive of the system because he had flown in the US during active service.

Anderson agreed that I would be a member of an implementation group; however, I was told later by Houston I should not be “hands on” and therefore I should not be involved with the working group. I was shocked by his request; it was a complete surprise to me.

(Editor’s note: Sir Angus has said he did not run the implementation committee and therefore did not have the power to veto Mr Smith’s appointment.)

The rest is history. Millions were spent in an attempt to introduce NAS and some good changes were made, only to be wound back later because of a lack of pilot education and the removal of CASA personnel who understood the NAS system.

Sadly, not one airport has been updated to the safer NAS class E controlled airspace and not one airport has the safer Unicom radio operator to give local weather and confirm the airline radio is working. “Calling in the blind do it yourself airspace” will remain until a major accident with fatalities brings in the change. I despair!

Dick Smith is a businessman, adventurer, philanthropist and former chairman of CASA.


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