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#CASA behind the 8-ball and damages aviation industry

#CASA behind the 8-ball and damages aviation industry

Thursday’s expose by Ean Higgins again goes to the heart of what is serially wrong in #ozaviation and the regulator allows improper changes to go ahead.

Yes we do need to be up with the latest, but the cost of being at the “…pointy end…” is not shown to be beneficial or should I say, safer!!

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Flyers burnt by air safety U-turn

Flyers burnt by air safety U-turn

Brad Edwards at Ballina airport in northern NSW. Picture: Renee Nowytarger Source: News Corp Australia

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority promised charter aircraft operators an exemption from having to install a cripplingly expensive new air navigation system, but backed down after Airservices Australia reversed its position and insisted on no such breaks.

Documents obtained by The Australian show that two years ago, the then head of CASA, John McCormick, told one charter ­operator, Brad Edwards, that CASA as the safety regulator had reached an understanding with Airservices, the government body which runs the country’s air traffic control and navigation system, for exemptions to a mandate requiring the installation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system.

ADS-B is an advanced air navigation system based on satellite GPS, which relays aircraft positions via ground stations to air traffic controllers.

Airservices has sought to have all required aircraft carry the new system by 2017, three years before its full introduction in the US.

Aviation figures say that for smaller general aviation operators, the cost of installing ADS-B is at present prohibitive, because it requires aircraft owners to do complex engineering work.

Mr Edwards, who runs charter service Edwards Aviation with seven aircraft based in Armidale, NSW, sought along with other smaller operators to be exempted from installing ADS-B for a few years, until the economies of scale and mass production of the equipment in the US brought it down to a fraction of the cost.

“I could see it was going to cost me a big whack of money,” Mr ­Edwards said. “For one of my aircraft there were still no engineering solutions out there, so we said, ‘What are we going to do, we want an exemption’.”

Engineers had told him it would cost $125,000 to equip that aircraft with ADS-B, because the equipment manufacturer, Honeywell, had not designed the adaptation engineering for the aircraft type, and would not be doing so until the market developed in the US. “In five years, it would cost ​a tenth as much,” Mr Edwards said.

Mr McCormick met Mr ­Edwards in Armidale, and said CASA would arrange for an exemption for him and others in his sector of the aviation industry.

Soon after, Mr McCormick wrote to Mr Edwards. “I have spoken to (an aviation industry officer representing smaller air operators) and Airservices and the ­approach they have spoken of ­between themselves is to treat biz jets that are not ADS-B compliant in the same manner as Airservices dealt with non RVSM compliant aircraft when that initiative was introduced,” Mr McCormick wrote. RVSM refers to an advanced altimeter system, in relation to which exemptions were granted, and are still granted, to small operators, who are only required to ­accept occasionally being placed in second priority for flight clearances by air traffic controllers.

Mr Edwards said once he ­received the letter from Mr McCormick, “I went, you beauty, we can relax.”

But on a flight from Launceston to Uluru with Russian tourists, air traffic controllers kept his aircraft below 29,000 feet instead of the preferred cruising altitude of 37,000 feet, meaning it was burning twice the fuel. The controllers said he could not fly at the higher altitude ­because he had not installed ADS-B, and ignored his protestations that he had been granted an exemption by CASA.

Knowing the aircraft would not make it to Uluru, Mr Edwards touched down at Whyalla in South Australia to refuel.

“We were not going to make it,” Mr Edwards said.

He then spoke to CASA, but could not immediately get a ­response to what had happened to his promised exemption.

He spoke to businessman and aviator Dick Smith, who contacted Mr McCormick. Mr McCormick told Mr Smith that Airservices had changed its mind and decided it did not want the ­exemptions granted. In a subsequent letter to Mr Smith, Mr McCormick wrote: “CASA took into consideration and accepted Airservices Australia’s safety ­arguments against exemptions.”

Mr Smith yesterday said: “CASA is the safety regulator, why are they letting a profit-making business decide safety issues?”

A CASA spokesman said: “CASA assesses all relevant information in making a decision about exemptions. In this case a relevant safety argument was made by Airservices that was accepted by CASA.”

Mr Edwards said, in all, he had been forced to spend $250,000 to equip his aircraft with ADS-B, with none of the benefits CASA and Airservices promised, such as more direct routes for aircraft.

“It’s had a very big impact of the viability of this business,” Mr Edwards said.

A spokesman for Airservices said CASA had put in the ADS-B mandate “following comprehensive consultation and support from key sections of the aviation community”.

“We have also spoken individually to a number of operators, including Mr Edwards,” the spokesman said.

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