An aviation researcher, writer, aviation participant, pilot & agricultural researcher. Author of over 35 scientific publications world wide.


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Ben Sandilands, as usual gives a cogent report on the [just another] hidden report by CASA on AirServices. Is this just another use of the MOU process to “cover-up”??

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Australia: A failed state in aviation safety?

| Jul 16, 2013 8:28AM | | PRINT The hitherto secret CASA audit of AirServices Australia is evidence that the country is either a failed or failing state when it comes to the supposedly public administration of air safety.Australia doesn’t exhibit the dreadful consequences of being such a failed state, but in view of the benign indifference or cheerleading that passes for government and opposition reactions to such disclosures, and the seriousness of the evidence available, it could become one at ay moment.

A system that loses a Virgin Australia jet on a busy corridor like Sydney-Brisbane for most of the flight, and then lies about it, or turns an Etihad flight into an invisible projectile untracked across central Australia for hours is a menace to international aviation and domestic services.

An air traffic control system that is so grossly dysfunctional that is cannot carry out out its responsibilities to track and separate airliners safely, and cannot even correctly train its air traffic  controllers is a serious risk to public safety.

The CASA audit points to hundreds of infringement notices over a period of only a few years.

But the failure of public administration in aviation safety goes much further and deeper than a grossly incompetent and poorly trained air traffic control service.

The recent Senate committee inquiry into the conduct of the ATSB (the safety investigator) and CASA in relation to the former’s final report into the crash of a Pel-Air jet performing the role of an aerial ambulance near Norfolk Island in 2009 shows that both bodies have behaved in a way which covered up failures of duty by CASA in relation to its lack of effective oversight of the flight’s operator.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the Senate report was scathing about the integrity of submissions and testimony by the director of safety at CASA, John McCormick and the chief commissioner of  the ATSB Martin Dolan.

In the wash the final ATSB report failed to take into account that Pel-Air at the time of the accident was in multiple and serious breach of the safety regulations, had no fuel policy for oceanic flights, and was using an aircraft which on compelling evidence, was completely unsuitable for the mission it was flying.

CASA withheld from the ATSB a relevant document under the Transport Safety Investigation Act of 2003 which found that the accident could have been prevented had CASA performed its obligations of inspections, audits and oversights of Pel-Air in a detailed and professional manner.

The ATSB defied the international obligations it has in framing crash investigations by not making any safety findings in what was the world’s first ever ditching of a Westwind corporate jet and in which all of the safety equipment failed to work as intended on impact.

It refused to retrieve the eminently retrievable flight data recorder from the sunk jet which will show whether or not the correct meteorological information was transmitted to the flight on a day when conditions at Norfolk Island, where it had to land to refuel, were deteriorating in time for the captain to decide to divert to Noumea or Nadi when the jet had sufficient fuel to do so.

But on the evidence presented to the Senate committee, it conspired with CASA to cover up the truth, and worse, to frame all of the blame on the pilot.

This national shame has not produced the slightest indication of urgency or concern by the government. The responsible Minister, who is also responsible for Communications, Infrastructure, Local Government and Regional Affairs, appears to be taking advice on these matters from public servants involved with the same bodies that are the subject of the adverse findings of the Senate committee.

Under these conditions, the safe and informed public administration of air safety in Australia has been compromised to protect the safety agencies from being exposed as incompetent.

If Australia is not already a failed state when it comes to first world air safety administration standards it is certainly a failing state.