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Falcon Air runs into inconsistent #casa regulatory rulings

The current bastardry of #casa continues.

This time other peoples survival have been compromised. The loss of human transplant materials from New Zealand could well affect a number of recipient lives who, although through a sad passing of another human life is a tragedy, the family unselfish donation to others is lost.

The comments below show the depth of an uncaring regulator and it’s rotten rules.

Ean Higgins, well done again with the spotlight on CASA, the out of control regulator. The former Department of Civil Aviation after a couple of name changes was morphed into an entirely new creature, the independent Commonwealth Corporate body 30 yrs ago. This is a hopelessly failed model of governance, example when created it was tasked to rewrite the rules. This has become the greatest make work program in the history of the Commonwealth, 30 yrs, millions of dollars and still not finished. The latest tranche of rules where FalconAir were tripped on are so dense, complicated and running to thousands of pages, that the few left in General Aviation should be regarded as heroes. The rules are simply unworkable. CASA has become a fee gouging salary factory with no political control or accountability. The CEO, fatuously termed the ‘Director of Air Safety’ gets around $600,000 pa (considerably more than the Minister who should be in charge) and the Board of CASA is so quiet if it never met no one would notice. I trust that no lay person reading these comments will be taken in by the CASA apologists, there is a battle Royale being fought out. The GA industry has been losing badly with the loss of thousands of jobs all these years. Virtually the only hope is through this sort of publicity. Alex in the Rises


Transplant air service grounded

Marc De Stoop, head of FalconAir. Picture: James Croucher
Marc De Stoop, head of FalconAir. Picture: James Croucher

A Sydney patient missed out on a heart transplant last month because the aviation watchdog decided to ground all seven pilots of an air ambulance company over what senior industry figures call a minor technicality involving one of them.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority refused to grant a short-term exemption for two days to charter flight company ­FalconAir, which would have meant it could have had one crew ready to fly ­urgent medical missions, including the later transplant flight.

Former CASA chairman and businessman Dick Smith described the regulator’s action as “absolute sheer bastardry” and a reflection of how bureaucracy and inflexibility were strangling general aviation.

But CASA said it had not been made aware of the problem of the heart transplant flight. “If we had been approached at the time, we would have done everything we could to facilitate that flight,” spokesman Peter Gibson said.

On December 8, CASA grounded not only FalconAir’s check pilot because an audit revealed he flew a competency flight on the wrong type of aircraft, but also the other six FalconAir pilots he had tested — because those checks were consequently deemed to be invalid.

An air ambulance flight broker contacted FalconAir on December 16 asking if the company could fly a St Vincent’s Hospital transplant team to Auckland on an urgent mission to take out the heart from a donor and bring it back to Sydney to transplant into the recipient ­patient. As a result of the groundings, FalconAir had to say no.

The broker, Nathan Gottle from NJP Aviation Services, wrote to FalconAir a few days later about the tragic outcome. “NJP was not successful in arranging a suitable aircraft for this mission from any operator on the east coast of Australia,” Mr Gottle said in the email. “After a period of approx. 3 hrs of attempting to source a suitable aircraft/crew, it was determined by the transplant team that the mission could no longer go ahead, as we would not be able to get the medical team to Auckland in time.”

A spokeswoman for St Vincent’s said the patient was “still on the waiting list” for a transplant.

A beating heart is retrieved from a recently deceased person in Adelaide

FalconAir chief executive Marc De Stoop, who is also the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, accepted that “CASA staff doing the audit on FalconAir were just doing their job”. But he said the complex rules, legal constraints and red tape they operated under meant the opportunity for sensible and collaborative solutions, which would have been possible under US air regulations, were unavailable here.

“I have pilots sitting on the ground,” Mr De Stoop said, adding that only three out of the seven had since been granted an exemption.

While Mr Gibson would not provide an absolute guarantee that CASA would have lifted the ban on FalconAir pilots, he said it had the power to grant “mercy flight” exemptions. Mr De Stoop, however, said he had repeatedly told CASA from the day his pilots were grounded that he and Careflight needed one crew to fly “life-saving operations”, but the regulator had not granted an exemption. Since the “non-compliant” tests, his two check pilots had passed simulator proficiency checks in the US.

FalconAir operates two Dassault Falcon F-20 twin-engine jets out of Sydney, and one Falcon F-50 three-engined jet out of Brisbane. It offers corporate jet charters but specialises in aeromedical services including patient and organ transfers and medical evacuations.

Mr De Stoop said his check pilot made an error in good faith in interpreting the rules under which some checks but not others could be done in different types of aircraft.

Mr De Stoop pointed to a CASA “double standard”. The check pilot had been allowed to conduct a flight review of one pilot, with CASA witnesses on board, the day after he was grounded, but the authority “refused to grant him our request for a very limited exemption — two flights — to allow him to check two other of our pilots”.


Comments to article:

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58 comments
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Avatar for Alexander
Alexander
4 hours ago

Ean Higgins, well done again with the spotlight on CASA, the out of control regulator. The former Department of Civil Aviation after a couple of name changes was morphed into an entirely new creature, the independent Commonwealth Corporate body 30 yrs ago. This is a hopelessly failed model of governance, example when created it was tasked to rewrite the rules. This has become the greatest make work program in the history of the Commonwealth, 30 yrs, millions of dollars and still not finished. The latest tranche of rules where FalconAir were tripped on are so dense, complicated and running to thousands of pages, that the few left in General Aviation should be regarded as heroes. The rules are simply unworkable. CASA has become a fee gouging salary factory with no political control or accountability. The CEO, fatuously termed the ‘Director of Air Safety’ gets around $600,000 pa (considerably more than the Minister who should be in charge) and the Board of CASA is so quiet if it never met no one would notice. I trust that no lay person reading these comments will be taken in by the CASA apologists, there is a battle Royale being fought out. The GA industry has been losing badly with the loss of thousands of jobs all these years. Virtually the only hope is through this sort of publicity. Alex in the Rises
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1RobUnlikeReply
Avatar for Mick
Mick
20 hours ago

Dick Smith had previously been complaining that the ATSB should have grounded Essendon King Air crash pilot, Max Quartermain, because of his role in a prior incident near Mount Hotham. Now he’s complaining when CASA actually do ground pilots who’s qualifications are in question. Seems like there’s no pleasing Dick.
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1AlanLikeReply
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Rob
18 hours ago

@Mick That is not the issue here. #casa caused this issue because part 61 is so badly written and implemented.
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1AlexanderLikeReply
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Mick
15 hours ago

@Rob Nonsense! FalconAir caused the issue by failing to properly certify their aircrew. FalconAir then compounded the matter first by failing to notify the aeromedical charter broker NJP Aviation Services that they had been grounded and then second by failing to make an application for a mercy flight exemption when they were approached about the Auckland flight.

A complete lack of proper governance and process on FalconAir’s behalf doesn’t make it a priority for CASA. And to top it all off, FalconAir’s Chief Executive Marc is also the President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association! You’ve got to hope he does a better job running AOPA than he does running his own business.
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1John PLikeReply
Avatar for Rob
Rob
41 minutes ago

@Mick @Rob In reading the article again, it is obvious that there is an information flow between the organisation and casa, with questions to clarify answers to #casa.

In my experience, casa are slow to answer [up to 2 years] for simple answers or just do not reply at all. In cases such as this, there are often conflicting advice given by casa to requests or casa change the “interpretations” of regs with an “…I believe…” answer.

In the Senate review brought on by Senators Fawcett and Xenophon, the Senators sought answers from #casa, who gave question to five FOI’s [Flight Operations Inspectors] Two gave one answer and three another.

This indicates the extreme difficulty for pilots, operators, engineers to both understand the regulations [which are not clear, micromanaged, dogmatic or just plain obscure]

If the #casa FOI’s cannot get it correct for a single question, how can individuals get a clear response when less clear questions might be asked.

Not a good look for #aviation.
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Avatar for Rosemary
Rosemary
23 hours ago

I have been banging on about CASA and its ineptitude for weeks here. Mark de Stoop and the folks at AOPA are banging there heads against a hanger door. CASA is like the Hydra – cut off one head and two grew in its place – there is a bureaucracy within a bureaucracy here
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5AlexanderAntheaPeterSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Michael
Michael
23 hours ago

It is not only incompetent politicians making a mess of Australian, it is the legions of public servants chock a block full of virtue signalling, political correctness, a total lack of commonsense and no real life work experience. No matter which political party is in power, policies that many Australian are opposed to are never changed because the public servants call the shots.. Think ridiculous levels of immigration, the untouchable ABC, the aboriginal industry, the multicultural industry, the pandering to minorities, energy policies, exploration for natural resources, the list is endless. Was there any common sense used by CASA in this latest incident, apparently not, pig headed enforcement of inflexible regulations is all they understand.
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9AlexanderBruceWilliamAlanLikeReply
Avatar for George
George
23 hours ago

@Michael Our politicians would do well to listen to the people and not the sea of ineptitude in the public service. There would be positive results and progress and a zillioneth if the cost!
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4AlexanderMontyAntheaSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Joe
Joe
14 hours ago

@Michael real shame for the person needing the heart . I spoke the minister in charge will donate his
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1AlexanderLikeReply
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John
1 day ago

If something goes wrong you would all blame CASA. If they apply the regulations they are fools and if they don’t then they are also in the wrong!
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2LindsayRonLikeReply
Avatar for Alexander
Alexander
4 hours ago

@John. With respect John this would be true if the rules were rational, stable and workable like our road rules. If you have a couple of spare months I suggest you read the latest (ever changing) rules and you will appreciate the difficulty of trying to run a business in General Aviation. Facts are it has been made extremely difficult, but that degree of difficulty you won’t fully understand unless you take another month off and bone up on the previous rules where no doubt FalconAir was complying. CASA justifies its gross incompetence by hiding behind its safety mantra all the while creating more rules and more permissions which in turn generate more fees. CASA is a monopoly corporation not part of the Public Service. Alex in the Rises
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Avatar for lachlan
lachlan
1 day ago

Typical. I was part of GA for 30 years and things don’t seemed to have changed much. It’s serious when a bloke like Dick Smith didn’t get far. This story is shameful , a disgrace, but nothing much will change.

Despite the best efforts of CASA to kill it , I’m surprised to hear GA is still alive.
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1AlexanderLikeReply
Avatar for Pantera
Pantera
1 day ago

“FalconAir chief executive Marc De Stoop, who is also the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association…”

No offense to Mr De Stoop, but shouldn’t the head of what could be a really effective advocacy organisation, (an organisation which if properly run COULD speak out against the regulators python grip on GA), NOT be someone who naught have something to lose by speaking out?

The head of organizations such as the AOPA should be someone who is immune to political bastardry, not running a business that could be crippled by it.
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Avatar for Brian
Brian
1 day ago

CASA is a public service entity. Enough said.
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2AlexanderSophieLikeReply
Avatar for John
John
1 day ago

This is our can do nation, where red tape rules all facets of our lives!
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3AlexanderAntheaSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Bill
Bill
1 day ago

One of the reasons why CASA is so regulation bound has been the large number of ex RAAF pilots employed over the years. These “pilots” would have less total flying hours in their Service life than most commercial pilots would have in just one year!
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6AlexanderBruceOscarlachlanLikeReply
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lachlan
23 hours ago

Spot on Bill !
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2AlexanderJohn PLikeReply
Avatar for Alan
Alan
1 day ago

Here we go again dragging Dick Smith the panacea to all things aviation into another dispute over a ruling, it’s over twenty years since he was chair of the CASA and you people keep calling him out of comment. the mans nothing more than a two legged Dick Smith publicity machine. There are others in the industry capable of sensible comment.
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5SophieMikeLoJohnLikeReply
Avatar for Warren
Warren
1 day ago

Grounding the pilots is one thing, and CASA needs to address this matter, but were there no other charter companies available, or does Australia have just one company with three aircraft to do this?
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4AlanElkeLolachlanLikeReply
Avatar for Roger
Roger
1 day ago

The real job of CASA is, in conjunction with the operators, to manage aviation risk effectively which does not just relate to safety but to successful aviation. Safety does not exist in isolation. The issue is safe, successful aviation as an important part of our societal infrastructure.

CASA has numerous tools at its disposal to adjust risk – the most severe amongst them, is to ground an aircraft, pilot or operator. But it also has many other tools including discussing concerns with operators and resolving them in a less draconian way.

All decisions should be based on the actual level of risk, not the imagined level of risk and all actions by the regulator to modify risk should be based on competent assessment of risk and on the technique chosen being the most efficient and least disruptive available.

In this case, it would seem that CASA has (and not for the first time) acted incompetently and as a consequence, there has been no improvement to safety, a deceased donor’s wish to donate his/her heart to save someone else has been frustrated and some poor sod has missed the opportunity for life saving surgery. CASA should hang its head in shame and someone’s head should roll.
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10AlexanderWilliamLindsaySophieLikeReply
Avatar for Peter
Peter
1 day ago

Wouldn’t surprise if the CASA bureaucrats regulating pilots and setting standards were not able to fly themselves.
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9SophieJacobDavidKostaLikeReply
Avatar for lachlan
lachlan
1 day ago

Whose in CASA who aren’t pilots is one thing but the real issue will be amongst those who can, CASA is choka block full of “ wanna bee’s “ and even worse “ coulda been’s “.
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1AlexanderLikeReply
Avatar for keith
keith
1 day ago

Set up a thorough inquiry with Dick Smith at the helm,something must be done as soon as.
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7lachlanBettyFrankNeilLikeReply
Avatar for Allan
Allan
1 day ago

@keith you must be joking! Either that or you have a short memory…. remember the Airspace 2000 debacle?…..
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2AlanSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Betty
Betty
1 day ago

@keith Dick Smith for PM.
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Avatar for Michael
Michael
1 day ago

Sack CASA and throw their ridiculous rule books in the bin! Let’s adopt the American rule books, pay a few Australians to administer the rules and save ourselves a lot of heartbreak and tax payers money!
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14AlexanderBruceSophieGarryLikeReply
Avatar for Mark
Mark
1 day ago

@Michael you know as odd as it would be to ditch your own laws and use those of another country, just maybe we should do that. More and more these days CASA is just a poor and distorted echo looking to the FAA for guidance. Over recent years they realised they did not have the resources to adequately certify equipment so they brought in the home country rule “if the part or aircraft has an FAA TSO, then it is approved here”. ( dont nit pick me if i have stated that imprecisely but its the flavour of it) and pretty much every other thing they do is just look at what others do (principally the FAA) and copy it. A whole bureaucracy dedicated to cut and paste. But the telling difference, unlike the charter of the FAA, there is no obligation on CASA to promote and foster general aviation) Hell, we need to look for savings in government expenditure, why not put a proposal to US to ask how much cost to put additional FAA management, officers etc in Australia and just manage our airspace like they do their own. It would be hard to imagine the outcome could be worse and a real potential it would be better?
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3AlexanderSophiePeterLikeReply
Avatar for Pantera
Pantera
1 day ago

American (or even the Kiwis!); Simpler rules with far greater safety outcomes, and a Flourishing GA sector!
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2SophiePeterLikeReply
Avatar for Gareth
Gareth
23 hours ago

@Mark @Michael funny, I thought the ‘cut and paste’ was from the EASA ruleset, not the FAA. If you are going to insult an organisation at least do it accurately. And there is plenty of evidence of a degree of dysfunction in the FAA due to the very thing you are espousing, namely having a joint mission to ensure safety and promote the aviation industry.
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Avatar for gbe
gbe
1 day ago

Unfortunately we see again the effect of political inadequacy, where bureaucratic pedanticism is allowed to flourish uncontrolled.

Looks like another of Malcolm’s team missing in action.
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9AlexanderGilbertSophieFrankLikeReply
Avatar for Carole
Carole
1 day ago

Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the blind obedience of fools. (Solon, the Lawmaker of Athens, d. 559BCE)

In the world of bureaucracy the more it changes the more it stays the same!

Carole’s Husband
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8AlexanderBrucelachlanFrankLikeReply
Avatar for lachlan
lachlan
1 day ago

More law , less justice. Cicero 65 BC.
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2AlexanderSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Botswana O’Hooligan
Botswana O’Hooligan
1 day ago

The man who is the root cause of the bureaucracy we have in CASA is none other than Mr. Dick Smith. Having said that, were Mr. Smith not the root cause the government would have found another suitable idiot, make no mistake about that.
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4MickAlanSophieLoLikeReply
Avatar for Peter
Peter
1 day ago

Bureaucracy gone mad. I once spoke to a helicopter pilot in Tasmania. He had spotted a very small fire but by the time Hobart bureaucrats authorised a team to go to the site, it was a conflagration. His comment? “I wonder if it would have taken so long if it was the ranger’s house on fire..?”
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5AlexanderSophieGayleNeilLikeReply
Avatar for Brian
Brian
1 day ago

Over the years, I have watched as this and another Aviation authority have seemed hell bent on driving general aviation in Australia to the wall. We need safety, but the sheer bloody mindedness of CASA over imposing petty rules at the expense of experience and common sense has long been apparent. The holy grail of absolute safety has been allowed to take over the day to day running of general aviation with impossible burdens and costs imposed which have not affected the already high standards. Dick Smith should be listened to and the Minister responsible should move quickly to an inquiry which could examine the red tape and recommend discarding the rubbish contained in the regulations.
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5KostaFrankNeilPeterLikeReply
Avatar for Kim
Kim
1 day ago

CASA has pulled more & more power into itself to justify its existence & provide it with plenty to do. It needs a thorough review and downsizing to get it back to being a public service and not a public supervisor. The other area that infuriated me is the delay these regulators like CASA take to investigate & report back on air accidents. Some of them take years for no logical reason. They need to have a boot up the tail to do their work quickly & efficiently.
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9GilbertSophieFrankNeilLikeReply
Avatar for Bill
Bill
1 day ago

@Kim The quickest way to introduce positive change is to remove the top layer of bureaucracy!
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1SophieLikeReply
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Vern
1 day ago

Bureaucracy, not common sense is running the country.
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23AlexanderGilbertSophieGarryLikeReply
Avatar for Ashley
Ashley
1 day ago

Like everything else in Australia – over-regulated and antiquated bureaucracy stifles not only innovation, but just getting things done. This is why the smart money is moving offshore.
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32AlexanderBruceGilbertSophieLikeReply
Avatar for PR
PR
1 day ago

Has the patient died? Will CASA be held responsible?

Sack CASA.
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10AlexanderSophieJeremiahGilbertLikeReply
Avatar for Steve
Steve
1 day ago

Make no mistake, CASA is mostly responsible for the demise of aviation in Australia.

CASA public servants are out of control. No accountability and no scrutiny by either side of politics for decades.

No other country has an aviation regulator as incompetent or dysfunctional as CASA.
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41AlexanderBruceDouglasGilbertUnlikeReply
Avatar for Arthur
Arthur
1 day ago

If the article is correct, someone is lying. The broker’s statement seems to contradict CASA’s statement. An Administrative Inquiry should be conducted from within the responsible Ministry, with the findings made public and officials held personally accountable for any poor decision making. This would supply evidence should the transplant non-recipient choose to seek compensation (from any individual as well as an organisation) – as it stands, that individual has only hearsay to support a claim. I don’t believe that a Freedom of Information query would reveal where the failure lies, and a failure it surely is. Senior Management exists over peons to consider the bigger picture. Ambulances are required to follow the road rules until there is an emergency. It seems CASA doesn’t understand that the same should apply to Air Ambulances.
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20AlexanderSophielachlanFrankUnlikeReply
Avatar for Kim
Kim
1 day ago

@Arthur couldn’t agree more. This is a medical disaster and CASA management must be held to account. The shiny bums will be reading these comments & the butt-covering will have already started. I hope as they read & see the community anger they start to fret. Here’s a message to them: Guys don’t be afraid. Be very afraid!
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5AlexanderSophielachlanKostaLikeReply
Avatar for Peter
Peter
1 day ago

@Arthur The result of your proposed internal inquiry could be written right now. No what is needed is an external inquiry preferable by an overseas authority. Therein lies the problem, to appoint anyone to conduct an inquiry/audit it has to be appointed by the government and governments never ever start any inquiry without first knowing the outcome.

So you see the people at CASA know they are a protected species because they know how the system works. Therein lies the problem.

Having worked in the industry I know this is not a new problem, CASA has replicated this type of behaviour for at least 3 decades. I’ve met Dick Smith a few times and he had a crack at getting CASA going the right way but eventually got beaten by the system. It appears common sense, which Dick has plenty of, is not to be found in CASA.
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2KevinSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Lo
Lo
23 hours ago

@Arthur There was no emergency or, if there was , what was it?. A lot of people wait on transplants but someone, the right someone has to die first and everything else has to go smoothly. Auckland does make it a bit difficult. And is it the only company that flies planes to Auckland?
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Avatar for Phil
Phil
1 day ago

CASA like the rest of the APS is there to cover its own butt and create jobs , plain and simple.

QANTAS And Virgin call the shots so the General Aviation sector is now so over burdened with regulation and complexity that it’s is dying .

Not fuel prices or lack of business,no the regulator is literally choking General Aviation to death.

Only a complete reset of CASA back to the dual role of promoting aviation as well as regulating it (ie a CAA) will fix this.
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30SophielachlanPeterFrankLikeReply
Avatar for David
David
1 day ago

@Phil Spot on! But don’t forget Dick Smith introduced the fee for service, industry pays. But most of the money goes to support the airline operators network. The third level of avaition has slowly died due to over-regulation & public service mentality – no pragmatic solutions! The post-war DCA was modified to promote aviation in regional Australia, including pilot training, but the “modern CASA” does the reverse & drowns regional aviation in PS costs. This latest CASA stuff-up is but one on many similar that have sent good aviation companies broke.
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7AlexanderAlanSophielachlanLikeReply
Avatar for Jeremiah
Jeremiah
1 day ago

@David @Phil It was Dick Smith who promoted “affordable Safety”. He has been a private operator who didn’t want to pay for anything in the industry if it affected him.

Not a lot of time for Dick Smith.
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2AlanSophieLikeReply
Avatar for Oscar
Oscar
1 day ago

CASA – staffed by public servants who love running meetings with no outcomes, with bosses that make decisions with no accountability. We need a Frank Lowy to fix this rotten organisation just like how he fixed Soccer Australia when it was infested with ethnic dysfunctionality.
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50BruceSophieMurraylachlanUnlikeReply
Avatar for Peter
Peter
1 day ago

I am not an expert but from reports over the last few years, it seems as if the time has come for a review of the aviation industry and its associated bodies. It seems as if their has been a bit of empire building going on.
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47AlexanderSophieMurrayGarryLikeReply
Avatar for William
William
1 day ago

I support Dick Smith’s assertion that this regulator has gone too far. CASA saying that they weren’t approached regarding the heart transplant flight is a lie. The patient should sue them for millions.