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How to fix CASA Regulator control not direction to aviation industry

The following submission from Mr R G Bencke:

To the 2008:

Inquiry into the Administration of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and related matters

bears some careful thought.

I reproduce some of this here, without change:

I conclude this section by again suggesting that CASA is not fulfilling its regulatory responsibilities, indeed it is using its very existence to ensure the aviation industry is not effectively regulated.

Staffing a Regulatory Body

To be effective, regulating bodies, whether they regulate aviation, finance or anything else, are essentially staffed by poachers who become game-keepers in their specific area of interest. Thus in Aviation it would be fair to say that if  only 3 people could be employed by a regulator then they would almost certainly be a pilot, and airworthiness engineer and an aerodrome expert. In the days when aviation regulation was the responsibility of a government department, the ratio of technical staff to other supporting staff was quite high.

Since the formation of  the CAA and then CASA that ratio has diminished considerably. The senate might consider investigating this phenomenon. My experience tells me that there is no better way to regulate any organisation than to have trained and knowledgeable eyes casting their enquiring gaze where their experience and knowledge directs them. CASA has few of these people still in its employ and most of the technically competent new recruits are usually not adequately trained for their regulatory role.

CASA technical inspectors should be the backbone of the organisation. Such people do not exist in the industry or the services. However, there is no other places to find the raw material that has the aviation experience and knowledge necessary to be an aviation regulator. Theoretical training provided by universities is not anywhere near sufficient.

So how does one make a competent aviation regulator?

First you recruit the most knowledgeable, experienced, and administratively competent persons you can. You ensure that they are open minded and that they are interested in, and capable of, being educated in the skills necessary for a regulator. In essence these skills boil down to a comprehensive knowledge of civil aviation law, and the many and varied procedures CASA has to employ in the conduct of its regulatory responsibilities. Added to this is the essential skill of being able to listen to industry and apply the law in a flexible manner while at the same time ensuring compliance with the law.

The regulator specific training needs to be two pronged, consisting of theoretical training in a class room using what educational tools best suit such training, and on the job practical training. It usually takes in excess of 3 years of ‘on the job’ training before a competent aviator can become a competent aviation regulator.

This practical training can only be provided by experienced and competent inspectors. CASA has few of these left and seems keen to dispense with their services because they have a tendency to question much of the trendy new management practices introduced by Bruce Byron. These management practices overlook the prime regulatory role of CASA and positively exclude any feedback that a concerned technical staff may try to provide. To disagree with opinions is a management prerogative but to exclude advice is just bad management.

Many of the Flying Operations Inspectors, who have left CASA because they could not continue under such bad management, have aviation experience equal or greater than that of the CEO Bruce Byron; all had much more regulatory experience. The senate should ask itself whether it sees such management practices as beneficial for the safety of civil aviation in this country.

What Should a Regulator be Trying to Achieve?

This question has been partly answered under the heading ‘What is a Regulator?’, above. But that answer was couched in legalistic terms. What of the practical outcome?

In reality a regulator should be similar to the rule makers of a sporting game like rugby union, making and applying the same rules for everyone so that fair competition can take place. Some people call this ‘the level playing field’. By keeping a level playing field in civil aviation all operators are made aware of their responsibilities and know that if they do not perform they will be removed from the ‘game’. CASA has never been particularly good at that. In the last few years the problem has become greater. What happens when the playing field is not level?

When an operator is permitted to operate using procedures outside the law this encourages other operators to follow. Operators operate outside the law because there is financial gain to be made. Abiding by the law costs money, not doing so makes a saving in the short term. Thus the illegal operator by saving money can charge a lower fee for its services which cannot be matched by the legal operator.

In time the legal operator ceases to operate leaving the field to the illegal operator and the level of safety enjoyed by the Australian public is degraded.

This is essentially what caused the Lockhart River accident. CASA failed to correct known deficiencies in the operators concerned. Aviation safety problems in remote parts of Australia have been known by CASA to exist for a considerable length of time but little has been done to resolve those problems.

Conclusion

CASA is not an effective regulator of Australian civil aviation. It has become even less so over the last 3 to 5 years. The reasons are many and varied. I have covered some of those above but have left out many others. It is my belief that CASA will not be an effective aviation regulator until its operations and ethos
have been comprehensively reviewed, and effective corrective action taken. Even then it will be difficult to rebuild the organisation because of a lack of properly qualified and experienced people.

The AMROBA response sums up the current situation well:

The Australian Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA) was less confident that the structural changes within CASA had been effective. AMROBA appears to characterise the changes to date as superficial and costly and stated that the aviation industry is still waiting for proper reform.

In AMROBA’s view, the relocation of Operations Management to Brisbane is merely a reversal of an earlier decision to relocate operational staff from Melbourne toCanberra.

Even internally, CASA is doubted in it’s effectiveness to both govern itself, or the industry:

APESMA, which represents technical professional employees within CASA, stated in its submission that the general view amongst experienced staff is that the changes have been poorly thought out in concept, poorly planned and characterised by a lack of consultation with staff and the organisations that represent them.

As a result, APESMA is of the view that the process has required decisions to be made on the run and that overall the process of  change within the organisation has been implemented with little guidance for staff or industry about the intended changes and the process fortheir implementation.

And further in the Senate discussion, the disconnect is made clear:

Given the particular concerns raised by AIPA, the ALAEA and AOPA with regard to consultation, the committee explored the extent of CASA’s consultation with these organisations further during this inquiry.

CASA told the committee that it considered that it has consulted extensively with such organisations, and that they are involved in the deliberations of the SCC and its working groups:

I think that, with these organisations and with others that I will go through, there is genuine consultation. I will make the point that they are not certificate holders. They are interest groups and representative groups, but we do not have a regulatory relationship with any of these groups. We have regulatory relationships with approximately 2,000 certificate holders in the
country. That does not include, for example, AIPA, the ALAEA and it does not include AOPA. So we are consulting.

Maybe this is the real problem – CASA Disconnect