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

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McCormick – We are helping (CASA)

The latest missive from McCormick in early October to a very small section of the industry. Certainly does not front the major sectors and take questions [AMROBA] at Brisbane.

Read this and weep:

Reforming civil aviation regulations – enhancing safety standards through new flight crew fatigue management rules

Regional Aviation Association of Australia

Coolum, Queensland – 9 to 11 October 2013

Thank you for the invitation to join you this afternoon. Forums such as this are a great opportunity to talk about some key areas on which CASA is currently focusing.

Progress on reforming civil aviation regulations

I think most of you are aware that we are moving more quickly today than ever before to replace the Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs) with the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASRs).

The task of regulatory reform has been attempted a number of times in the last two decades, but in the last four years, I have ensured that this program has been a principal focus for CASA. As a result, since 2010, nearly 200 new rules, rule amendments and guidance documents have been finalised or are nearing completion, and this has been done with the active involvement and cooperation of the Australian aviation industry.

Principal regulatory packages relating to maintenance and flight crew licensing, flying training, the maintenance of aircraft involved in regular public transport operations, and fatigue risk management for flight crew have been delivered, and our current schedule will see the remaining rules completed by the end of next year. These new rules are written for a contemporary aviation industry and new technologies, and will replace many that were first drafted over 30 years ago. The origins of some rules go back even further. Rules of this vintage do not properly fit with a modern aviation system and latest technologies.

Benefits to the industry

For the aviation industry there will be a range of benefits flowing from the new regulations. The CASRs are logically organised into clear parts dealing with specific activities and are supported by Manuals of Standards and associated guidance material. This compartmentalised approach will make it much easier for the industry to find and apply the relevant requirements, standards and guidance material. For example, under the current system, requirements and standards are spread across the CARs, CAOs and a myriad of exemptions. This means the current rule set can be hard to access, follow and use.

New regulations are typically developed through the combined effort of CASA and expert industry working groups with the aim to address known safety risks in a cost effective manner. I emphasise that the rule development process involves respected industry experts. Working group deliberations are documented, considered and incorporated in our formal proposals for rule making that are consulted with industry at large and the public. CASA also publishes summaries of responses in our notices of final rule making that are available on the CASA website and I encourage you to read these documents.

Flight crew fatigue rules

Now let me address a specific area of interest to many of the participants here today – management of fatigue among pilots.

The challenges posed by fatigue in transport industries have been recognised for some time. More than a decade ago, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communication, Transport and the Arts conducted an inquiry into managing fatigue in transport in Australia. The resulting report, titled Beyond the Midnight Oil: Managing Fatigue in the Transport Industry noted that fatigue in transport is a problem that must be addressed by governments, by transport companies and by workers in the transport industry.

The report included aviation industry-specific recommendations, including that fatigue management should be a basic requirement for air operators, including aircraft maintenance activities, and that the management of fatigue should be a component of safety audits.

Further, data received from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) suggests that between 2002 and 2012 there were approximately 78 incidents and accidents in which human fatigue was likely to have been a contributing factor. To add to this, a survey conducted by the ATSB in 2009, reported fatigue as one of the top five threats faced by respondents in low capacity air transport.

Additionally, CASA receives numerous confidential reports from pilots (usually via the ATSB’s REPCON system) about instances where, in their opinion, operations under the current flight and duty time limitations led to excessive amounts of flight crew fatigue.

It comes as no surprise to anyone in this room, when I say that the trend in aviation is for all areas of the industry to roster flight crew members for more hours on duty. The driver has been the necessity to seek efficiency through higher asset utilisation; the consequence has been that operators have scheduled crew to work closer to the fatigue rule limits.

We know the aviation industry has changed substantially from the one in which the old fatigue rules were developed. Patching up these ageing rules with exemption after exemption was not an effective way to regulate this safety risk. With a government inquiry and mounting evidence pointing to the need for change, CASA commenced a review of the old flight crew fatigue management rules.

The result has been the introduction of new rules for the management of flight crew fatigue in Australian commercial aviation. The new pilot fatigue management rules came into effect on 30 April 2013 and operators have three years in which to transition to this new three-tiered system. These new rules were introduced by way of a Civil Aviation Order to increase safety of operations in the shortest time, but will be transposed into CASRs in the coming year.

This tiered approach provides operators a choice on how to best manage pilot fatigue according to their needs and the nature of their operation; in other words, the more flexibility an operator desires, the more risk management is required. Ultimately if an operator wants to maximise their flexibility or feels they cannot operate to the prescriptive limits they may choose to manage their fatigue risks through a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS). Australia’s FRMS rules are consistent with the ICAO FRMS standards.

Naturally, some of you may question the need for these changes and even may question what was wrong with the old system. The old fatigue management rules were half a century old. CAO 48 was developed when there were still Super Constellations flying in Australia – we clearly know a lot more about fatigue now than we did then. The new rules reflect the latest scientific knowledge on fatigue, they better target known causes of fatigue and represent a major improvement to the management of pilot fatigue. In addition, the rules were developed to comply with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.

Giving due consideration to the available scientific research, the CASA Human Factors specialists determined that it is no longer viable to ensure safety purely by relying on flight and duty limits. The new rules are built on a foundation of risk management obligations that underpin a more comprehensive approach to the way pilot fatigue is dealt with in Australia.

CASA’s approach to the development of the rules was guided by the need to ensure that any element was underpinned by relevant scientific principles of human performance limitations, with the aim of ensuring that flight crew members are performing at an adequate level of alertness. Just to add some zest, let me give some interesting stats;

  • In Denmark, Norway and Sweden more than 50% of the surveyed pilots reported falling asleep in the cockpit. A UK study found that 43% of the pilots had involuntarily dozed off while flying. A third of these said they had woken to find their co-pilot sleeping as well. This research is recent and was carried out between 2010 and 2012.

Put simply, fatigue management must be a shared responsibility between the operator and individual. The new rules specify these obligations. When a pilot raises concerns such as feeling fatigued at work, operators are obligated to assess such reports and take action where necessary to ensure fatigue risks are managed. The new rules recognise that operators are best placed to make this risk assessment and determine the best way to mitigate the risks.

The success of fatigue management is to a large degree dependent upon an open and fair reporting culture existing in the workplace. Despite the high prevalence of fatigue related issues, pilot fatigue continues to be significantly under-reported. International studies into prevalence of fatigue found that only 20–30% of the pilots actually filed a report when they felt unfit for duty. This means that 70–80% did not report when fatigued. In one study based in the UK only half of the pilots reported fatigue when it occurred. Well I’ll leave these facts with you to comprehend and, can I urge you, if you are not already doing so, to promote an open and fair reporting culture within your organisations to safeguard the high level of aviation safety we enjoy in Australia.

Comparisons with other Regulators

CASA reviewed the approaches taken to fatigue management by comparable aviation safety regulators around the world. Where aspects of these approaches were found to be appropriate to the Australian situation, they formed the approach taken under the new rules.

One significant difference between CASA’s and other regulators’ rules, is that both EASA and the FAA permit what is known as ‘airport standby’ or ‘short call reserve’. This allows pilots to be in readiness in an airport terminal to undertake a flight at short notice. The new CASA rules do not make provision for such arrangements which were determined to be too likely to increase fatigue.

The recent claims made by some sections of the industry appear to compare the standby requirements specified in the new CAO 48.1 with foreign regulators’ airport standby arrangements. However, these are two very different concepts, and comparing them is tendentious and misleading. When an operator requires a pilot to be on standby under CASA’s new rules, the pilot must have access to suitable sleeping accommodation and free of all duties, therefore providing the best opportunity to rest or sleep.

Wider consultation and some misconceptions by some sections of the industry

The development of new rules is not a process done in isolation by CASA. Some of you individually – and collectively from bodies such as those represented here today – provide valuable input to the successful development of the new rules.

We carefully considered the views of all interested sectors of the industry and the wider aviation community, and take all reasonable comments and submissions into account before any rules are finalised.

A joint CASA-industry Working Group was established to aid CASA subject matter experts in developing the new fatigue management rules. The Working Group consisted predominately of participants from air operators and pilot associations, and met a number of times before the proposed rules were published for public comment in May 2012.

In consulting with industry stakeholders, CASA sought information from operators about current practices, experiences and how new prescriptive limitations could be established whilst providing operators with flexibility and maintaining a level of safety acceptable to CASA. CASA also considered relevant fatigue-related research brought up during the consultation process.

Following consultative work, a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM 1202OS) was published in May 2012 to further seek industry and public comment on CASA’s proposed changes to the fatigue management rules. Over a period of 8 weeks, some 251 responses were received. I can tell you that we considered all comments received, some of which influenced changes to the proposal.

In November 2012, the CASA-industry Working Group met again to consider proposed enhancements to the rules made as a result of the consultation process. Additionally, further meetings were held to specifically address the rules for aerial work operations (operations such as emergency medical services, aerial agriculture, flying training, etc.).

CASA’s responses to the comments to the NPRM were detailed in a Notice of Final Rule Making published following the registration of the new rules on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments.

There is support from industry for the changes, although some state the rules are too restrictive (generally the operators), or conversely, too liberal (generally the pilot associations). It is not correct to suggest that commercial or political interests unfairly drove any aspect of the development process. During the consultative process, the views of both operator and pilot group representatives were given equal consideration and assessed on their substantive merits. No pressure was brought to bear on the development of new rules by any commercial, political or industrial interests.

The Regulation Impact Statement that was published does indicate a cost to industry in complying with the new rules. This is not surprising, given that this was the first new set of fatigue management rules made in over half a century, that address known safety risks.

The aviation industry is broad and complex and is subject to a high level of scrutiny and public comment, and CASA will never satisfy all interests.

In summary, no matter what you may have heard, and contrary to some of the ill-informed statements in the aviation press, the new flight crew fatigue management rules provide a substantive improvement in the level of safety over and above the old rules. Modern, and well developed regulations and more effective surveillance and enforcement will improve aviation safety in Australia, and in this, CASA has the support and endorsement of the majority of the industry.

Implementation of new regulations

It is important to recognise that the total regulatory reform program does not simply come to an end once the regulations are signed. Instead, it is the start of a lengthy education, training and transition program aimed at ensuring all who need to know about the changes and new regulations are properly prepared and move into the new regulatory environment as seamlessly as possible.

CASA recognises that there are constraints on the ability of some sections of the industry to absorb extensive and rapid changes to regulations, and this is a critical consideration when defining timelines for regulatory implementation – this is why we have allowed operators three years to transition to the new fatigue management requirements. CASA understands the aviation industry must be able to get on with normal business while taking the necessary steps to adopt the new and improved regulations.

CASA is helping the industry to implement these new rules. There is a large amount of guidance material on the CASA website in relation to the new rules, along with additional bibliographies and references for further reading. As more rules are made this supporting material will be expanded. CASA’s Aviation Safety Advisors conduct specific education sessions and inspectors at your local office will also provide assistance. Further, CASA will be utilising a range of media to deliver information to operators and pilots including webinars, videos and email notifications.

Next steps

The next phase of the new rule making process is fatigue management legislation for cabin crew members and the development work has already commenced. A joint CASA-industry project team has been formed, and a proposed rule for consultation is anticipated to be published by the end of the year.

ICAO requirements do not currently include fatigue management for other personnel engaged in safety sensitive aviation activities, other than for flight crew and cabin crew.

However, ICAO has formed an international Task Force to commence work on standards and guidance material for fatigue risk management for air traffic controllers. CASA is represented on this Task Force and continues to play an important part in shaping the international standards for fatigue management across the aviation industry.

Ultimately, the fatigue management standards which ICAO develop are likely to extend to all personnel engaged in safety sensitive aviation activities, and it is CASA’s view that these new standards will be considered, in consultation with industry, for implementation.

CASA’s role as the regulator

As we all understand, the aviation industry is never static – we must be ready to meet the challenges of the future and find ways to deliver better safety outcomes.

As we continuously look at ways to enhance aviation safety performance in Australia, I can assure you it is not CASA’s intention to impose unnecessary burden on the industry. We are striving to deliver an aviation safety system that improves safety performance, with risks identified and managed to minimise accidents and incidents.

As the aviation safety regulator we are required by the Civil Aviation Act to make safety our primary consideration and ultimately after extensive consultation, we still have to make the most appropriate safety decisions. This at times will not satisfy everybody, but that’s our role.

Closing remarks

Aviation in this country is healthy. Everyone in Australia should be rightfully proud of the aviation industry and our safety record – these new flight crew fatigue management rules are yet another step in the right direction to enhance safety in the aviation landscape.

Thank you. I’m now open for questions.