The national aviation authority’s new director won’t have to look very far for examples of systemic breakdowns that urgently need fixing. The regulator’s most recent assault on the aviation industry’s trust and respect displays most of the hallmarks of similar actions over the past 20 years, and could easily be interpreted as the adoption of a “scorched earth policy” by elements whose departure may be imminent.
The events surrounding CASA’s publication of Consultation Draft CD 1425SS – Operating limitations for aircraft fitted with Jabiru engines, reprinted below, and the response of RA – AUS President Michael Monck, appear to be typical of dozens of CASA actions we have reviewed in the past, in which a “financial first strike” is adopted in preference to measured and professional compliance with the regulator’s common law duty of care, statutory obligations, and its own compliance & enforcement guidelines.
Assuming Mr Monck’s narrative doesn’t contain any major errors or omissions, CASA’s management of the events as he records them appears to have been seeking the same outcomes, and we’ll leave readers to draw their own conclusions. They also appear to support Mr Monck’s labelling of the event as “the misconduct of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.”
The Jabiru issue isn’t the only aberration that has cropped up since David Forsyth’s ASRR report was released, but so far it’s the most drastic, and has further elevated industry concerns at the government’s tardiness in responding to the ASRR, and also finalising the composition of CASA’s board. Of even more concern is the growing industry belief that Minister Truss is simply stalling the government’s detailed response to the review it commissioned. What industry cannot understand is what is holding the Minister back, who is responsible for developing the government response, and when it will be delivered.
Another puzzle is a meeting in Sydney that is planned for next Friday (November 27) of the all-but-defunct AICC (Aviation Industry Consultative Committee or Council) – nobody remembers.) All former members have been invited to attend, along with a few people from the industry forums who are not former members, but also not CEOs of their organisations. The inaugural meeting is at the Commonwealth Parliament offices in Sydney, costs of attending meetings will not be met by the Council, and at this stage there are to be two meetings per annum. No agenda for the meeting is at hand.
What nobody understands is why on earth the Minister needs yet another advisory body at this point. How many more people need to tell him that CASA is broken and urgently needs fixing? That some of its crazier initiatives need to be frozen in time or in some cases reversed until they have been properly scrutinised? What will be achieved through a biannual meeting of the AICC that the Minister’s ASRR and on-going implementation of the Forsyth report cannot achieve?
And if there are any information gaps why not consult the Australian Aviation Associations Forum, which presents a concise, industry-wide, mutually agreed, collective position, intelligent recommendations, and access to more aviation savvy than exists within the entire national aviation authority? Is the Sydney meeting just another piece of placatory window-dressing, while obfuscation continues and decisions are avoided? Is there something missing from the Forsyth report that the Minister needs to know? It seems to most that the needs of the industry are precisely known, to everyone, except apparently to the Minister and the bureaucrats and advisors who surround him.
The Forsyth report recorded concerns about “the internal management and governance of CASA.” The message from within the industry has been pretty clear. It is that if those responsible for reform are not looking closely at the top three levels of CASA management there will be no culture change, no reform, and no implement ion of the Forsyth panel’s recommendations.
What is the government waiting for?
Note: The following is the exact text of the letter from RA-AUS President Michael Monck to Lee Ungerman at CASA, who (ironically) is a former CEO of RA-AUS.
Recreational Aviation Australia Inc letterhead
Mr Lee Ungermann,
Project Leader on Consultation Draft
Civil Aviation Safety Authority – Australia
GPO Box 2005
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Dear Mr Ungermann,
Consultation Draft – CD1425SS – Operating limitations for aircraft fitted with Jabiru engines
We, Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus), write to you with concern for the proposed actions as outlined in the above draft instrument. We would also like to draw your attention to the misconduct of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in relation to this matter and the negative impacts their actions will have on aviation in Australia and the broader economy. These impacts include far reaching financial and social impacts as well as, and perhaps more importantly, significant safety impacts in the aviation sector. It is with respect to these latter impacts that the Government should perhaps pay a great deal of attention as CASA’s primary purpose is to advance safety in the sector and not hamper it. Their actions are also illustrative of their lack of concern for the recommendations made by the independent Aviation Safety Regulation Review panel contained in the ‘Forsyth Report’ published in May 2014.
RA-Aus express serious concerns at the recent actions of the CASA in relation to proposed restrictions relating to operations of aircraft in Australia. While we concede that the actions taken are in relation to the reliability of Jabiru engines and agree that said engines display markedly lower reliability figures than competitor engines, it is our belief that irreparable damage has been caused to the already fragile Australian aviation industry as a result of the regulators actions.
Without due concern for the industry CASA has embarked on a destructive path that threatens the existence of an Australian aviation manufacturing company, Jabiru, along with associated businesses. Further, this proposed action threatens the existence of Recreational Aviation Australia, the body charged with the responsibility to administer the safe training and operation of approximately 10,000 pilots and 3,500 aircraft.
In order to effectively perform these functions RA-Aus provides services in a number of areas including:
• The development of training syllabi for the maintenance and operation of aircraft,
• Oversight of flight training facilities to ensure high standards of operation, and
• The administration of events to promote safety in the sector.
In addition to this RA-Aus delivers critical services in relation to accident investigation and has been called upon to provide assistance and support to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau where their resources are not sufficient.
The majority of Jabiru aircraft and other types powered by Jabiru engines in Australia are registered by RA-Aus. The number of aircraft in the RA-Aus fleet affected by these actions totals more than 1000 and these aircraft have flown in excess of 92,000 flights totalling more than 41,000 hours in the 10 months from January through October 2014. With the weather becoming more favourable for flying activities coupled with extended daylight hours, it is expected this number will grow quite markedly during the final two months of the year. In 2013 more than 100,000 flights were conducted totalling 47,728 hours. There are a further 131 Jabiru powered aircraft on the CASA register that will also be adversely affected.
CASA has provided no specific failure data related to Jabiru engines to industry other than to suggest an increasing rate of engine failures. At no point has CASA published evidence or otherwise to substantiate its claims. RA-Aus and the aviation community have no evidence to suggest that the statements by CASA are made with any substance.
RA-Aus have also noted a marked improvement in the reporting culture of members in recent years, making it critical to fully understand the underlying data and apply sound statistical analysis to test conclusions drawn from any data. A key area to understand in relation to placing these statistics into context is the possibility of not just engineering or manufacturing issues, but also correct operation of the engine in accordance with manufacturer information.
On 27 October 2014 RA-Aus received a request from CASA for specific data relating to operations of Jabiru aircraft. This request was made with a specific deadline of 10 November 2014, requiring significant investment of RA-Aus resources, and was requested for the purposes of a proposed SASAO audit of Jabiru’s operations on 17 November 2014. The data provided contained information on incidents and accidents involving Jabiru engines for the year to date, covering the period from 1 January 2014 until 27 October 2014.
RA-Aus formally submitted this information to SASAO on 3 November 2014.
On 4 November 2014 CASA engaged directly with Jabiru in relation to the proposed restrictions on Jabiru aircraft which included all aircraft manufactured by Jabiru as well as those non-Jabiru aircraft that have a Jabiru powerplant.
In this notice CASA clearly states the following:
“Prior to making the instrument, CASA invites Jabiru to make representations about the terms of the proposed instrument…”
In the days immediately following this Jabiru made arrangements to meet with CASA on 14 November 2014 to address the concerns and to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the terms of the instrument as outlined in the regulators notice. This meeting was also intended to action CASA’s request for Jabiru to respond by 10 November although it should be noted that due to illness of key CASA staff the meeting could not take place by the required date and that CASA agreed to extend the time. At this point Jabiru was led to believe that the proposed instrument would not be published until after the scheduled meeting.
On the afternoon of 13 November CASA pre-empted the outcome of the scheduled meeting with Jabiru and effectively ended the consultation with the manufacturer by publishing the commercially destructive proposed instrument. This occurred some 18 hours prior to the scheduled consultation with Jabiru.
In the days prior to this RA-Aus began receiving enquiries from concerned members noting that CASA officials had made mention of the proposed actions “over a beer or two” during the national Chief Flying Instructor conference held by RA-Aus. The conference is an annual event designed to inform RA-Aus instructors on new developments, changes to rules and generally improve safety in the aviation industry through the provision of training and education. It is fully funded by RA-Aus with no support from CASA or any other public source of funds.
Following the publication of the draft instrument RA-Aus has been inundated with communication from aircraft owners, Flight Training Facilities and aircraft maintainers expressing concerns about the proposed restrictions and the potential impacts on business viability and reputational damage as a result.
It should be noted that the information provided covered a period of less than one year and should have resulted in deeper engineering analysis as to root causal factors, along with requests for further detail prior to any action taken by the regulator. RA-Aus is firmly of the view that any conclusions drawn from the data are deficient in detail and do not address fundamental issues relating to potential manufacturing, operational and any other possible deficiencies.
At the time of writing this submission it has become apparent that CASA recognised this deficiency in terms of their understanding of the data that was provided on 3 November. On 18 November CASA wrote to RA-Aus seeking instruction on how to identify 28 engine related issues referred to earlier in this submission. It is of serious concern that CASA does not only provide a basis for its decision, it does not understand the data provided by RA-Aus and has acted on a flawed understanding of the issues.
Impacts on industry, aviation and RA-Aus
Whilst the impacts on industry should not be an overriding factor when related to safety and decisions made, consideration must be given to potential financial and reputational damage caused by the issue of this consultative document to industry with insufficient analysis of data and short response times. Moreover, the ability of a crippled industry to cope with and implement growing requirements in terms of safety should be a consideration. This is certainly the case when proposed actions may indirectly and adversely impact the industry’s ability to sufficiently address future safety related issues.
RA-Aus has approximately 1000 affected aircraft on its register and charges $130 for the annual registration of each. With around three times as many pilots as aircraft it could be argued that there will be around 3000 affected members, each of whom pays $210 per year to maintain their pilot certificate.1 If all those affected chose to discontinue their relationship with RA-Aus as a result of these restrictions then the worst case loss of income may be in the order of $760,000 per annum. With an operating budget of approximately $2.5m per annum (compared to some $180m for CASA to administer around the same number of private pilots) if even a small proportion of these pilots and aircraft owners left the association then the ability of RA-Aus to administer its safety related functions on behalf of the Government would be severely impacted.2
If Jabiru, the aircraft and engine manufacturer were to fail, this would result in a worsening of the situation and a deterioration of safety standards. Not only would RA-Aus struggle to maintain its activities in relation to improving safety in light aircraft, current Jabiru owners would have no access to ongoing support or spare parts for their current aircraft. That is to say, if Jabiru failed as a result of CASAs actions, owners would no longer be able to maintain their aircraft to a standard that would be safe due to a lack of ongoing support from the manufacturer.
With US media outlets already publicising CASAs blunt approach to the problem the news is already reaching foreign shores. Indeed at the time of writing this submission RA-Aus has become aware of at least two foreign manufacturers that have cancelled orders which will have a notable financial impact on Jabiru and affect their ability to address the many concerns that CASA may have.
CASA has been cited in the Forsyth Report as being adversarial with industry and, some five months after the publication of this report, appears to be maintaining that style of approach despite it being ineffective as noted in the same document. The manner in which this matter has been handled to date is a standout example of the type of behaviour for which the Forsyth Report reserved its strongest criticism. That the CASA personnel involved either didn’t recognise or didn’t care that their actions constitute that kind of behaviour is of great concern and suggests that CASA has made no efforts to address the significant concerns of the report in the five months since its publication.
CASA states on its website that its mission is “To enhance and promote aviation safety through effective regulation and by encouraging the wider aviation community to embrace and deliver higher standards of safety” yet the actions outlined above seemingly contradict with this mission. Indeed, the actions taken on this occasion can only be described as far from encouraging a positive result.
In addition to these impacts the aircraft types in question form a large part of the fleet used for training purposes. Flight training is the first opportunity for RA-Aus (and any flying body) to impress the need for high levels of safety on new pilots. With two thirds of the RA-Aus flight training facilities relying on Jabiru for their operations, this safety message can no longer be promulgated to pilots.
CASA will argue that the flight training activities being proposed are not eliminating pilot training, they are simply restricting pilot training to dual pilot operations. That is, pilot training can continue but trainee pilots cannot go solo using Jabiru aircraft. This sentiment further reinforces the lack of understanding of the industry on the part of CASA, the body responsible for regulating it.
Pilots are required, by law and under the RA-Aus Operations Manual, to undergo solo training before being issued with a licence or pilot certificate. This is a fundamental requirement of any training regime whether it be administered by RA-Aus, CASA or another body. The simple fact is that you cannot become qualified to fly an aircraft in Australia without conducting solo flying time. Thus, the restriction on flying schools that renders them unable to provide such training and effectively shuts them down.
Before any student is permitted to undertake a solo flight of any type, competency in managing emergency situations which include engine failures must be demonstrated. This is a requirement for both the CASA and RA-Aus flight training syllabi and is intended to equip pilots with the required knowledge to safely cope with such an event. Thus the recommendation to restrict solo flight training operations in Jabiru powered aircraft is a position that RA-Aus patently disagrees with and vigorously opposes.
The negative effects of the proposed restrictions must include potential loss of income and the threat to the livelihoods of those Australian’s that are employed in the industry. These include, but are not limited to, the direct impact on manufacturing (including the sub-contractors involved in Jabiru’s manufacturing processes), the employment of aircraft maintainers in the industry (a sector already crumbling under pressure) and the pilots and instructors that have devoted significant amounts of time and money to gain their flying credentials. With dwindling opportunities in the sector there is a significant possibility that these people, especially pilots, will leave the country to seek work elsewhere contributing to the existing problem of a decline in aviation expertise in Australia.
For private operators of the aircraft the ramifications are equally significant. With many individuals purchasing these aircraft with the intention of using them as a two seat vehicle, the proposed restrictions effectively render them unsuitable for this type of operation. Furthermore, each and every aircraft is required to have a warning sticker attached to the instrument panel that is visible by all occupants stating that the aircraft does not comply with the standard safety regulations and that all persons fly in the aircraft at their own risk.
In addition to this, many operators use their aircraft for work related purposes such as cattle spotting, observing fences and checking dam levels. For regional Australia where these type of operations are common the implications of the restrictions will extend well beyond aviation and into other, struggling sectors such as agriculture. With regional employment already suffering this proposed restriction has the potential to worsen an already difficult situation. There is also a significant chance that many regional based pilots will ignore the proposed instrument and continue with the status quo.3
These impacts on regional Australia and the potential employment effects are in addition to the simple economic impacts of stranded capital in the economy. There are well in excess of 1000 Jabiru aircraft or other types of aircraft with Jabiru engines fitted currently registered with RA-Aus. With a conservative estimate of $40k per aircraft the implications of this action at worst will be some $40m of aircraft rendered useless in the economy.
RA-Aus also note the inclusion of experimental or amateur built aircraft in the proposed instrument could be considered as outside CASA authority. This class of aircraft is not subject to any CASA imposed safety standards and by their inclusion CASA could be perceived to be acting beyond its remit demonstrating a clear lack of understanding of the implications of the proposed restrictions or the regulations it is supposed to administer. This highlights yet another example of the regulator being ineffective due to an insufficient understanding of the industry.
Whilst RA-Aus is supportive of moves to improve the reliability of Jabiru engines and safety in the sector, the adversarial approach taken by CASA and the lack of due process, transparency and direct consultation may be extremely damaging to aviation and the broader economy. The extent to which these impacts may affect the aviation sector include damaging the ability for the sector to improve safety related practices relating to all aspects of the industry be they maintenance or flying operations. For the broader economy the impacts are widespread and include negative employment impacts, adverse effects on regional Australia and the issue of stranded capital. Further, given that Jabiru aircraft are under-represented in fatality statistics, any claim of safety benefits arising from these measures is dubious at best.
The aforementioned Forsyth Report noted that “the industry’s trust in CASA is failing” and the actions undertaken by CASA on this occasion provide evidence that CASA simply does not care. CASA shows a complete lack of respect for the industry and the Government commissioned report is being treated with the same lack of respect. This is a clear demonstration that CASA is simply not interested in taking on the practices of leading regulators around the world and has even less interest in reforming its practices and heeding the advice of the report:
“The Panel concludes that CASA and industry need to build an effective collaborative relationship on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.”
It is clear to RA-Aus that CASA views itself as being responsible to no stakeholders be they industry, Government or any other sector within the economy. They have an attitude that they can unilaterally take any actions they please and have demonstrated their clear arrogance and belief that nothing needs to change despite professional and independent advice to the contrary.
They also show complete contempt for the present Government’s mandate of only introducing regulations and rules where there can be a clear and demonstrable benefit arising out of the new regulations. With no transparency, data or analysis it is once again clear that CASA believes it can operate outside of those rules that guide decision making in all other government departments.
The lack of transparency and consultation relating to Jabiru powered aircraft is of huge concern to industry. Not only has CASA made a decision that is not transparent, it has not sufficiently engaged with industry in an attempt to solve the perceived problem. CASA has also, in the days following the action, shown a lack of understanding of the data that was obtained through misleading statements making its claims even more dubious.
RA-Aus vigorously opposes all of the actions proposed by CASA and strongly urges the Department and the Minister to:
1. Withdraw the instrument in full and appropriately consult with all parties to develop an acceptable solution
2. Review the process for addressing the so called issues,
3. Reconsider the findings of the five month old Forsyth Report, and
4. Act on the recommendations contained within the Forsyth Report.
Delaying such actions will only allow CASA to continue to have damaging effects on aviation in Australia and indirectly impact the broader economy.
Michael Monck, President, Recreational Aviation Australia
1 Given that more than two thirds of RA-Aus’ 170+ flight training facilities use Jabiru aircraft or engines, the true number of affected pilots may indeed be much higher.
2 While CASA is not transparent in terms of how it allocates its funding it should be noted that their total operating budget is in the order of $180m annually. With similar numbers of private pilot licence holders (although again, CASA is not transparent in terms of how many are active) to RA-Aus’ active pilot community it is clear that RA-Aus ostensibly performs comparable functions in a much more efficient manner than CASA.
3 Productivity Commission 1997, GREY–LETTER LAW, Report of the Commonwealth Interdepartmental Committee, on Quasi-regulation, Canberra
- Submission to Aviation Safety Regulation Review ProAviation, updated February 21, 2014 Index We havn't been able to make the automated index function work in this post. Following are the principal headings in the correct sequence. We're working on a fix for that. Meanwhile the ten case studies which were part of the submission are published…
- Regulation of Australian General Aviation and Low Capacity Airline Transport Volume 1: Enforcement - Why is it failing? Paul D Phelan September, 2000 The original version of this analysis was circulated electronically to all members of Federal Parliament, industry identities, aviation writers, other selected media outlets, industry associations, CASA Board members and management, overseas regulators,…
- At least eight peak aviation industry bodies are now presenting a united front in demanding government action over the ever-worsening interface between industry and regulator. In meetings in Sydney on November 13, the Australian Aviation Associations Forum (TAAAF) developed a multi-faceted critique headed, “Now is the time for Government to act,” which focused on the…
- We've established ProAviation as an independent platform for publishing aviation news and features and the professional promotion of aviation's interests in Australia. To do that ProAviation relies on input from current, future and importantly also past participants in the aviation industry. ProAviation is setting out to help define the present state of the industry's non-mainstream carrier sector, reasons…
- This example is a complex one which details more than one apparent abuse. The most serious of these was the decision to ground a commercial charter operator based on ten unsubstantiated allegations, and then to publish the allegations on the CASA website. Although it may be claimed that analysing a 13-year-old event is pointless, readers…