Aviation regulation back under the microscope

Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, today announced an independent review of aviation safety regulation in Australia. Mr Truss’s portfolio includes responsibility for aviation regulation and related services and infrastructure, and the planned review is an iteration of the key commitments the Coalition outlined in its 2013 pre-election Policy for Aviation.

The review’s principal objectives of the review are to investigate:

  • the structures, effectiveness and processes of all agencies involved in aviation safety. These include Airservices Australia, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Mr Truss’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
  • the relationship and interaction of those agencies with each other, as well as with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (Infrastructure). An area of particular interest will be the fate of the recommendations of a Senate committee’s enquiry into CASA’s and ATSB’s interactions during the investigation into the ditching of a Pel-Air Medivac jet at Norfolk Island four years ago.
  • the outcomes and direction of the regulatory reform process being undertaken by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). These issues are of widespread and increasing concern as the industry finds itself flooded with new regulations followed almost immediately by significant and substantial amendments.
  • the suitability of Australia’s aviation safety related regulations when benchmarked against comparable overseas jurisdictions. This issue, say industry sources, is also of increasing concern as the differences it creates impinge on cross-border licences and approvals and their impact on international business and workforce mobility.
  • any other safety related matters.

“Now is the right time to reassess how our safety regulatory system is placed in dealing with this dynamic and evolving sector. The independent review reinforces the Government’s commitment to maintaining safety as the highest priority in aviation,” said Mr Truss.

“The review will be strategic in nature. It is about whether we are on the right track to meet future challenges and respond to growing demand in aviation.”

A panel of leading aviation identities will be chaired by Mr David Forsyth AM, the chair of Safeskies Australia, former chair of Airservices Australia and former Qantas executive for over 30 years in technical and management roles including: manager of the Melbourne maintenance base; General Manager, Regional Airlines; and Executive General Manager, Aircraft Operations.

Also on the panel will be Mr Don Spruston, former Director General of Civil Aviation at Transport Canada and former Director General of the International Business Aviation Council; and Mr Roger Whitefield, former Head of Safety at British Airways, former safety adviser to Qantas, and former United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority board member.

The panel will also be supported as required by specialist advisers. Mr Truss has appointed Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) President Phillip Reiss to ensure that the concerns of general aviation and regional operators are well aired.

Mr Truss said he was confident that the breadth and depth of expertise secured to conduct this review will ensure that a comprehensive and balanced perspective is reflected in the panel’s findings. Over the coming months, the review panel will undertake extensive industry and public consultation.

Outcomes

Mr Truss’s office says the report of the review will:

  • examine and make recommendations as required on the aviation safety roles of CASA and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and other agencies as appropriate;
  • outline and identify any areas for improvement in the current interaction and relationships between CASA and the ATSB, as well as other agencies and Infrastructure;
  • examine and make recommendations as required on the appointment process and criteria applied for key aviation safety roles within CASA and the ATSB;
  • examine the current processes by which CASA develops, consults on and finalises changes to aviation safety regulations and other legislative instruments (such as civil aviation orders) and make any proposals for improving these processes such that new regulations are best practice in safe operations for each relevant sector of the aviation industry;
  • review the implementation of the current aviation safety regulatory reform programme and assess the effectiveness of the planning and implementation of regulatory changes, including cost impacts on industry;
  • examine and make recommendations on options for improving future aviation safety regulatory reform having regard to international experience and stakeholder views, and the Government’s objective of reducing the cost of regulation to business;
  • provide advice to Government on priorities for future regulatory development and implementation strategies; and
  • provide advice to Government on options for improving oversight and enforcement of aviation regulations, including rights of review.

The media release does not directly foreshadow any evaluation of regulator/industry relations, or of the daily impact of trying to operate with incomplete regulatory oversight.

Consultation

The review will seek the views of the CASA Board and senior management and staff, and the ATSB Commission and senior management and staff in developing its advice to Government on the review’s objectives. It will also consult closely with:

  • international, domestic, regional, general aviation, sport and recreational aircraft and maintenance operators and organisations;
  • federal, regional and local airport operators;
  • other relevant Government agencies including Infrastructure, Airservices Australia, the Department of Defence and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (OPC); and
  • other industry and public stakeholders.

Earlier this year a Senate report into Aviation Accident Investigations made 26 recommendations, many of them time-critical, on issues directly related to the Pel-Air enquiry, including consideration of executive-level changes, a reopening of the ATSB/CASA enquiry, and immediate recovery of the aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, but these have been ignored until now.

Mr Truss’s office however says matters relating to that report will not be rolled into the enquiry announced today, but will be treated as a separate issue and dealt with before the report is delivered.

A starting date for the new review has yet to be advised, but the panel is expected to provide its report to the Deputy Prime Minister in May 2014.

 

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About Paul Phelan

Paul Phelan flew for over 50 years in private, charter, corporate and regional aviation, worked in senior management roles with a major regional airline, and retains his license. In parallel he has been writing for Australian and international aviation journals for well over 20 years on all aspects of aviation including aircraft evaluation, flying, industry affairs, infrastructure, manufacture, regulatory affairs, safety, technologies and training. He has won three separate National Aviation Press Club awards for "best technical aviation story of the year."

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