Understanding the rules – Opinion

CASA’s almost-too-late decision to defer its latest rule package came just fifteen days before the scheduled implementation deadline, and with no fanfare at all; just a limited-circulation media release that was repeated on a page on the CASA web site.

If you’ve made any business decisions based on the drafts, including leaving the industry, you now have a nine month cooling off period.

Most of CASA’s brief announcement about Parts 61, 64, 141 and 142 of the CASRs, which it dubs the “Licensing Suite” appeared to be an exercise in figuring how many different ways there are to tell involved industry sectors, the public and the parliament, that it’s all the fault of industry.

The announcement recycled several variations of Mr McCormick’s recent apparent attempts to project to the outside world – including the parliament – that CASA was operating in an intellectual vacuum because the beneficiaries of regulatory reform are just too dense to understand the new rules. The statement said in full (our highlighting):

Changes are being made to the implementation schedule for the new licensing suite in Parts 61, 64, 141 and 142 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.

The primary reason for the changes is the need to give the aviation industry more time to prepare for the commencement of the new regulations.

Despite CASA’s education and information campaign on the new licensing regulations many pilots and people working in flying training are only starting to understand the new rules.

While the new regulations do not make major changes to existing practices it is clear more time for education and information communication is required.

CASA consulted widely over a lengthy period of time on the new licensing suite. Over a number of years CASA issued a variety of consultation documents, called for and analysed comments and suggestions and held meetings and discussions with the aviation industry on the proposed changes.

The new regulations were made on 14 February 2013, with a commencement date of 4 December 2013.

Despite the long lead times and the many opportunities for feedback in the past, CASA received a relatively large number of comments and constructive suggestions after the new regulations were made in February.

As a result CASA proposed a package of amendments to clarify the intent of the regulations, correct any anomalies and make improvements which will benefit the aviation industry. Due to issues beyond CASA’s control it has not been possible to make these amendments before 4 December 2013.

Taking all these factors into account CASA has decided to change the commencement date of the licensing suite to 1 September 2014.

The new timetable for the commencement and transition of the licensing suite will give the aviation industry the opportunity to provide more feedback to CASA on implementation issues.

CASA will ensure the highest possible safety outcomes continue to be achieved with a reasonable level of regulatory requirements. This is in line with the Federal Government’s policy on reducing regulatory burdens on costs to industry.

Those repeated assertions prompted irate responses from individuals and organisations. Some didn’t mind being identified while others explained that they held various CASA certificates and a wife and kids to feed. One actually drew our attention to a fast-track process buried in a CASA manual that helps you identify somebody as a fit and proper person. So we’ve de-identified the lot.

  • “It’s interesting how [Director John McCormick] is happy to front all the media about the implementation, but he’s nowhere to be heard when it‘s postponed. Instead we all get a media release from Peter Gibson blaming industry for all the delays!”
  • “I feel insulted by the CASA machine. It says that the reasons why they are deferring the implementation of Part 61 in part are ‘to give the industry more time to prepare’. Can anyone advise when the first education programme started in earnest?  My first awareness was during a two day ‘professional development programme’ (PDP) meeting for Approved Testing Officers in September 2013.”
  • “Only starting to understand the new rules?” They haven’t circulated them yet. Where’s the Part 61 MOS?”
  • “As for ‘Despite the long lead time’ etc we’re alleged to be at fault. With whom did they consult? Organisations? Only? Well, I belong to organisations and I haven’t seen them. I also am an affected individual and I was not consulted. Nothing was drawn to my attention. I was not asked for my opinion. Were any other individuals asked for their opinion?”
  • “The fact that CASA hasn’t produced a Manual of Standards (MOS) that will be ready by 4 December 2013– obviously didn’t count – were we supposed to write that as well? Are we, the industry, are all so stupid? The whole thing smacks of ‘process versus outcome,’ which is what micromanagement is really all about!”
  • “Only starting to understand? That describes the apparent subject knowledge of CASA people when we ask them to explain the intent of a particular regulation. I was embarrassed for the CASA guys at the PDP meeting because they were obviously not informed, trained or equipped to explain the material they were promoting, or its outcomes; and they apparently weren’t allowed to answer questions. Also when that “consultation” took place (it was supposed to be a ‘personal development program’ meeting,) the actual draft rules hadn’t even been published yet so there couldn’t be any meaningful dialogue.”
  • “It would be easy to form the impression that CASA is among the organisations that are “only starting to understand,” especially when you review the mountains of amendments that have closely followed the recent launches of sets of regulations.”

The Regional Aviation Association of Australia’s response was more detailed. The RAAA welcomed the decision as: “a sensible response to strong industry feedback that neither CASA nor the industry was ready to take advantage of the sound licensing improvements contained within the new regulations.

“Two clear examples of the poor readiness were the lack of alternative insurance products for Authorised Testing Officers, and that the Manual of Standards would not have been completed by the proposed 4 December 2013 commencement.”

Jeff Boyd, Chair of the RAAA, added: “It is unfortunate that CASA, in its media release, appears to blame industry entirely for the delay in the roll-out of new licensing regulations, It is another example of the breakdown in the relationship between CASA and operators, a breakdown that is hurting the government and the industry. The CASA Board and senior management must understand that the genuine concerns about the timing of the roll-out came from industry and within CASA. After ten years of development due to CASA delays, it’s far better to take a little more time and get it right than rush it now and have to clean up a mess.”

The challenge appears to be cleaning up any messes that have been made while not making any more.

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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."

One thought on “Understanding the rules – Opinion

  1. Carmel Piccolo

    Don’t forget the other side of this argument – ie., that both the Industry and CASA blamed the “unwieldy” Regulations themselves for all the problems, and – by consensus – set off this whole monumental rewriting process.

    Sure, the Regulations were rather “scattered” in nature, having evolved in an ad-hoc manner, in light of operational experience, in response to perceived need – basically providing us with the gift of someone else’s hindsight and (often bitter) experience. The frustration of having to go to several sources to get full interpretations could easily have been minimised in this modern age by use of computerised cross references (ie., links/ hyperlinks).

    When the talk of rewriting started, I thought they were just going to adjust the wording and/or requirements as indicated, to bring them into line with ICAO, and – once and for all – to clarify issues that had long been common sources of angst (eg., CAO 40.1.1).

    I never did object to the “micro-management” effect of the Regs.; they addressed by legislation a staggering number of operational Safety issues (as far as this was possible) – thereby allowing me as Chief Pilot to simply ensure compliance, and “freeing me up” to concentrate on the nitty-gritty of day-to-day, hands-on risk management, as applicable to our OWN particular operations and circumstances.

    The main problem was always the way they were used as blunt objects of suppression and control by some within CASA prepared to twist the truth to MAKE a rule fit a circumstance so as to enable unnecessary Regulatory action. Although fortunately in the minority, these people were responsible for systematically thwarting the INTENT of a very good set of Regulations that had served us well, and bringing them into disrepute.

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