Flawed safety laws must be stalled, says Helicopter Association

The following commentary from Rob Rich, Secretary of the Australian Helicopter Industry Association, is published here in full along with a letter from the Association President Peter Crook to Minister Warren Truss.

Australian Helicopter Industry Association president Peter Crook has written to Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss to request Civil Aviation Safety Regulation Part 61 not be implemented on September 1, only 20 working days from now.

CASR Part 61 (Flight Crew Licensing) became law on February 14 last year with a start date of December 4 that year and a four-year transition period ending on December 3, 2017. However, little could be done until the Manual of Standards (MoS) was released in June last year with a comment ­period of 11 weeks.

It was quickly noted that helicopter operators would suffer more than their aeroplane cousins as the need to include instrument familiarisation training and integrated and non-integrated ­courses (the former not yet designed) would be an expensive compliance exercise. Furthermore, the AHIA working group struggled with the need to make the MoS line up with the parent instrument (regulation). Many of these issues are still “work in progress”.

Prior to the December deadline, the AHIA briefed senator David Fawcett and indicated CASA was not yet ready to introduce the flight crew licensing rules, despite claims to the contrary by CASA.

As a result, CASR Part 61 was deferred to September 1. However, a number of industry associations requested it be further deferred as the legislation needed to be in the “three-tier format”. The third tier is a guide in plain English. This has not occurred.

An AHIA CASR Part 61 review committee member said the flight testing regime required by the new rules would require a large increase in flight examiners at a time when the industry was already short of qualified testing officers. CASA’s capacity to approve more testing officers is limited. We have been advised that CASA’s intent not to grant its flight operations inspectors flight testing approvals, due to the cost of maintaining an individual’s qualifications, will only exacerbate the problem.

CASA has no implementation plan in this regard and this has the potential to seriously impact the capacity of the industry to function, particularly in the emergency service support, fire and aerial agriculture operations.

The only solution offered by CASA’s officers is the promise of concessions. But if new legislation needs such concessions upon implementation, it is fundamentally flawed. How can operators manage our risk if we don’t even know what the concessions are? Those concessions should be published well in advance so the industry can scrutinize them.

The industry also refutes CASA claims that the changes are “like-for-like’’ and only a restructure. That is not true. An example is the requirement for firefighting pilots to hold a firefighting rating. No such requirement currently exists and it is an additional operational and financial burden on the industry, and not a restructure.

Some of the syllabus items in the MoS encourage unsafe practices and in some instances are technically incorrect.

For individuals and organisations to manage their risk, concessions will also have to be given so these unsafe practices can be removed as a requirement of a ­rating being issued. An example is the potential for serious accidents when people attempt to demonstrate and practise a rotor-blade stall.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that very few people understand the content and the impact of these changes. This supports the argument that the proposed legislative elements are badly written and too complex.

One senior instructor said: “Now imagine a student pilot preparing for an air law examination based on the new regulations. If nobody understands them, then who can teach them? What hope do you have of passing?”

President’s letter to Deputy Prime Minister

Dear Minister,

 Urgent Request to Defer CASR Part 61

The initiative for the Aviation Safety Regulation Review was applauded by the Aviation Industry. The release of the report was welcomed by the Industry and by-in-large accepted as read. The industry was asked for comment which has been provided. Since the deadline for comment, the silence has been deafening.

I personally have been in the Aviation Industry, as a pilot, company co-owner, manager, sales representative for 51 years. Never in this time have I seen such turmoil and mistrust in the Regulator.

As President of the Australian Helicopter Industry Association, I am very concerned with the difficulties our CASR Part 61 Regulatory Review Team, and others, are having with understanding the mooted changes to this Regulation. The introduction of a completely new licensing system together with new training syllabuses, with no perceived safety benefits, but additional cost, in the current “Two Tier” format is not understood. Legislation needs to be in the “Three Tier” format, in plain English and not in the Criminal Code format which is understood by Judges but not Aviators.

As this third tier has not yet been introduced we, the Australian Helicopter Industry, respectfully request the introduction of CASR Part 61 be further delayed to allow time for Industry to negotiate the proposed changes further with CASA. Why introduce a Regulation which will require concessions to operate until the Regulation is in the proper format, should it not be fixed prior to introduction on 1 September 2014?

Regards

Peter Crook, President,  Australian Helicopter Industry Association

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