By Michael Mangano
Major Recommendations for Australian General Aviation
The Australian Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee has released its long awaited interim report. The report begins with a 12-item list of recommendations for the Australian general aviation industry, many of which highlight the Committee’s disappointment with the current direction and approach of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Among the 12 items, the report recommends an independent review into CASA’s organizational culture and an independent industry complaints commission be implemented. The list of recommendations reflect the negative commentary of much of Australia’s aviation industry toward CASA, including the suggestion that CASA audit its framework so that it “aligns and complements the regulatory framework of other jurisdictions, specifically the US Federal Aviation Administration and New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority.”
CASA, Australia’s aviation authority and regulator, has been criticized for failing to promote a financially viable and safe aviation industry, and its “systemic, structural and process problems that exist within the organization,” illustrated by the failure of CASA to properly assist the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) with a fatal general aviation accident in 2020. The ATSB was unable to complete a full investigation as a result of CASA not providing the requested information.
Recommendations To Improve General Aviation Industry
The report lists 12 major recommendations, summarised as:
- CASA review their cost recovery process and the clarity surrounding them, including how the costs are determined, and further consider caps on charges.
- CASA should, with the involvement of third parties, consider simplifying regulations, improve training of pilots in basic maintenance and permit them to do so, and review its controversial fatigue management system.
- CASA should streamline its licencing requirements to avoid duplicating and acquiring multiple licences.
- The Australian Government amend the Civil Aviation Act 1988 to include an obligation to support the Australian aviation
sector to develop and compete nationally and internationally.
- CASA should audit its regulatory framework to align and complement the framework of organisations, like the FAA, where possible.
- CASA should explore opportunities for mutual recognition of international licences and qualifications.
- The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development instigate an immediate independent review into the organizational culture at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The review should be completed no later than Dec. 31, with the findings publicly reported.
- A new aviation Industry Complaints Commission be established as a statutory authority. The Commission should sit outside the organisational structure of and be independent from CASA. The new Commission should have the power to investigate and respond to
complaints concerning CASA employees, the Director of Aviation Safety and the CASA Board, with financial support and reporting to Parliament.
- The Australian Government, as part of its Aviation Recovery Framework, initiates a holistic training review of aviation training pathways. This review should be conducted in consultation with representatives from across the commercial and general aviation sectors.
- The Australian Government should promote careers in aviation to support both the commercial and general aviation sectors, considering the broader aviation ecosystem.
- The Australian Government establish a legislative framework and associated guidelines for a Regional Aerodrome Infrastructure Fund. The Fund should be accessible to operators of regional and remote aerodromes, and should be provided with ongoing and long-term funding.
- The committee recommends the Australian Government ensures that representatives from the general aviation sector are regularly consulted as part of the modernisation of regulations under the Airports Act 1996.
Improving Australian General Aviation
The report, while primarily addressing CASA and its impacts on Australian general aviation industry, highlighted the downturn in Australia’s aviation over the period of national COVID-19 lockdowns and international flight restrictions. According to the report, Australia experienced a decrease of 67.7% in scheduled commercial flights between 2019 and 2020.
While the report is sobering, the recommendations aim to provide specific direction for the improvement of Australia’s aviation industry. The final report is due Oct. 20.