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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 2056

(Question No. 5097)


Mr Lloyd asked the Minister for Aviation, upon notice, on 19 February 1987:

(1) Is the Government's policy with respect to the construction and operation of rotary wing, amateur-built aircraft in Australia different to that in other countries, including the USA; if so, why.

(2) What are the reasons for a distinction between amateur-built rotary wing aircraft and fixed wing aircraft.

(3) Is there a distinction between the operation of ultralight helicopters in Australia and the operation of gyrocopters; if so, (a) what are they and (b) why are there distinctions.

(4) Why are amateur-built rotary wing or ultralight helicopters not permitted to operate under the same conditions as Australian ultralight or amateur-built aircraft.

(5) Will his Department introduce an amateur-built or ultralight rotary wing category of operations if not, why not.

(6) Has his Department received any applications to import or design or construct an ultralight or amateur-built rotary wing aircraft; if so, were the applications granted.

(7) If applications were not granted what were the reasons for refusal.


Mr Peter Morris —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Australia's policy with regard to the construction and operation of rotorcraft is in general similar to those of other countries. However, our policy with regard to amateur-built helicopters does differ from that of the USA. There are two distinct categories of rotorcraft (`rotary wing aircraft'); helicopters, having rotors driven by an engine, and gyroplanes, having an engine-driven propeller and using a free-spinning rotor for lift. Helicopters are much heavier and more complex than gyroplanes. The former may not be constructed by amateurs in Australia whereas the latter may. Most other countries also allow the construction of amateur-built gyroplanes and a few, including the USA, allow a limited number of amateur-built helicopters to be constructed. These have not had a good safety record and consequently Australia has taken a conservative approach in not allowing amateurs to build such aircraft at this time.

(2) Amateur-built fixed wing aircraft are relatively simple to construct and are generally within the capacity of the amateur to build in private premises. Helicopters are significantly more complex than small aeroplanes in design, and there are many more parts and components which, due to the very high levels of stress they will be subject to during flight, are very sensitive to proper quality control during manufacture. There is also conclusive evidence that helicopters are many times more prone to serious defects than aeroplanes as a class. For these reasons helicopters are required to be built under approved factory conditions.

(3) There are no `ultralight helicopters' flying in Australia. The differences in the categories of rotorcraft are as described in (1) above. The operation of gyroplanes is addressed at (4) below.

(4) Gyroplanes, the only amateur-built rotorcraft accepted in Australia, are treated similarly to ultralight aircraft in that they are not required to meet any airworthiness standards nor are their pilots required to hold pilot licences. They are therefore only permitted to operate under much the same limitations as ultralight aeroplanes. For example, in both cases there are restrictions on area of operations, weight, and maximum height.

In contrast, amateur-built conventional aeroplanes are constructed under supervision to a similar standard to factory-built aeroplanes and must be flown by licensed pilots. Therefore they are permitted to operate freely under the same conditions. For example, they are permitted to operate within controlled airspace and land at licensed aerodromes.

(5) Gyroplanes, which can be described as `ultralight rotary wing' aircraft, are already permitted. These aircraft may be amateur-built. Amateur-built helicopters are not permitted for the reasons already stated.

(6) Some gyroplane kits are imported to Australia and other types are designed and constructed here. Construction is oversighted and approved by the Australian Sport Rotorcraft Association. There have been a number of applications to import light helicopter kits but these have not been approved.

(7) The applications to import helicopter kits for assembly in Australia that have been received have not been approved for the reasons outlined in (1) and (2) above.