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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 993

(Question No. 1293)


Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 30 March 1994:

  With reference to articles which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 March 1994 and 10 March 1994 regarding irregularities at the Qantas Aircraft Engineer Training School:

  (1) (a) On what date was the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) first notified about irregularities at the Qantas Engineering Training School, what information was given in this first notification and who provided this information; (b) please supply a copy of the letter from the technical manager of the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association, Mr Aldis, to the manager of aircraft maintenance and engineering licensing at the CAA, Mr Purdie, raising concerns about leaked exam papers and possible cheating in July 1993; (c) on what date did the investigation into these irregularities begin; (d) why did the CAA fail to take action on these irregularities when they were originally notified about them; and (e) what specific irregularities were found at the training school.

  (2) Were these claims investigated by senior CAA officers, Mr Marcionis and Mr Bevis, and what are the aviation qualifications and experience of those persons.

  (3) (a) Did Qantas have an internal checking system for such irregularities; if so, why did this checking system fail to detect these irregularities; (b) why did the CAA's surveillance system fail to detect these irregularities; and (c) did the CAA have any mechanism for checking that the Qantas training school is operating correctly; if so, please explain this mechanism and why it failed to detect these irregularities.

  (4) Please supply a copy of the report of the investigation into this matter carried out by Mr Beaver and Mr Purdie of the CAA.

  (5) Has the Director of Public Prosecutions been informed of this matter; if not, why not.

  (6) (a) Have any students from overseas companies or from other Australian companies trained at Qantas during the period whilst the irregularities existed; if so, how have these companies been informed of the irregularities; (b) have past and present students who attended the school during the period when these irregularities existed been re-trained; if not, why not; and (c) how much will it cost the CAA, in monetary terms, to have its examination library re-written and who will pay for this.


Senator Collins —The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) (a)-(d) The Honourable Senator's question relates in the main to the alleged irregularities at the Qantas Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) Training School in Sydney. However, part (b) refers to a letter from Mr Alldis, Technical Manager, Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), about "leaked exam papers and possible cheating in July 1993". This particular matter raised by Mr Alldis was, in fact, referring to a Boeing 747-400 engine/airframe training course, which was being run in Melbourne for Qantas engineering staff and engineering staff from the newly merged Australian Airlines, not the Qantas AME Training School in Sydney.

  In order to clarify the situation for the Honourable Senator, this response details both matters, and the action taken by the CAA to address both matters.

Boeing 747-400 Engine/Airframe Training Course in Melbourne

  On 26 July 1993, Mr Alldis telephoned Mr Richard Purdie, Manager, AME Personnel Licensing, at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to advise him of alleged irregularities with the Boeing 747-400 training course in Melbourne. Mr Alldis followed up with a facsimile letter to Mr Purdie on 26 July 1993 alleging that examination question papers were being circulated amongst trainees attending the Melbourne training course. A copy of this letter is provided, as requested by the Honourable Senator and additional copies are available from the Tables Office.

  On 27 July 1993, Mr Purdie wrote to the Qantas Quality Assurance Manager requiring Qantas to produce new examinations for the Boeing 747-400 training course in Melbourne, and to reformat the existing questions in the examination library.

  On 29 July 1993, Mr Purdie confirmed by telephone with the Qantas Manager of Technical Training, that the CAA's requirement for new examinations for the course and reformatting was being complied with. Mr Purdie then advised Mr Alldis by telephone on the same day of the actions being taken by Qantas to address the situation.

  The Qantas Manager of Technical Training subsequently confirmed in writing to Mr Purdie, on 1 September 1993, that the examination questions which were alleged to be in the hands of the course attendees were "Gems", that is, questions written from memory by candidates who have previously sat for the Boeing 747-400 examinations, and which had been handed to the then current course attendees. Mr Purdie was also assured that Qantas had taken the necessary action regarding new examinations and reformatting, as requested by the CAA.

Alleged General Irregularities at the Qantas AME Training School in Sydney

  In late August 1993, Mr Alldis expressed concerns to the CAA's Chief Executive, Mr Doug Roser, about AME examination security at Qantas. In early September 1993, Mr Roser asked the CAA's Manager, Corporate Security, Mr Peter Beaver, to consult Mr Alldis about the matters. Mr Beaver subsequently met with Mr Alldis and obtained additional details about his concerns in order to assess the matter further.

  During September/October 1993, Mr Beaver discreetly reviewed the CAA's actions relating to Mr Alldis' concerns. He found that the CAA was already aware of the particular issues raised by Mr Alldis, and that they had been or were being dealt with in the appropriate manner.

  In late November 1993, Mr Beaver again consulted with Mr Alldis and received some additional documents including alleged evidence of some compromised AME examination material. These documents were subsequently authenticated during early December 1993 by Mr Beaver, and arrangements to undertake more detailed enquiries were made.

  The CAA became aware during late December that the ALAEA and Qantas had met to discuss alleged irregularities at the Qantas AME Training School in Sydney. On 22 December 1993, Qantas advised the CAA of a possible breach of AME examination security, following the meeting. Mr Alldis also wrote to the CAA concerning the matters that had arisen at the meeting. A copy of the minutes of the meeting were not obtained until mid-January 1994.

  In January 1994, Mr Beaver commenced a formal inquiry into the alleged irregularities involving examinations at the Qantas AME Training School. He was assisted by Mr Purdie. Their report was made available to the Director of Aviation Safety Regulation, Mr George Macionis, on 21 February 1994, who subsequently wrote to Qantas on 25 February 1994.

  (1) (e) The information requested by the Honourable Senator in respect of the alleged irregularities at the Qantas AME Training School related to matters which are still the subject of inquiry. Until such time as that inquiry is complete, decisions made as to what action might be taken and such decisions implemented, it is not appropriate to provide the information requested. To provide such information now may well prejudice the inquiry and efforts to take appropriate action. Further, to the extent that the matters may relate to individuals, it may prejudice them.

  Senator Macdonald will be provided with information on the outcome of the inquiry as soon as it can be provided without prejudice to the parties concerned.

  (2) As stated previously, the alleged irregularities were the subject of an inquiry undertaken by the CAA's Mr Beaver and Mr Purdie.

  Mr Purdie is currently employed with the CAA as the Manager of the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) Licensing Section. He has an Australian Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Licence in the Electrical/Radio Category. Mr Purdie was an aircraft maintenance engineer in the Royal Air Force for 14 years. He was employed as an AME in various UK aviation organisations for approximately nine years, before moving to Australia and taking up employment with the Australian CAA.

  Mr Beaver has been employed as the CAA Manager Corporate Security with the Authority since its establishment in 1988. He has performed duties of a similar nature since 1980 and has considerable experience in security related matters, including the conduct of investigations. He is not the holder of any licence or delegation under the Civil Aviation Regulations.

  (3) & (4)See the response to (1)(e).

  (5) No, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has not been informed of this matter by the CAA. Such notification would be premature. It is a matter of determining first whether there is a proper basis for prosecution, and then whether, in the circumstances, that is the appropriate course of action. It is only after such consideration, and a determination that prosecution should be considered, that such matters are referred to the DPP. This is consistent with the DPP's own guidelines.

  (6) (a)-(b) See the response to (1) (e).

  (6) (c) The CAA has a program of continually producing new questions for its AME examination system. The papers which have been withdrawn from the Qantas AME Training School are, in most cases, well into their useful life, and the cost of this premature withdrawal will be absorbed by the CAA into its normal new question costing.