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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Civil Aviation Safety Authority


CHAIR: I welcome CASA and the minister. Mr McCormick, welcome. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr McCormick : Yes, thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make some brief and important opening remarks. In these remarks I will touch on CASA's international reputation, the issues concerning CASA's regulatory costs, CASA's regulatory reform program, civil penalty scheme and aviation medicine.

Internationally CASA enjoys an exceptional reputation as a leader across many dimensions of aviation safety and safety regulation. Our contributions have long been and continue to be highly regarded by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, in aviation states and regional authorities. We work closely with the International Civil Aviation Organisation on the council in which Australia has continued to maintain its standing as a tier 1 member for decades.

CASA experts are eagerly pursued to participate in ICAO's development of global rules for aviation safety. CASA staff currently serve on 11 ICAO panels, 10 task forces and study groups. I chair the regional aviation safety group for the 41 nations of the Asia-Pacific regions. Mr Farquharson is Australia's representative to ICAO's South East Asia steering committee on the continuing development of operational safety and continuing airworthiness programs. Dr Aleck chairs ICAO's Safety Information Protection Taskforce, and he was invited to advise the ICAO's safety management panel on key aspects of the task force's work. A CASA subject matter expert also chairs the very important ICAO study group on unmanned aircraft systems.

CASA's leadership in international fora has received glowing tributes and appreciation from the highest ranks in ICAO and from other leading aviation nations. Letters from the former president of the council, the regional director and many others stand as testament to our leadership, professionalism and commitment. In the Asia-Pacific region CASA is constructively engaged to provide important aviation safety related assistance to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific island countries, helping to improve safety aspects of those systems for the benefit of their citizens as well as the many Australians who rely on them. We have entered into agreements with a number of other countries to ensure mutual recognition of maintenance, design and certification processes, including most recently with Singapore, which like Australia and a number of other Asian nations, has adopted the European Aviation Safety Agency rules as the basis for their regulations.

We are leading the world on many facets of aviation regulations and advisory material; for example, feedback on safety communication products has been very positive. Allow me to quote a recent comment made by the FAA's chief technical and scientific advisor, Dr Bill Johnson, describing CASA's human factors training package,:

I have never seen a more professional and comprehensive package than CASA’s Safety Behaviours: Human Factors for Engineers. It is the new international yardstick (or metric ruler) by which other human factors training programs will be measured.

CASA has led the implementation of safety management systems, SMS, mandating SMS for airports and international flights in 2005, certified aerodromes in 2007, and high-capacity and low-capacity regular public transport in 2009, something not yet achieved in many other leading aviation countries. The United States, for example, is one of the many who are only now moving to implement SMS for the air transport sector. Indeed, in December 2013 the US Government Accountability Office, the GAO, the US equivalent of our ANAO, approached CASA for a telephone interview intended to give the GAO insights into CASA's experience of SMS implementation. The topics discussed included inter alia, 'Australian SMS best practices that may assist other national aviation authorities.' This contact also reflects the high international standing that CASA enjoys.

The new fatigue management regulations for pilots reflect the latest knowledge on the effects of fatigue and are in closer call with international civil aviation organisations' standards and recommended practices. According to the chairperson, Debra Hersman, of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Australian rules are quite advanced and are based on the scientific research into human performance limitations in ways other leading aviation nations, including their own, would do well to follow. The Australian approach, which is based on surveillance, use of authorisation management teams and an IT system which captures wide-ranging data allowing more accurate identification of sector risk factors and prioritisation of surveillance according to risk, has received widespread international recognition as being regulatory best practice. The high regard in which we are held by the vast majority of participants in the Australian aviation industry, arguably a silent majority, is reflected in the many favourable comments and expressions of gratitude that we routinely receive, comments and expressions that regrettably do not make the news.

I would like to draw the committee's special attention to the regulatory reform program because this represents a very important investment in the modernisation of our regulations. CASA is continuously engaged in a process of meaningfully and constructively updating and reforming aviation safety regulations. Over the last 4½ years CASA has made significant progress towards the accomplishment of the longstanding objective of fundamentally realigning and contemporising virtually the entirety of Australia's aviation safety rule set. Although CASA is near completion of the drafting phase of the regulation reform program, which has involved a huge effort from our staff over the last four years, and with the implementation phase for a number of real paths to follow, we recognise that the update of Australia's aviation safety regulations is an ongoing task. Currently 42 parts have been made, 13 parts are in legal drafting at the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, with many of these near finalisation, and two additional CASA paths remain under consideration by CASA. A more consistent, sophisticated risk based approach to audit and surveillance, and a correspondingly material commitment to compliance with outcome based requirements to the safety legislation, is not always embraced by some organisations and individuals accustomed to a less rigorous approach. Indeed, change of any kind, and especially significant change in a regulatory regime within which people have operated for many years, can be disconcerting. I recognise and appreciate this and CASA is working hard to mitigate the sometimes problematic effects necessary in sometimes unavoidably challenging regulatory reform. To this end we are staggering the implementation of new regulations to give all parties time to absorb and digest the changes entailed.

Let me draw your attention to the recent push by certain members of the aviation community for Australia to adopt New Zealand rules in lieu of the regulations currently being finalised by CASA. The New Zealand rules could not simply be adopted in their current form as Australian regulations and enforced as such. Provisions in the New Zealand rules which would need to be enforced as offences under our regulations are not drafted in a manner consistent with Commonwealth drafting standards for framing offences. In addition, some content is not consistent with the definitions, terminology and requirements set out in our Civil Aviation Act and other general and administrative parts of our regulation.

To adopt certain parts the New Zealand rules could well require a broad reconsideration and revision of the Australian aviation safety legislation in its entirety, including amendments to the Civil Aviation Act, the introduction of non-criminal penalties, the reconstruction and reconsideration of other CASA parts recently made, and other major changes. This will be a long-term undertaking, involving several additional years of legislative redrafting and industry consultation.

The New Zealand rules often provide for considerable discretion to be exercised by the New Zealand Director of Civil Aviation in terms of the intent of the regulations and what are acceptable means of compliance. Adoption of these principles could significantly hinder CASA's efforts to achieve a high level of standardisation in applying and enforcing the Aviation safety legislation of Australia. CASA views increased standardisation as a key outcome of its regulatory reform program. In some cases this means less discretion being exercised by CASA officers and more certainty being provided directly in the regulations and standards.

Based on information published in their AIP, the New Zealand rules for aircraft operations like KAO Annex 6 contain more ICAO differences than Australia currently registers. CASA is striving to further reduce the number Annex 6 differences in the rewrite of the operation of CASARs. Adopting New Zealand rules, at least as regards Annex 6, would appear to result in more ICAO differences than Australia would otherwise have to register if CASA were to proceed with the CASA operational parts currently being finalised. The New Zealand rules are also, in some areas, less current than the new Australian regulations and/or reflect policies which CASA does not support in terms of providing adequate levels of safety or they do not take account of local conditions and considerations.

In summary, the New Zealand rules could not simply be adopted in their current form as Australian regulations. These rules may appear to some in the industry to be simpler and easier to read and understand but they are, in some cases, out of date and less compliant with ICAO requirements than the regulations CASA is implementing through the CASARs.

Some CASAR parts do, however, contain similar language to the New Zealand rules. That said, where principles and practices are reflected and New Zealand rules are seen to be useful and advantageous, CASA is always willing to consider how and to what extent beneficial features of that legislation, no less so than the legislation of any other modern aviation jurisdiction, might be usefully adapted for Australian purposes.

CHAIR: Mr McCormick, before you continue, that is 10 minutes now for an opening statement. What do you have left there?

Mr McCormick : Just some pricing information, which I will table.

CHAIR: We will table this in a moment.

Mr McCormick : There is mention of the AOC holders survey questionnaire which we conducted and requested to nominate the main reasons why AOC holders did not operate fully or operate partly through a calendar year. The impact of regulations did not figure in the top five reasons. There were 93 respondents. Lack of demand was 19 per cent; lack of qualified staff, 11 per cent; availability of suitable aircraft, 10 per cent; external factors, 10 per cent; retired or left industry, 10 per cent; operating in another AOC, nine per cent; main operations other than charter, nine per cent; selling or sold the AOC, eight per cent; operating costs, five per cent; regulatory regulations, four per cent; no response, three per cent; new entrant, two per cent; and competition, one percent.

I would also like to table a comparison of selected CASA and other NAA regulatory fees. For interest, we compared CASA and New Zealand, UK CAA, Transport Canada and the FAA. I will say at the outset that the FAA do not charge, which would require a major review of government policy if we were to adopt that. However, our charges are almost identical to Canada; in most cases, for instance, a private pilot's licence issue is $60 and in Transport Canada it is $56. In New Zealand it is $216 and in the UK it is $348.

To sit the air transport pilot licence examinations it is $65 a subject in Australia, which comes to $455 plus invigilation costs. In New Zealand it is $2,595 plus invigilation costs. Also, routine surveillance is charged in New Zealand at $284 an hour. If you look at our costs you will find that our regulatory fees costs are very comparable.

There were some comments recently that our costs and regulatory costs in regional airlines were particularly excessive; in particular, the comments were made by Rex. In 2007-08 their regulatory services fees were $90,821 and change. We progressively, because of improvements and other issues, brought that down to $67,000 by 2009-10. In 2010-11 it was $38,773 and it has remained at $37,000 and change through 2011-12 and 2012-13. So I do not think the numbers would indicate that our regulatory costs are particularly high.

We have done a considerable amount of work on class 2 medicals; this is the private pilot licence medical. I am pleased to announce that in the first half of the 2014 calendar year obviously we will be allowing DAMEs, the Designated Aviation Medical Examiners, to issue class 2 medical licences.

We also have a proposal which we have had under discussion for some two years to introduce civil penalties to replace the strict liability criminal offences, similar to what ASIC and others have. That scheme is ready to go but up until now we have not had a regulatory agenda which has allowed us to get the amendments to the Civil Aviation Act on board. The rest of it I will table. There are some page comparisons.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Mr McCormick. You will table all of that documentation.

Mr McCormick : Certainly. I will take questions, obviously.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you for your opening statement. I would like to take you to an issue that we touched on at the last estimates, which is colour-vision-deficient pilots. My understanding is that CASA has determined that the colour assessment diagnosis, or CAD, test was developed by the CAA in the UK to be the appropriate test for the purposes of reg. 67.1506C. Is that correct?

Mr McCormick : The exact name of that test I am not sure of. I have been advised that is correct.

Senator FAWCETT: Who made that decision and what was the basis of that decision?

Mr McCormick : I will ask the Executive Manager, Industry Permissions, to give you the background for that.

Mr Fereday : In regards to the question relating to the CAD test, CASA is looking into that as our third level of testing as a possibility to use. We have not necessarily committed to using that test in all cases.

Senator FAWCETT: I have a letter dated 24 January this year from CASA to a gentleman saying, 'CASA has determined the colour assessment diagnosis test to be an appropriate test for the purposes of the regulation' and it appears to be the test that CASA is now using to apply. My question is, in accordance with your letter, who made the decision that it is an appropriate test and on what basis did they make that decision?

Mr Fereday : It would have been for an individual occurrence; it's not across the board. All testing for colour vision is on a case-by-case basis; in terms of that decision it would have been our principal medical officer.

Senator FAWCETT: Clearly at some point in time somebody has decided that the test has a degree of efficacy that makes it worthwhile to use. My question is: who made that decision and on what basis?

Mr Fereday : It would be the basis of medical evidence of the test's validity. We could provide on notice the actual details of why that approach was the appropriate one.

Senator FAWCETT: I have done my own research into the CAD and I have gone back and researched the CAA documents, the chief medical officer there and the background to the test. The critical element that they come down to in the test is that they believe one of the very few items of a pilot's work cycle that there are no redundant cues for is the PAPI. I do not know if you are familiar but it is a night aid to get your glide slope. They believe that is the critical test and that the whole test revolves around determining whether they have a colour vision deficiency that would affect their ability to interpret those colours. Is that correct as far as you are aware?

Mr Fereday : That is my understanding, but I am not the expert in colour vision testing.

Senator FAWCETT: One of the concerns that I have is that since the Denison case here in Australia some two decades ago we now have pilots with over 10,000 hours of flying, many of them single pilot night IFR who have conducted countless night approaches using PAPIs as they have come on line, as well as the TVASI and there have been no safety incidents. We confirmed that last estimates between ATSB and CASA, that there have been no incidents recorded. So, my question is: if we have 20 years of experience versus the UK where it is essentially an academic development that proves that somebody has a colour vision deficiency, where is the safety case that justifies the adoption of this test?

Mr McCormick : You mean changing the initial test to this CAD test?

Senator FAWCETT: Any of the tests that are essentially an academic determination that you have a colour vision deficiency as opposed to the intent of 67.150 which looks at what are the operational ways of testing whether this deficiency in fact affects your ability to safely operate an aircraft.

Mr McCormick : I think you will find that there has been a 727 crash in the United States which was attributed to the colour blindness of the co-pilot.

Senator FAWCETT: There is one incident and that attribution has been disputed, particularly since the captain of the aircraft was not colour vision deficient, who was also on the flight deck at the time, and the fact that PAPIs are well known to have distortion under certain atmospheric conditions which is off-quoted as the real cause of that accident.

Mr McCormick : Yes. The academic literature does tend to cite that. There are numerous maritime accidents, of course, with colour vision deficiency that we are not particular concerned about at this moment. The colour vision testing on the 67.150 6(c)—CASA is empowered to determine the type of third level testing to be applied. My notes say that the colour assessment and diagnosis, CAD, test was developed by City University in London, with research funding assistance from both the UK CAA and the US FAA. It has been officially adopted, as you say, for use in the UK and we believe that aviation specific tests, such as that test, are better suited than the previous use practical tests for detecting colour vision deficiency due to their direct relevance to aviation specific tasks.

As far as the safety case goes around changing from the Ishihara, or the colour plate test, to some other test, we will have to take that on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: My point is that in an environment where the industry is struggling to attract and retain pilots we have a whole cohort now in Australia who have been flying safely with no incidents, which has been confirmed by ATSB and yourself, for the past two decades in Australia, yet since the introduction of this CAD test we are now seeing CASA withdrawing the privileges of pilots who have been flying for thousands of hours quite safely on the basis of a test that has been academically derived. My question to you is: what is the safety case for withdrawing the privileges of a licence for somebody who has demonstrated over a number of years and thousands of hours of flying that they can competently operate the aircraft?

Mr McCormick : I am not aware of any specific cases and assuming, as you say, there have been cases where we have withdrawn privileges, I am not aware of that myself. The issue about the eyesight test is, of course, that there is a standard which is applied by ICAO. We are already much more liberal than that standard anywhere in the world and necessarily saying 20,000 hours or 10,000 hours represents therefore a valid safety case because it has been 10,000 times is not necessarily the same thing as saying it is either one hour experienced 10,000 times or it is 10,000 hours experience as far as the events go themselves.

I think we are looking now at carefully moving forward, or in some cases if this test has been adopted by the UK CAA and is obviously under consideration by the FAA, we would look at moving, as it says, to where the appropriate and sophisticated medical research methodologies have led. It is the mere fact of updating things. As for actually removing the issues, I will take that on notice. I do not know who we have removed privileges from.

Senator FAWCETT: I can give you the letter afterwards. I have it sitting right here in front of me from your organisation dated 24 January doing exactly that. I will put it to you that with due respect this is not moving forward, despite the evidence that you gave here at estimates in November that CASA had no agenda or no plans to wind back the gains of the Denison case. This is, in fact, a very deliberate effort to adopt a standard which might medically ascertain that somebody does have a colour vision deficiency, but clearly as evidenced by multiple pilots that have flown for over two decades, it is not an accurate or effective measure of their ability to safely operate an aircraft. This is going backwards and not, in fact, forwards.

Mr McCormick : As I said, what has happened between November when I was here and that letter, this is the first that I know of it. We were, of course, expecting to be in the AAT to respond to a Mr O'Brien in February 2012, however, those proceedings are currently not listed for hearing as the previous hearing to commence on 31 March was vacated at the applicant's request. So we have not had the opportunity to test these things. As I said, that is news to me. I will take it on notice and find out what we have been doing.

Senator FAWCETT: CASA provides the option, for example, with hearing tests. If you go to the CASA website under 'hearing' in paragraph 6.3 it talks about the option that if somebody fails the normal testing an inflight test may be offered if he or she has a high level of aeronautical experience and such an operational check will involve evaluation of relevant aspects of the applicant's hearing by a CASA FOI or an authorised testing officer. Given that you already have an established precedent where somebody fails to meet a broadly recognised benchmark, why is there not an equivalent test offered for somebody with colour vision deficiencies? If they can prove, whether it be in a simulator or in a real aircraft, that they are quite capable of flying an aircraft by night to landing—and the CAA and the university that did that work identified that the PAPI was the one area where they felt that there was not a redundant cue available to the pilot—why is there not the option for a pilot to elect to have an alternative means of testing to demonstrate their competence, given that unlike the UK we now have many pilots who have thousands of hours of operational experience that demonstrate they can safely operate the aircraft?

Mr McCormick : I do not think that it has been considered up until now because, of the standard recommended procedures, the medical standards, colour vision deficiency is an absolute bar to commercial operations. Again, we are talking about evolving out somewhere else. I am still hesitant to say that, just because the person can interpret the PAPI this time, they will interpret it correctly the next time. I am not basing that on any medical science; I am basing that on common sense. The issue does still revolve around what medical experts say a person's colour vision ability is. We do not put ourselves in that position and unfortunately, if this AAT hearing eventually goes ahead, we will be tabling evidence from experts about that particular individual's ability to differentiate red and green.

Senator FAWCETT: If you want to come back to experts, your organisation's previous experts, Ladel, Brock, Wilkins and others, were very proactive in recognising that practical tests were a viable alternative and, in fact, that many people with a CVD were able to fly. Their judgment has proven correct by virtue of the incident-free 20 years of flying. Is it the case that a personality has changed, not the science and not the safety? A personality has changed and now CASA's approach to this issue is changing?

Mr McCormick : I am not aware of any changes around our approach to this. As I said, that letter is news to me. I am not across everything that leaves the building, particularly medical matters where I normally do not involve myself. We will take it on notice and I will get you an answer about what has transpired.

Senator FAWCETT: I would appreciate if you could take that on notice. I will also be seeking further information about CASA's plans in terms of the adoption of the CAD test. I would also like an answer on notice on whether you will consider an equivalent to the audio test, an inflight or a simulator based test, for people who have a recognised CVD. I am sure the CAD test is an absolutely thorough, 100 per cent accurate test to prove that someone has a CVD. The critical question for industry and for individuals' careers is whether that has an impact on their ability to safely operate the aircraft. I look forward to your answer on notice as to whether you will adopt an approach that will give an equivalent avenue for those pilots with a practical test versus just the theoretical one.

Senator XENOPHON: I have a question on that. So you do acknowledge, given Senator Fawcett's line of questioning, that the key criteria should be the ability to safely operate an aircraft, not the mere fact of having a colour vision deficiency; that it needs to be looked at in the context of the ability to safely operate an aircraft?

Mr McCormick : I think the ability to safely operate the aircraft is what got us to where we are now compared to where other nations are that do not permit commercial operations with some colour vision deficiencies. As I said to Senator Fawcett, that is the first time that it has been suggested to me that we have a look at the practical test and I think it has merit. We will have a look at it and see what we come back with.

Senator XENOPHON: I would like to go back to Senate estimates on 18 November last year. I asked you, Mr McCormick, questions in relation to the ditching of aircraft VHNGA off Norfolk Island. That was on 18 November 2009. It has now been over 10 months since the references committee issued its report on aviation accident investigations. Have you provided your position in relation to the Senate committee report to the government?

Mr McCormick : That is correct.

Senator XENOPHON: How long ago was that? Can you give an approximate time frame?

Mr McCormick : We may have answered that in a question on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: You said it was before the last election, so it was prior to September of last year.

Mr McCormick : Yes. It was a considerable time ago.

Senator XENOPHON: Maybe I could ask Senator Johnston representing the government, on notice, when we could expect it. Has a response been prepared to the Senate committee's report on aviation accident investigations?

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps I can assist. There is a government response which has been prepared. Unfortunately, owing to some delays with the tabling arrangements, that has not been able to have been tabled as yet. My understanding is that the intention is for that to be tabled in this sitting period.

Senator XENOPHON: So next week?

Mr Mrdak : Next week.

Senator XENOPHON: That is good. That will put Senator Fawcett and me out of our misery on that one.

Mr Mrdak : The minister cleared a response shortly after taking office but unfortunately it has been delayed by the proceedings inside government.

Senator XENOPHON: The short answer is we will get it next week. Mr McCormick, I would like to ask whether CASA has any oversight of the provision of weather information to pilots? This is in the context of questions asked of Airservices Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology about the incident involving the Virgin 737 flight with the emergency landing in Mildura. Does CASA have any oversight and are there any regulations requirements in terms of how that information is provided?

Mr McCormick : I will ask our Executive Manager of Airspace and Aerodrome Regulation. Whilst she is coming to the table, we do not have regulatory authority over the Bureau of Meteorology. We do not have a regulatory position with that organisation.

Senator XENOPHON: Even though CASA has an overarching responsibility in terms of aviation safety, obviously the provision of information from the bureau to Airservices Australia that the aircraft operators rely on, surely that touches on that overarching issue of safety?

Mr McCormick : I do not disagree with you, but we normally have influence by goodwill more than, shall we say, a formalised position. I will leave it to Ms Allman to give an answer to that.

Senator XENOPHON: Before I ask Ms Allman, I will just ask the secretary. Given Mr McCormick's answer in relation to that, does the department acknowledge that the information given, the provision of weather information to pilots, is an important aspect of aviation safety and the fact that CASA does not have an jurisdictional or any regulatory oversight of that is something that ought to be looked at?

Mr Mrdak : I agree. I think everyone would agree that the provision of accurate weather information to the airlines and to the operating authorities is critical.

Senator XENOPHON: I should preface it and say 'accurate'.

Mr Mrdak : The issue that you have raised and I think is emerging from the ATSB analysis of that incident would lead to some significant questions about the nature of the regulatory requirements being imposed. That is a short answer to say that I think we do need to look at it. We will probably take that—

Senator XENOPHON: Perhaps, take on notice whether the government is actually looking at a process of providing CASA with some regulatory oversight or authority. Relying on goodwill, as Mr McCormack said, is all well and good but it is not quite the same as having regulatory oversight.

Mr Mrdak : As I said, I think the ATSB work on this—and Mr Dolan spoke about it in November—leads one to have a serious look at this issue.

Senator XENOPHON: So, perhaps if I can get something more on notice from you on that?

Mr Mrdak : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: I think Ms Allman wanted to respond to that issue in terms of regulations and requirements in terms of how information is provided. How do you liaise with the Bureau of Meteorology for instance?

Ms Allman : We have ongoing arrangements with the Bureau of Meteorology. We have working groups where we work with the Bureau of Meteorology, particularly around the work that they have done recently with respect to the TAF and TTF reviews. On a wider basis, as has been previously answered, we do not have any regulatory authority over the Bureau of Meteorology, but we do acknowledge the safety of information is important. We will have a new regulation, part 175, which will be coming into effect in the middle of the year. That is around the provision of aeronautical information in general, but that regulation also does not give us any ability to regulate the Bureau of Meteorology.

Senator XENOPHON: I ask this because there seems to be some confusion over who has responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the various automated weather stations and the transmission of the information they collect. I take it CASA acknowledges that there has been some confusion as to who does what. Is that something that you have observed?

Ms Allman : I think that would be an accurate statement.

Senator XENOPHON: Does CASA get involved using goodwill—I think that is what Mr McCormack said that is all you can do—in any way to ensure that these systems are operating, and that the various responsible parties are doing their jobs?

Ms Allman : I think it is more of an informal mechanism. It is really done on a local basis and there are forums such as the RAPAC forum, the regional airspace forum, that actually allows Bureau of Meteorology representatives to speak with industry face to face. A lot of those sorts of local issues that operators have are often raised with the bureau representative at those sorts of meetings. They happen around the country. There are about 26 meetings a year. We facilitate that arrangement, rather than provide the conduit.

Senator XENOPHON: But is it absent of any regulatory oversight; you have to rely on goodwill?

Ms Allman : That is correct.

Senator XENOPHON: Even though, Mr McCormack, you agree that these sorts of issues can be fairly fundamental in terms of aviation safety?

Mr McCormick : It definitely has a bearing, there is no doubt about that. I think on the actual availability of the services, et cetera, Airservices might be able to give you a bit more information about that.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. Can I just go to a completely different issue relating to you and the deputy director. Are either or both of you currently endorsed to fly commercial aircraft?

Mr McCormick : Endorsed?

Senator XENOPHON: Endorsed to fly commercial aircraft.

Mr McCormick : The licence endorsements are perpetual for the life of the licence. I am endorsed to fly the 747-400, the Boeing 777 series, the Airbus A330, the Airbus A340, the 300 and 600 Tristar, and the classic 747. Those endorsements—

Senator XENOPHON: It is going better while they are Tristar.

Mr McCormick : The mighty Tristar. Those endorsements are permanent on the licence but to exercise the privileges of the licence you need to meet whatever the current requirements are, instrument rating et cetera, biannual flight check and medical.

Senator XENOPHON: Is it similarly for you, Mr Farquharson?

Mr Farquharson : Yes, although I had a medical issue in the mid-90s. I could regain a medical if I wish, but I cannot do this job and fly as well.

Senator XENOPHON: I understand. In terms of the endorsements, to be current you need to presumably undertake some further testing or training, is that right?

Mr McCormick : Most of the aircraft that we have been talking about, large aircraft, are operated by airlines which of course have a check and training organisation, CAR 217.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr McCormick : Their requirements for training, which we would look at and accept, would be stipulated there: what one has to do after three months without flying, six months without flying or whatever. So each individual operator of those aircraft types would have a manual which conforms with CAR 217 requirements for check and training.

Senator XENOPHON: But you have not had cause to have ongoing training or to be current as a pilot?

Mr McCormick : I do not exercise the privileges of my licence, but for me to do that for one of those, say the 777, I would have to go to somewhere and hire a simulator and then presumably—when I am not flying the aeroplane, it is economically not a good idea.

Senator XENOPHON: No, but in your view does it not enhance your role as director to be current on those aircraft?

Mr McCormick : It only comes down to dollars. It would certainly enhance my role if someone would perhaps pay for the cost of my 777 endorsement or renewal, but in this day and age I think it is seen as a bit of a waste.

Senator XENOPHON: So, just to clarify this, even though it may enhance the role of yourself or others in CASA to be current on endorsement, it is not the sort of thing that CASA would pay for?

Mr McCormick : It depends on the extent of it. Obviously, there is no flying training budget as such allocated to my position number, nor to Mr Farquharson's position number, but of course there is with our inspectorate. Anything is possible. We could put that in the position description and put in some funding to that, provided what the funds are. I do not think it is a bad idea; the FAA administrator does fly. Admittedly, I do not think he flies particularly large aircraft, but they also have an aircraft fleet themselves. It would certainly be an advantage but time and money are the current situation.

Senator XENOPHON: I can see the sense of having some CASA officers being current. Could you just, on notice, let me know what budget is being allocated and what sort of currency it is? I take it that CASA does not have its own fleet of aircraft like the FAA?

Mr McCormick : No, and I believe some of the FAA aircraft are confiscated from drug enforcement action, so they would probably have a better supply of airframes than perhaps we have.

Senator XENOPHON: Perhaps you should talk to the AFP about that.

Mr McCormick : Yes. We can give you those budget numbers now on flying training, if you would like?

Senator XENOPHON: Sure.

Mr McCormick : I will just ask the chief financial officer, Mr Jordan, to come to the table.

Senator XENOPHON: Basically, neither yourself nor the director have had any training for current endorsements of aircraft?

Mr McCormick : Not on large aeroplanes. I have flown light aeroplanes of recent times, but not the commercial operations.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes, I understand.

Mr Jordan : In response to your question, for our flight training budget for the previous financial year, we actually spent $2.3 million.

Senator XENOPHON: How many personnel within CASA was that spent for?

Mr Jordan : I do not have that information with me. I would have to take that on notice. But overall, the bucket of money we spent was $2.3 million, purely for our technical staff.

Senator XENOPHON: So, I take it that the rationale of that is that if you have some of your officers who are currently rated—in other words, can get behind the cockpit of an aircraft to fly it—that they would have a degree of knowledge and currency that would be useful for their work.

Mr McCormick : Every aircraft does. Above 5,700 kilograms we have an FOI who is endorsed on that aircraft.

Senator XENOPHON: Which means they have to be current?

Mr McCormick : They should, except that, to my knowledge, it has not been the practice in Australia, certainly not in my time, for flight operations inspectors to, say, fly with Qantas on line-flying duties. We do have them in the simulator; they go through the recurrent training program, et cetera. Now, that principle of not flying with the airline is not necessarily the same in other jurisdictions. I have worked in jurisdictions where the flight operations inspectors did fly on the line with the operating crews. But that has not been the practice in Australia.

Senator XENOPHON: But that is an important principle, particularly in terms of safety management systems and the like that you have FOIs who basically are current, who have even had just the simulator training.

Mr McCormick : We do that. We do have them in a simulator training, and they do, of course, observe line flights as well.

Senator XENOPHON: But that is FOIs, that is not done at a director, deputy director or assistant director level, is it?

Mr McCormick : No.

Senator XENOPHON: No. That clarifies that and that makes good sense. Maybe, just to get an idea of how many FOIs would have been trained for that $2.3 million, could you take that on notice? I would be happy with that.

Mr McCormick : We have spent quite a bit of effort in getting that flying training to our inspectorate and in some years past we chronically underspent the flying training allocation. We have worked very hard on it in the last few years.

Senator XENOPHON: They would they have a level of knowledge having that currency? Would that be of use?

Mr McCormick : Yes. We have some of our flight operations inspectors who are very experienced on the aeroplanes they are flying, even with 747s and the like—at that larger end of town. Below 5,700 kilograms they are all group endorsements of aeroplanes, so we do not necessarily have someone who can fly every aircraft on that register, per se, as an endorsement on their licence, but they are able to operate all those aircraft.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you.

Senator FAWCETT: If I could just quickly follow up on that one. Just clarifying that answer then that the $2.3 million that was allocated was all for FOIs; there was no other funding spent for other people in training within CASA?

Mr Jordan : Yes, we do have other funds expended on training overall. If you like, I could take that on notice?

Mr McCormick : We will take that on notice and give you both a detailed reply on that.

Senator FAWCETT: I would also be interested to know, do commercial organisations, whether they be airlines, charter operations or others, ever see it is in their interests to provide training, whether it be endorsement training, currency or training for engineers on essentially a pro bono basis to help facilitate the oversight of their operations?

Mr McCormick : That is a practice of overseas countries. That is true of jurisdictions to our north of here. If an airline was introducing an aircraft it would be responsible for paying for the entire training for a number of flight operations inspectors, normally at least one if we have none, but normally no more than two. That is an ongoing commitment in that if the regulator decided to move the flight operations inspectors who are oversighting that aeroplane then the organisation that you are oversighting would pay the costs of the conversion course for that flight operations inspector.

Senator FAWCETT: Does that occur in Australia? Has that occurred recently with any member of CASA?

Mr McCormick : I will take that on notice because I have not checked every body, but to my knowledge the answer would be no, it has not occurred. But, as I say, I will take that on notice if I could.

Senator FAWCETT: Any training currency endorsement for any member of CASA, that would be useful.

Mr McCormick : We would share an element of the cost. I think that is the situation.

Senator XENOPHON: Does that mean that Mr Jordan's answer, that $2.3 million bucket of money for flight training for CASA, there might be some other funds available for flight training of CASA personnel?

Mr Jordan : Not necessarily flying training; there are other training monies available; for example, myself, as an accountant, to attend a training course. So there is more money than the $2.3 million.

Senator XENOPHON: I am more—

Mr McCormick : You are talking more about the flying side of things.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr Jordan : So the $2.3 million is purely for flying.

Senator XENOPHON: So, it is not a requirement of your job to have an endorsement on an A380 or anything like that to be CFO?

Mr Jordan : No.

Senator XENOPHON: No.

Mr McCormick : We will give you a detailed breakdown on notice because I am not sure of all the facts.

Senator XENOPHON: That is fine.

Senator FAWCETT: How many people do you have endorsed on the A380?

Mr McCormick : We have at least one, but stand by. It may only be two. We will take that on notice, if we could.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure, if you could give us a list of their names that would be great.

Mr McCormick : We will.

Senator FAWCETT: Chair, I have a couple of others if I could?


Senator GALLACHER: I have a couple of questions, Mr McCormack, so that I can actually understand the relationship between the AOC holder and CASA. In the event that Qantas cuts a thousand jobs, or Tiger or Virgin, and that impacts on maintenance—there is fairly public comment about jobs being outsourced overseas and other ones going to Brisbane—who is the responsible entity? Is it the AOC holder? Secondly, what do you do to check that commercial conditions are not impacting on the travelling public's safety?

Mr McCormick : In general terms, it is a requirement for holding the AOC that they have sufficient number of personnel, particularly in safety sensitive roles, et cetera. In the provision of maintenance—let us assume for a moment; I do not know whether this is the case—we are talking about maintenance activity when it comes to reducing jobs or moving things overseas or whatever, they have a requirement under Part 145 and another requirement under Part 42 to maintain the continuing airworthiness of those aircraft and the second one to actually carry out the activity themselves. If it is outsourced to somebody overseas—the maintenance I am talking about, not the control of the maintenance—then we would oversee that organisation and go and physically check it.

Now one of the advantages I mentioned in my opening statement of the bilateral agreements which we have entered into in a number of countries such as Singapore, which was signed last week or the week before, that allows mutual recognition. So, we recognise the activities that will be carried out under the 145 that Singapore approves and they recognise maintenance will be carried out in Australia under our organisations that are approved under Part 145 and there is no reciprocal inspection requirement. So we are reducing the red tape and regulatory burden. If the organisation got to a point where we suspected there was financial stress then we would normally ask for a financial viability assessment. We have done a number of those of recent times, not on Qantas, but on other organisations.

Senator GALLACHER: So, the AOC holder is a person, not an entity?

Mr McCormick : That is correct.

Dr Aleck : It could be an entity or a person.

Senator GALLACHER: Sorry?

CHAIR: What he means is that it has got one head and two legs.

Dr Aleck : There will be individuals. The CEO, normally, is regarded as the accountable person for the AOC organisation. But it is the corporate entity that CASA deals with through the individual.

Senator GALLACHER: So, for argument's sake, we will use Qantas. So, the CEO, being Alan Joyce, he would also be the AOC holder and the responsible person for that?

Mr McCormick : Not in that particular case; he has two other people who hold the AOCs as a responsible person, which is permitted.

Senator GALLACHER: The point I am making is that the public would deem you to be the responsible entity, whereas the reality is that it is a corporate person or persons who no one knows.

Mr McCormick : As far as putting out the names of people as such, that is not an area where I have a lot of authority. The aircraft register would show who owns and operates the aircraft, but that may not of course be Qantas; it is normally a leasing company or some such thing. In about the start of 2012—I will take on notice exactly when—we wrote to all the AOC holders pointing out the CEO's responsibilities under what is called section 28BE of the Act and reminding them that there was a great deal of onus on them, and also through other mechanisms outside of CASA, the onus is on the board for fiduciary duty et cetera.

I think we wrote that out in early 2012 for this very reason, to make sure that people realise what their responsibilities are. It is not for us all the time to be the policeman. I know that might sound funny, but we cannot be everywhere all the time. We just do not have enough people. So, they are fully aware and every AOC holder, when a new AOC is issued, gets a copy of that letter.

Senator GALLACHER: Thanks.

Senator FAWCETT: We talked before a little bit about the impact of regulatory reform on the GA sector, I just want to clarify some concerns that have been raised with me from the GA sector to see if they are accurate and, if they are, what the plan is to address them. CASAR Part 42: my understanding is that there was a transition regulation, part 202, that expired in June last year, which essentially exempts the GA sector from the requirements of part 42 and they go to the requirement for a CAMO, or Continuing Airworthiness Maintenance Organisation, as well as the airworthiness review certificate.

The concern that has been raised is that in the definitions provided in part 42A it says 'An AOC in the Air Transport category, means an AOC issued under CAR 206-1(b), 206-1(c)'. Now, 206-1(b) is charter ops and 206-1(c) is RPT. So, if that definition is correct, what it would mean is that every charter operator would have to have their own in-house Continuing Airworthiness Maintenance Organisation. Given that they cannot have both those doing the work be part of the CAMO, that would obviously be a huge cost burden. I am just wanting to understand, is that your understanding that those definitions are accurate? Is that the intent, that charter operators will have to have an in-house CAMO? If that is not correct, I would be very pleased to hear it, but that is the concern that has been raised with me.

Mr McCormick : I ask Mr Boyd to answer that. While he is coming to the table, the intent of part 42 was to apply to RPT. The actual general aviation aircraft side of that amalgamated RPT and regular public transport, the intent was not that there be a CAMO, but the maintenance regulations for that part of the industry we have not completed yet. We are still in the consultation phase. I will ask Mr Boyd to give you a more fulsome answer on the elements of your question.

Senator FAWCETT: I guess the elements are: did the transitional regulation 202 expire last year? And do the definitions actually list 206-1(b), which is charter ops, to be a transport which would then require an in-house CAMO?

Mr Boyd : I am not aware of the detail of that particular exemption, but as the director has said, the intention at the moment is that only regular public transport operations are covered by that CASR 42 for the CAMO.

Senator FAWCETT: So, a charter operator or anyone else operating an AOC would be able to continue what they have done in the past, whereby their maintenance organisation would actually provide not only the hands-on maintenance, but also the continuing airworthiness management for the aircraft?

Mr Boyd : It is my understanding that regulation 42 does not apply to them, so they would be on the older regulations to do with the requirements for the AOC, the responsibility for maintenance.

Senator FAWCETT: Is that a permanent situation or is that a transitional arrangement?

Mr Boyd : It is a transitional arrangement because at the moment we issued five discussion papers last year to do with the application of the maintenance regulations to general aviation, or operations that are not of regular public transport. That included aspects such as the maintenance control, the maintenance organisation, the airworthiness review requirements, the maintenance programs, those sorts of aspects of each of the regulations. Currently we are working through the responses to these discussions papers to look at the next stages of where that regulatory reform should go.

Senator FAWCETT: Does that imply that they are still, in effect, under an exemption to part 42 and, should that exemption expire, whether as a result of those five discussion papers or otherwise, that they will then be subject to those same requirements?

Mr Boyd : They will not be the same requirements as a regular public transport operation necessarily because there are different sectors that we will be looking at. Obviously, the general aviation will be treated differently from passenger transport, for example. As aerial work would be as well. So, we will be looking at different gradations of requirements depending on the operation.

Senator FAWCETT: Would you be able to take on notice then, just to clarify, whether 206-1(b) has in fact been included in that definition in error, or what your plan going forward is with that?

Mr Boyd : Yes.

Senator FAWCETT: In terms of the CAMO, the requirements for the ARC, is that in the same boat, that you are not planning to apply to a GA or a charter operator the requirement to have an ARC for their aircraft?

Mr Boyd : Charter, under the proposals, would come under the part 121, if it is large, or part 135, which is air transport operations. So, currently we are looking at the application of the review for that, but that review would also be looked at in terms of aerial work, and again, general aviation or private operations. At the moment, looking at the feedback we got from the discussion papers, there is, again, a graduated response to that airworthiness review.

Senator FAWCETT: So, just to clarify then, you indicated that you are not intending to apply the CAMO to GA at all. When I asked you the question about the ACR, you seemed to indicate that would apply to a charter operator, who may be operating a GA aircraft?

Mr Boyd : It depends on the size of the aircraft, but also the operations it would be in. We do not necessarily intend—

Senator FAWCETT: So, anything less than a 5,700 kilo or a transport category aircraft, would you argue that would not be covered; is that a fair assumption?

Mr Boyd : It may not be if it is just in part 91, general operations.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure; if you could take those on notice.

Mr Boyd : Certainly.

Senator FAWCETT: Mr McCormack, I understand from your comment that the FAA fly a bunch of resumed aircraft from drug smugglers. I assume they have done an ACR before they have chosen to fly those?

Mr McCormick : I daresay they would have been dismantled by somebody fairly extensively.

Senator FAWCETT: Very glad to hear it. Thanks.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. Sadly, that completes CASA.

Mr McCormick : Thank you.

Mr Mrdak : Chair, while we are waiting for others to speak, can I just answer a question that Senator Conroy asked me earlier in the day? Senator Conroy asked for further details of consultation on the Infrastructure Australia draft legislation. I just wanted to add to my earlier answer: I am advised that in addition to the policy statement issued by the government in the lead-up to the election that the Deputy Prime Minister spoke with the Chair of Infrastructure Australia, Sir Rod Eddington, just shortly after his appointment and that the Assistant Minister Briggs spoke with Mr Eddington on 30 September.

There was a meeting between the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Eddington on 31 October which discussed the general direction of the agenda and the bill and there was a letter to Sir Rod Eddington, dated 4 November, from the Deputy Prime Minister which discussed the governance changes in the bill and that Assistant Minister Briggs attended a meeting of the Infrastructure Australia Council on 22 November to discuss the proposed legislation with the council. Thank you.