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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 375

(Question No. 42)

Senator Puplick asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation, upon notice, on 26 February 1985:

(1) Has the attention of the Minister for Aviation been drawn to a recent publication entitled Two Years in the Aviation Hall of Doom by Dick Smith; if so, has the Minister noted Mr Smith's claims regarding the failure of the Department of Aviation to register the Swearingen Metro III aircraft, and the claim that the Metro III aircraft is in fact a safer aircraft than the Metro II aircraft which is registered to operate in Australia.

(2) Has the Metro III aircraft been registered to operate by the civil aviation authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom and West Germany.

(3) Do the regulations upon which the decision to refuse registration of the Metro III aircraft date back to the 1950s, are they still in force for the determination of such matters and do the criteria set forth in SFAR-41, modifying some of these specifications, constitute unreasonable demands on aircraft manufacturers.

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

My attention has been drawn to Mr Smith's publication and I have noted his claims. On 1 March 1985 the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure announced that it had decided to look into the issues raised by Mr Smith. A sub-committee chaired by Mrs Ros Kelly, MP, was formed for this purpose. In these circumstances, it is appropriate to refrain for the moment from giving detailed answers to questions on these subjects until the sub-committee has completed its task. However the following brief comment on the technical aspects of the question may be of assistance.

Two broad categories of aircraft are recognised through international consensus. A maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 5,700kg represents the dividing line between the `small' and `transport' categories. Different standards of design, maintenance, crewing and general operating conditions apply to aircraft in each of these categories with the more stringent requirements applying to transport aircraft types. The Metro II has been certificated for operations in the `small' aircraft category. The Metro III has been designed and built to standards applicable to `small' aircraft (i.e. MTOW below 5,700kg) and it has not been certificated to operate at weights above 5,700kg in Australia.

The US regulatory authorities have permitted some aircraft types, including the Metro III, to operate at weights in excess of 12,500lbs although they are designed only to the standards for `small' aircraft. This departure from internationally accepted practice is allowed by the US authorities only in the case of aircraft that are designed and produced before certain specified dates.

Other countries are considering whether they also will allow the operation of `overweight' aircraft, and under what conditions. Present indications are that countries such as the U.K. and Canada have imposed or will impose certain safety related requirements that are additional to the requirements set by the U.S. authorities. At this time my Department believes that several countries besides USA may be operating Metro III aircraft of MTOW above 12,500lbs with special conditions.

My Department's approach is similar to that of the U.K. and Canadian authorities. Action is well advanced, in consultation with the aviation industry, to introduce such a provision subject to certain safety related requirements being met.