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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1046

Mr SPENDER(2.45) —Before lunch I made reference to the setting of the power of both engines of the aircraft in question at levels that would seriously curtail output, and to the awareness of senior officers of the Department of Transport concerning the practice. I referred also to the finding or conclusion expressed by the Board as to the relationship between the lower engine setting and the accident. I had read from part of the report, to which I shall now refer once again, at page 272. I will quote but one paragraph:

2. The use by Advance Airlines of reduced power on take-off was not, however, an isolated case. The practice was introduced particularly for turbine-powered aircraft as early as 1975. It became widespread throughout the general aviation industry and was not confined to the NSW Region. Senior officers of the Department were aware of rumours of the practice, but took no action to alert Examiners of Airmen to the risks involved or the need to put a stop to it. When in June 1980 the Department decided to act, mention was made of these rumours, but there is little doubt that at that stage senior officers were also aware that the use of reduced power had emerged as a factor in the accident. It is most unfortunate that the Department did not take action at an earlier stage. However, in the final analysis the senior officers were entitled to rely on field officers to bring to their attention any evidence of unauthorised practices.

It may be that, concerning that level of the hierarchy, that is a correct statement. I do not wish unnecessarily to criticise senior officers of the Department of Aviation but it seems to me that if senior officers had become aware of rumours of the practice, which had been going on for some time, and it was unsafe, it was their duty to investigate it or cause it to be investigated to ascertain whether it was going on and, if so, what possible safety implications it had.

The last matter to which I wish to refer relates to the crew complement of commuter aircraft. The safety record of commuter aircraft in this country is very high. Indeed, the report points out that the safety record of commuter aircraft is very comparable to that of major aircraft. However, the Board's recommendation on the subject of crew complement, which appeared at page 276 of the report, was:

The Board recommends, therefore, that a minimum crew of two pilots be required on all aircraft operating under Regulation 203, which are pressurised or have normal cruise speed in excess of 250 knots True Airspeed (TAS) and operate into primary airports.

The Minister did not accept that proposal and stated that he would accept a different proposal that had come to him from the Department. He referred, of course, to safety, which is a most important and indeed paramount element. He referred as well to the cost element involved in the proposal which he has implemented. However, without entering into a discussion of the technical merits of the two proposals, and whilst agreeing with him entirely that safety factors should be paramount, I ask that the Minister re-examine the Board's proposal since I would assume that the same information was before the Board as was before the Department whose advice he has accepted. I also ask the Minister to expand on his reasons for adopting the departmental recommendation, in respect of which he said:

The Board's proposal, however, suggests different criteria which I do not believe would achieve the safety objective implicit in the criteria adopted by my Department.

The Minister was not in a position to go into the details of all of the matters that arose out of the accident but I believe that the industry itself would like to know his reasons for reaching that decision. It would also be very relevant to know the added cost considerations for commuter aircraft that the Minister's decision will have as contrasted, for example, with adopting the Board's proposal. I do not for a moment suggest that cost considerations should override safety considerations but those aspects could well be developed by the Minister with a view to ensuring greater public knowledge of these matters. I conclude by saying that a number of lessons have emerged from this accident but it is sad that we must learn at such high human cost.

Question resolved in the affirmative.