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Pilot training, airline safety and the Transport Safety Investigation Amendment (Incident Reports) Bill 2010

CHAIR —I welcome officers from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. I remind senators that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. Officers of the department are also reminded that any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question must be made by a minister and shall be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis of the claim. Gentlemen, do you want to make an opening statement?

Mr McCormick —Yes, I will, thank you. Thank you for the option as to making an opening statement to this inquiry. As you all know, CASA has made a comprehensive written submission to this inquiry and I would like to take this opportunity to summarise the key points and address in general some themes that we have noted in other submissions. As a member state of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, known as ICAO, Australia’s pilot licensing system conforms in broad terms to the standards of recommended practice as set out by ICAO. Similarly, we have mechanisms in place to recognise holders of flight crew licences issued by other ICAO member states. For example, Australia and New Zealand have reciprocal recognition for professional grades of pilot licences and ratings.

I would also like to highlight that Australia’s pilot licensing and pilot training systems and standards are internationally recognised to be of a high quality. This is evidenced by the large number of students from overseas countries who choose to train in Australia as well as the number of airlines conducting their own pilot training here. It is also evidenced by the number of Australian pilots who are employed by overseas airlines. It has been a long-term direction of Australia’s vocational education and training sector to adopt the principles of competency based training. These principles are embedded in the syllabus for private and commercial pilots.

Through the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council, CASA has had input into the development of the aviation training package, which now includes competencies developed for instructor and instrument ratings. Training conducted through the flying schools, which are also registered training organisations, can lead to a student gaining both a CASA pilot licence and ratings along with a certificate IV and/or diploma level VET qualifications. Australia has been recognised as an international leader in the implementation of these competencies in pilot training.

The latest licence approved by ICAO, the multicrew pilot licence, or MPL, has been formulated entirely within the competency framework and philosophy. CASA has recently become involved in a new pilot training initiative being formulated under the ICAO umbrella by the International Air Transport Association. This initiative, known as evidence based training, is also being developed using competency based training philosophies. It will be submitted to ICAO for consideration as a method of conducting airline pilot training and checking. CASA believes that the setting of the minimum experience requirements as a prerequisite for the issue of licences and other qualifications remains an important aspect of our licensing system, and indeed in many cases is required to maintain compliance with international requirements.

However, our significant experience with competency based training shows that a pilot’s competency must be the final arbiter as to whether they may gain and exercise the privileges of a pilot licence or rating. Indeed, when the new pilot licence regulations are introduced, the use of competency based training principles will be expanded to include every type of qualification a pilot can gain. It is CASA’s view that the requirement for co-pilots to hold an air transport pilot licence, ATPL, of a minimum of 1,500 hours is not required. This is consistent with views expressed by the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Mr Randy Babbitt.

I would also like to highlight that the Australian context, in terms of the air transport operations, has some differences to that of our US counterparts. In the Australian system, the Civil Aviation Regulations require a training and checking system to be approved by CASA for regular public transport operators. As a minimum, all pilots—and that includes captains, first officers and second officers—are required to undertake two check flights every year. In some cases where CASA has approved a cyclic training program there may be up to four checks per year.

CASA also conducts significant oversight of airline checking and training organisations. Following the Dash 8 accident at Buffalo in the US, I ordered a comprehensive review of the pilot training records of pilots employed in organisations that are required to provide training and checking activities. This review—the most comprehensive CASA has ever undertaken—is ongoing. Preliminary indications suggest that there is opportunity for CASA to provide more guidance to operators regarding airline training and checking. To this end we have expanded the approved testing officer manual and we will be developing an entry control theory course for new check pilots. We will also be expanding the use of our flight test notification system to enable a more comprehensive analysis of data relating to pilot standards. During this process, we will involve the airline industry through the formation of specialist industry advisory panels. Indeed, today we have advertised for a flight training examiner who will work in this section overseeing the airline training and checking systems.

I will now turn to provide input on some of the general themes that we have noted in other submissions to this inquiry. Firstly, let me address the perception relating to the decline of pilot training standards. Since 2004 CASA has implemented a range of safety initiatives and interventions with regard to the flying training sector. These initiatives have culminated in the formation of the flight training and testing office with CASA examiners conducting the majority of initial flight instructor rating tests. This measure commenced in June 2008 and has been highly successful in driving improvements in the standard of graduating instructors.

We chose to focus on instructors as they are integral to ensuring all pilots are properly trained. From an aggregated fail rate of around 57 per cent in October 2008 of tests conducted by CASA examiners, improvements implemented by flying schools saw that fail rate drop to 34 per cent by June 2009. I am pleased to report that there has been continued improvement in this qualification with the aggregated fail rate from July 2010 to January 2011 sitting at 25 per cent. The flight training and testing office has also focused on approved testing officers, who as delegates of CASA conduct licensing and rating flight tests.

CASA published comprehensive flight test guidance material and issued a range of directions relating to the manner in which they are to exercise their powers and conduct their functions. They are, for example, required to attend ongoing professional development programs. These initiatives have been strongly welcomed and endorsed by the testing officers and by industry, and I believe we have seen the results of a stronger oversight framework in the manner in which approved testing officers are upholding the competency standards at flight tests.

For example, in the period from July 2010 to the end of January 2011, the aggregated fail rate for the commercial pilot licence was 26 per cent, and for initial issue command instrument ratings it was 23 per cent. I think this tells a story of approved testing officers applying the correct standard and being neither too soft nor too hard in their assessment. While these figures may indicate the ongoing need for continuous improvement in training, it seems the right standard is being applied and so when a pilot passes a flight test they have been assessed as competent.

We continue to work in this area and have recently commenced conducting sample initial instrument rating tests, conducted by CASA examiners as a means of assessing the industry standard. When I became director, I further strengthened the work of the flight training and testing office by forming the flying standards branch within this area to cover the air transport sector, as well as the standards of CASA’s own inspectors and examiners. Through the flying standards branch we are pursuing a number of safety initiatives in the airline training and checking sector that I mentioned previously.

In terms of comments relating to a reduction in flying training and the number of flying schools, I can advise that as of mid-January there were 183 current air operator certificates which authorise flying training. We are aware that in the last six to 12 months several flying schools have gone into liquidation. From the information we have, we understand that this has been related to financial difficulty, particularly when those schools might have relied heavily on students from overseas. A review of the number of licences and instructors ratings issued by CASA indicates some fluctuations from year to year. For example, comparing the financial year 2008-09 to 2009-10, for aeroplane commercial pilots licences there was a decrease of 127 licences. However, in the same period under comparison we issued an extra 58 air transport pilot licences and an extra 16 grade 3 flight instructor ratings.

There are two key mechanisms to allow CASA and industry to work together to review pilot training standards. There is the flying training panel, which CASA formed to provide strategic advice on flying training matters. This panel is chaired by industry and meets quarterly. There is also the flight crew licensing subcommittee of the standards consultative committee, CASA’s industry chaired committee, which brings together CASA staff and representatives from a diverse range of aviation industry groups to work jointly during the development phase of regulatory material. I am now happy to take any questions.

CHAIR —Thank you very much. We have obviously got a lot of communications from people who do not want their names disclosed because they think they are going to lose their jobs. Turning to the New Zealand operation of Jetstar and cadets that are trained in Australia and fly in New Zealand, because CASA has allowed Jetstar to operate within New Zealand on an Australian air operator’s certificate the Australian training cadet captains conduct the training. How do you keep track of an Australian airline operating in another country?

Mr McCormick —We have regular surveillance of an Australian operated airline on an Australian air operator’s certificate. We conduct our normal surveillance, both of their flying operations and their maintenance activities.

CHAIR —Is that something peculiar that this part of Jetstar operates in New Zealand but actually has an Australian air operating certificate?

Mr McCormick —Are we talking about the Jetstar pilots or the Jetstar airline operation?

CHAIR —The question goes: how does Australia keep track of an Australian airline—maybe that is too broad in itself—in other countries?

Mr McCormick —With the case of New Zealand there are ANZA privileges within the Civil Aviation Act.

CHAIR —Is this the closer economic arrangement?

Mr McCormick —Correct. That may not be the same enabling legislation, but within the Civil Aviation Act—we will just look it up—there is ANZA and there is a trans-Tasman mutual recognition agreement for licences and so on called the TTMRA, which we continue to operate under.

CHAIR —That is why we are not testing their outfits for antibiotics, by the way. ‘CASA appears to be harder on flying schools in this country than they do with the airlines. It appears they trust the airlines to do the right thing’—I will not continue with the rest. Would you like to respond to that?

Mr McCormick —I think airlines themselves, by their nature, have a brand and a product and they are normally public entities more often than private. In that respect they put a great deal of resources into it, but of course our primary mission is the concern of the travelling public. We are to give priority to the safety of air navigation. So, we have in previous years tended to spend more time focused on the larger amount of traffic. As for flying schools themselves, I do not know whether it would be said that we have been hard on the flying schools. I think over the years the way flying schools have been administered has most probably been worth a review, and we are in the process of doing that review now.

CHAIR —There are obviously some lesser quality schools in the system.

Mr McCormick —I think what happens to the lesser quality schools that we have seen is they generally tend to go under for commercial reasons. Of course, if there are low-quality products, we want to be in front of those products before there is an incident or an accident that leads us to take action.

CHAIR —This afternoon we heard from Mr Anthony Petteford from the Oxford Aviation Academy. He gave very strong evidence, and I think he would be a very strict teacher, which is a good thing. He suggested that one of the things that should happen is a compulsory course prior to entering into multipilot type endorsement; that is, crew resource management and human factors training for all CPI and IR licence holders. I have forgotten how many weeks he said.

Senator O’BRIEN —It was about a two-week course.

CHAIR —A two-week or a three-week course. Are you familiar with that proposition?

Mr McCormick —I know of the type of training he speaks of. When we move into part 61, the new licensing regulations, there is a requirement for just such a course. Our current requirements within most airline safety management systems is for some form of crew resource training. In the future regulations we will require commercial operators going into multicrew operations to do that.

CHAIR —So, you will adopt that type of recommendation?

Mr McCormick —Sorry?

CHAIR —What he has proposed will become the norm?

Mr McCormick —It is catered for within the regulations at part 61. I will call forward Mr Peter Boyd, who is actually in charge of the regulations development. The part 61 drafts are about to be discussed by the industry, on 8, 9 and 10 March. So, it is relevant.

CHAIR —We have received evidence in most hearings about the risk of a lack of cooperation, especially if you have a cadet pilot in the right seat and someone like me in the left seat; they might not talk to one another as much as they should.

Mr McCormick —The genesis of this sort of training was back most probably in the eighties, where it was known as flight deck management training. Various people said it was a method of correcting people who were not taught very good manners by their mother, but it was addressing the power gradient across the cockpit—a very experienced captain and perhaps a very junior first officer. In some overseas countries the indication was that this was directly responsible for accidents where the first officer took no action when the captain was conducting a very dangerous manoeuvre. I suppose the most famous one where this happened was, unfortunately, a Japan Airlines crash in Tokyo Bay. But to return to your previous question, I will ask Mr Peter Boyd to add some comments.

Mr Boyd —It is fair to say that the type of training you are talking about is being mandated more widely at the moment within CASA, and not just for part 61. We have amended our current system and our current civil aviation orders to require human factors training across regular public transport operators. So that will include the next generation, if you like, of that type of training. In terms of time frame, the operators must submit their training plans to us by next week and they must have implemented those types of human factors training by June.

Senator XENOPHON —Mr McCormick and the rest of the team at CASA, thank you very much for your very comprehensive submission. It is very much appreciated by all of us, for what is a very serious issue. Can I just go to the ATSB report about the go-around event at Melbourne airport on 21 July. The ATSB made reference to proposed CASR part 142, which would define the responsibilities of the training provider and their relationship with the AOC holder. I understand the proposed rule making in respect of CASR part 142 was issued by CASA on 22 July 2003. What is the status of part 142?

Mr McCormick —Thank you for that question. If I could, I will ask Mr Boyd to give you some time lines and I could return to a couple of them.

Senator XENOPHON —I am sure you can explain this. It is in its eighth year. I think the ATSB was quite clear; it seems like a sensible progressing of the rules. It seems superficially an inordinately long period.

Mr Boyd —If I may perhaps give a bit of history on the reg reform program, as it is called.

Senator XENOPHON —Yes.

Mr Boyd —Last year it was recognised that the regulatory reform program needed a kick along, if you like, in terms of the time frame. In March 2010 we formed a reg reform task force with the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing to do just that. So from March last year our own CASA instructors that look after the policy aspects of drafting the regulations and the office’s legal drafters have been housed together in one task force. It has shown quite significant fruit, if you like, in terms of the speed at which we are turning out the legislation.

Senator XENOPHON —July 2003 to February 2011; ATSB reported almost a year ago saying this needs to be dealt with.

Mr Boyd —Yes. Part 142 that you mentioned is a part of a whole range of legislative changes that we are bringing in with the regulatory reform. There is a number of other regulations that we are drafting at the same time.

Senator XENOPHON —You acknowledge the concern that it does seem to be a very extended period?

Mr Boyd —I would say we would have the same concerns, but we are working with the task force and—

Senator XENOPHON —So, how close are we to part 142 being enacted, to it being put in force?

Mr Boyd —There is a legislative draft that has come out of drafting recently. We have just completed an industry working group meeting where CASA officers and industry representatives look at the consultation draft. Once we have looked at the issues coming out of that working group meeting we will be looking to proceed to a notice of NPRM, which is a notice of proposed rule making, towards the middle of this year. After that, it then goes through the consultation processes and to final rule making.

Senator XENOPHON —What does that mean—a year from now?

Mr Boyd —No. We are looking to complete and make the regulation by the end of this year.

Senator XENOPHON —Could I go to Mr McCormick. Sorry, do you want to add anything to that?

Mr McCormick —Just on that, the actual oversight mechanisms that come with 142, as has been discussed at length today. Most of that oversight is in place now, it is just not oversighted in the same manner in that, in the 142, we look at approving organisations and such. As CASA, we still have oversight over those training providers. We have oversight and we approve changes to airline procedures. As to the particular case mentioned by numerous people here today where the procedure used by the crew in that go-around was not the procedure which was written in their manuals, that was unknown to us and we had no visibility of that. I do not even know whether the airline had a visibility of that. The actual oversight of the training still rests with CASA, and 142 will put some of this together and will put further controls on organisations and what they can do. But when we implement 142—it goes with 141, as well—we have to be very cognisant of the impact on the industry and their ability to absorb change, both financially and also as a risk factor on their crews and on the maintenance organisations, because at the same time we are introducing the new maintenance regulations. So, I am very cognisant and very aware that we do not overstress this industry just trying to move it to a better place.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure. So would it be fair to say that part 142 is not filling a gap, because there are already mechanisms and procedures in place? It is just a matter of consolidating it? So it is not as though there is a glaring omission in terms of dealing with the issue of training schools?

Mr McCormick —I would not say that everything in 142 is covered now, because I do not have that in-depth knowledge of the minutiae, but I would say that in the larger scheme of things that is correct.

Senator XENOPHON —I am glad it has been cleared up. Paragraph 15 of your submission reminds us about the distinction between the roles of CASA and the ATSB in relation to the investigation of aviation accidents or incidents and it goes on to say that, ‘CASA has no direct responsibility for the investigation of aviation accidents or incidents’, and that is pretty axiomatic. That paragraph was not to suggest that CASA in any way isolates itself from regulatory and compliance examination of the facts, given that it sometimes takes two years, depending on the nature of what level it is, for a report to come out? I think ATSB’s resources are stretched, given that there have been a larger number of incidents than normal. What happens in the meantime? The ATSB is looking at something, but there is clearly an issue there at whatever level; you do not simply just wait for the ATSB to report, do you?

Mr McCormick —No, we do not. In fact, last year or 2009, we became aware that this was a problem and that for some time—due to the ATSB obtaining information which by their own act they may not be able to share with us, or it was in such a rudimentary format that they could not do anything about it—they had to have their parallel investigation. They normally, of course, put out a factual report relatively quickly after the incident or accident, commensurate with how complicated the issue is. What our memorandum of understanding has done—and I think I have reported to estimates before on this—is that it has put our relationship on to a much more formal footing. There could have been a view in the past that ATSB and CASA were perhaps not going in the same direction. We certainly are these days, but one of the direct outputs of that is that when the ATSB—bearing in mind the caveats as I have said are around their own transport safety and investigation act—becomes aware of an issue that is going to result in a recommendation to CASA to take action or to investigate something, they inform us of that and then we conduct a parallel investigation ourselves.

Of course, we investigate for different reasons. I am certain—and I will speak slightly for Mr Dolan—he most probably said they do not appropriate blame or look for those sorts of issues. We are not necessarily looking for someone to take action on, but we are looking more at what it means for the industry and what has happened here. Perhaps over a year ago, there was an unfortunate incident off Norfolk Island where an aeroplane was ditched. We actually started our activities and our action much sooner than we would have if we had not had that MOU in place. We are moving to get to a result and an understanding much quicker while the ATSB naturally takes its due process.

Senator XENOPHON —On paragraph 123 of your submission, I think you have acknowledged that. I just wanted to see how that operated. Paragraph 17 of your submission, I do not think mentions that Civil Aviation Order 82.3 sets out minimum experience levels of pilots in command of low-capacity regular public transport aircraft. This is not a criticism, but is it relevant to set out what the minimum experience levels for pilots are, even for low-capacity regular transport aircraft?

Mr McCormick —Are you referring to the minimum number of hours before someone is employed by an airline?

Senator XENOPHON —That is right.

Mr McCormick —We do not really have a head of power to do that. We certainly regulate, as you know, the experience levels required of the pilot in command or the captain, if you will. In some areas, if we parallel this to the US and you take, for instance, a Dash 8 operating in Australia, we require the copilot to have those hours of experience. We require them to have done a command instrument rating on that aeroplane and we require them to have done a type course conversion to that aeroplane. In the United States the only training that person in the right seat is required to have is the training that the operator regards them as having or necessary for them to have to perform their functions as copilot, which generally means pull the gear up and down, pull the flaps up and down and talk on the radio.

Senator XENOPHON —I think Senator McGauran had some questions on Dash 8s, but I do not know whether he wants to ask them now or later. In terms of the multi-crew pilot licence, MPL, as I understand it from previous evidence we have heard this afternoon, you can have an MPL in this country, but you have not actually approved anyone for that; is that right?

Mr McCormick —No, that is incorrect, I think. I did hear that submission myself. Perhaps the person that gave that submission was not aware that the first six multi-crew pilot licences issued in the world, which were the trial for ICAO, were conducted in Australia. Those six pilots were China Eastern Airlines cadets, by memory.

Senator XENOPHON —Actually I do not think the previous witness is inaccurate as such. In terms of Australian based pilots for an Australian carrier, do we have any MPLs?

Mr McCormick —At this stage in Australia, for an Australian based carrier, we have not issued an MPL, but we have issued six Australian MPL licences.

Senator XENOPHON —So, you were both right?

Mr McCormick —I will take that as a result, yes, thank you.

Senator XENOPHON —In terms of paragraph 43, you make reference to, ‘Australian airlines have traditionally set a minimum number of flight hours for pilots aspiring to airline positions.’ The question is, there is a long history in Australian aviation with respect to those, and are you satisfied that each of these cadet schemes embodies appropriate training, development and supervision systems and do you believe the systems in place for normal line pilots are also adequate for low experienced pilots?

Mr McCormick —I suppose it is, sort of, in two parts. It would be those entering into the low capacity RPT operations, where the aircraft are much more similar to the sorts of aeroplanes that a traditional pilot would have trained in and gained experience on before he got a position, and those cadet schemes which operate into the high capacity, such as the Qantas scheme which operated for many years and many others that operate in different formats now. I would have to say—and relying a lot on my own background of airline check and training and so on—that cadet pilot schemes by themselves are not inherently bad. They are not inherently dangerous at all. They quite often—

Senator XENOPHON —I was not suggesting that.

Mr McCormick —I will expand out a little bit on that. They are actually, in a lot of ways, very good for someone who is going to have a career in the airline, because right from the start there is a certain amount of inculcation of the principles of safety, and there is perhaps even by osmosis a sort of a carryover of the character of the organisation and the way it operates. That always is very well for the ethos that we were talking about before of flight deck management, or whatever term it has today, of how the crew cooperate, of how the captain and the first officer cooperate. So, that is an issue there. With the multi-crew pilot licence, I do not think the multi-crew pilot licence per se is wrong, though I will admit that I have somewhat of a suspicious mind, and in Australia, of course, before—

Senator XENOPHON —I am pleased to hear that, actually, in your role.

Mr McCormick —Thank you. In Australia, before anyone could pursue the multi-crew pilot licence, they have to submit a syllabus to CASA for our approval. Now, there will come a time when someone will make that application and I can assure this committee that we will be putting a very close eye on that syllabus.

Senator XENOPHON —I just want to move on.

Senator McGAURAN —What syllabus are we talking about?

Mr McCormick —We have not got a syllabus.

Senator XENOPHON —Not yet.

Mr McCormick —We have not got one yet, sorry.

CHAIR —The comfort that you should take out of that—and we are very pleased to hear this—is that we will be keeping a very close eye on you keeping a close eye on the syllabus.

Mr McCormick —I feel a lot better now. Thank you.

Senator XENOPHON —The Australian Federation of Air Pilots, in a supplementary submission, quoted from a pilot about the type of instruction and the emphasis on sim instructors and he says, ‘Today’s sim instructors have never taught the vast majority of potential non-normal sequences. Intellectually, they will know how the aircraft and systems are supposed to behave in the various non-normal conditions documented in the manuals, but they won’t have seen it happen, nor watched other pilots dealing with them.’ It goes on to say that it is a ‘significant safety impact’. I think there is a bit of a military analogy, that in terms of being prepared at the first whiff of grapeshot in terms of the way you behave. I am aware that several CASA representatives have been in the military and know that you are all experts in risk assessment. My question is, has anyone in CASA actually conducted a formal risk assessment of these no operational experience or limited operational experience training schemes as distinct from the more traditional forms of training?

Mr McCormick —Are you referring to the simulator instructors themselves here?

Senator XENOPHON —A combination of that and the schemes in place.

Mr McCormick —Whether we have ever conducted a risk audit—I think we will have to take that on notice. I have noticed—and perhaps in the interests of helping the committee—there has been a lot of discussion about simulator instructors and particularly simulator instructors who have not actually flown the aeroplane on which they instruct. Worldwide that is a practice which is quite common. Generally, it is retired airline pilots or people that have lost their medical or whatever who have an amount of experience that is acceptable to a regulator for them to become a simulator instructor. There is a process, which we can answer to you on notice, of how we oversee those people and make sure that they are capable of instructing on the aeroplane that they are going to instruct on.

Senator XENOPHON —Are you concerned—and again, please take it on notice because I am going to run out of time in a minute—that some of the instructors have not actually flown that aircraft type they are endorsed for? That does not worry you?

Mr McCormick —Not per se. That is a short answer to what would be a long answer.

Senator XENOPHON —Would it be reasonable for CASA to undertake a risk assessment to look at risk mitigators in terms of simulators compared to traditional flying methods or what the mix ought to be?

Mr McCormick —In the airlines that are using simulators—we are talking really I suppose here 737s, A320s or perhaps someone going into an airline direct or wide body twin, an aisle aeroplane—they all rely on simulator training. None of them rely on any other method of getting into the organisation. We control the simulator, the actual level and the ability to approve the simulator and how good it is. We control the simulator instructors as far as we approve them for a period of time and we check them. We check the product that comes out and goes into the airline and we do that by a number of ways. We require, in an airline case, for them to have a CAR 217—a check and training organisation—which has SMS in it, which also has how they deal with their pilots that come to this organisation. So, they are overseeing that, as well. All we will do as we go forward with these regulations is strengthen the oversight, not necessarily with a stick, but to make sure that we do not drop anything out on any of these processes.

Senator XENOPHON —I have three or four more questions and some of them you may want to take on notice, because I am very conscious of time and other senators.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Just on that, do the 717s have simulators? I understand that people who were training on the 717s had never actually flown on them, and as one who uses them up north I am a bit interested in that.

Mr McCormick —Is there one in Australia? I do not know.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Perhaps if you take that on notice.

Mr McCormick —Can we take that on notice, please.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —There was a suggestion with respect to the 717s that the trainers have not actually flown on them.

Mr McCormick —That could quite possibly be the case. We will take it on notice.

Senator XENOPHON —Turning to cabin crew—I think we touched on this in estimates—we have heard evidence at this inquiry where there have been instances of captains standing down cabin crew because they are not satisfied that they have sufficient proficiency in terms of dealing with safety issues. I think it does happen, but it does not happen that often, as I understand it. But that seemed to be by change, in a sense, in the evidence that we have heard, that the captain picked up that there was a problem with the training levels or the competency of some of the crew. On notice, are there any regulations that deal with those issues? Do you think there ought to be in the context of having more systemic systems in place either for the senior cabin attendant or some system in place to ensure that there is ongoing monitoring of levels of competence? Secondly, I have had a number of cabin attendants approach me—some, generally, on a highly confidential basis—about their levels of fatigue and exhaustion and saying that if there was an incident on the flight towards the end of their 14 or 15 hours they are worried about how they would be able to cope with it. You do not have purview for that at this stage, do you?

Mr McCormick —No. In fact, to follow on backwards with those, if I could, just quickly.

Senator XENOPHON —Yes.

Mr McCormick —As you have mentioned the other night at estimates, the control of cabin crew hours—their duty—is not something we have a head of power with at the moment.

Senator XENOPHON —You do with hours, do you not?

Mr McCormick —I do not think so.

Senator XENOPHON —Sorry, for staff ratios you do?

Mr McCormick —Yes, we certainly have control over cabin crew ratios. Actual duty hours they work—no, but we are expecting very shortly, within the month or so, to hear from ICAO on their fatigue risk management system and the guidelines we will use to create our own fatigue risk management systems. I believe the implementation date for that will be about November of this year, and I am led to believe, though I have not actually seen the ICAO documents yet, that they contain fatigue risk management system guidelines for cabin crew.

Senator XENOPHON —Thank you.

Mr McCormick —As to the other cabin crew change, which I think was mentioned earlier on, I can say that on 19 January last year Jetstar did brief our Melbourne office on impending cabin crew training program change. They reduced the cabin crew course based on the fact that it had contained, I think as was said earlier on, some training for the A330, which is a wide bodied twin aisle aeroplane.

Senator XENOPHON —Did CASA approve that?

Mr McCormick —CASA does approve that, correct.

Senator XENOPHON —There are some pretty cranky cabin attendants about those changes.

Mr McCormick —We have not finished it. We are still going on with this. There was a change to the Jetstar training program. When I say we ‘approve it’, that change that Jetstar put to us was within their overall approval and their design approval of their training organisation. However, we received some intelligence—and there were some ATSB REPCON reports—concerning cabin crew training at Jetstar. We therefore conducted operational surveillance at the crew training centre on 14 December last year. While there was no evidence found of non-proficient cabin crew exiting the training school or the ground school system, there were indicated failures in the line training system under the Jetstar training and checking manual, whereby some new cabin crew members were not exposed to the A321 differences during the practical line training. We issued a request for corrective action on 16 December last year. Jetstar responded on 17 January with some short-term remedial actions and identification of the core problems. CASA responded to Jetstar on 21 January, and we requested further information to ensure corrective actions were of appropriate scope and depth to address the root cause of the deficiency. On 7 February Jetstar responded to CASA with further information, including a revised daily training program, which added three days to the course. So, they had reduced the course to 15 days; that took it back up to 18 days, where it is now.

Senator XENOPHON —I am running out of time. Maybe you can take the rest of this on notice. I am flying Jetstar again at 12.40 pm on Sunday from Adelaide to Sydney, so I do not know if the cabin attendants will talk to me. Have you actually spoken to some of the cabin attendants about this? Have you gauged their views on this?

Mr McCormick —I have spoken to many flight attendants. Generally it is about cabin crew ratios. They generally do not raise fatigue issues with me.

Senator XENOPHON —As to the level of training, some of the people who have done a six-week course are pretty cranky about some who have done a three-week course. I want to go very quickly to an unrelated issue. Does CASA consider that article 11 of the Chicago Convention, given force by section 7 of the Civil Aviation Act, means that the operator and crew of a foreign registered aircraft must comply with our Australian rules, including minimum experience requirements and fatigue management provisions when operating into, out of and over Australian territory? You may want to take that on notice.

Mr McCormick —I think we will take that on notice, thank you.

Senator XENOPHON —Because that is a key issue. Finally, we heard some very interesting evidence from Oxford Aviation, saying that in terms of pay for training, they have a fairly rigorous assessment requirement before they actually take you on. They take you on and they want to kick you out, they give you a full refund. That is tremendous to hear, but is that the sort of thing that ought to be the benchmark for other operators?

Mr McCormick —I find the concept of pay for training to be deeply problematic.

Senator XENOPHON —Is it less problematic that you would give a refund?

Mr McCormick —I find the fact that pay for training may—as I said the other night—indicate that there is a commercial contractual arrangement, ‘I will pay this if you give me that.’ Even given those caveats, which I have never seen reduced to paper, about the training or the assessment at the start being very thorough and so on, I am still left with a small question in my brain about whether the correct standard is naturally applied. Now, they may be able to reach the final standard regardless of a varying level of initial standard. I acknowledge that. I am more concerned about the final standard before they go out towards the aeroplane or go anywhere near the travelling public. However, training courses are generally pitched not necessarily to the lowest common denominator but to a level where there has to be a progression through that course, and that is a commercial reality. They are only going to pay so much, and so much is going to be devoted to it.

Senator XENOPHON —In other words, if someone says, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’, and you give them a refund, that would allay some of your concerns?

Mr McCormick —From the commercial point of view, I think so.

Senator XENOPHON —Yes, thank you. I will put some on notice.

CHAIR —Thank you very much. Senator McGauran?

Senator McGAURAN —It was confirmed today by Qantas that there have been 15 I assume in the last 12 months stick shaker events in the Dash 8 fleet. It was also confirmed that you had sent them a letter regarding this matter. I daresay a letter of inquiry about the matter. Firstly, is that so?

Mr McCormick —I think those 15 stick shaker events is correct. I think it may go back to 2007. I will take on notice what the start date was. We certainly contacted Qantas through Qantas Link, the subsidiary organisation that operates in that area, and we conducted a full investigation.

Senator McGAURAN —What was the conclusion of that investigation?

Mr McCormick —We requested that Jetstar put in place a number of changes. Sorry, I apologise to Jetstar.

Senator McGAURAN —They are one and the same.

Mr McCormick —We required a certain number of changes to be put in place. Those changes were put in place and if I could indulge you, Chair, I will put that on notice and give you a tabulated result of what we did.

Senator McGAURAN —Did it relate to pilot error?

Mr McCormick —Without the actual report in front of me—I think some of them did relate to pilot error; that is correct.

Senator McGAURAN —What I would venture to say is—and I am not an expert, but we play expert here; certainly I get good background briefings—such a stick shaking event can only be pilot error. It is pretty much an open and shut case on that basis. Firstly, consider that and then I will go on and say, that being the case, then it is pilot training. If that is the case, have you found in your investigations that those pilots are inexperienced and have been put in a job too quickly?

Mr McCormick —No, they are not necessarily all pilot error. Stall warning systems themselves, though they can be accurate—and Mr Farquharson is a qualified test pilot and may wish to add some more to this—turbulence makes a difference. The Dash 400 of the Dash 8s, as to my understanding, has a switch which artificially changes the stall warning setting by six knots. That may not necessarily be correct or incorrect. However, that is the system the aeroplane has. As far as training, the initial concerns that we have had around these stick shakings was the reporting of the incidents and how we come to know about them.

Senator McGAURAN —How did you?

Mr McCormick —We basically found out through ATSB reports. I think there was an issue, which the ATSB can better answer, where they raised the matter with the relevant company on the point of view of, were these incidents being treated seriously enough and were they elevated to a high enough standard within the airline’s own SMS safety reporting system? So, when it came to us, of course we are looking across the gamut. We are looking at how the system was used, how the training went ahead, how the people were supervised. It may not necessarily be a poor training issue, it could be a supervision issue. It could be that there was not perhaps enough notice taken of this sort of stuff. Perhaps there could be technical issues why some of these stick shaker events occurred, and they were not actually aerodynamically related.

Senator McGAURAN —Could be, but given that you have reported on it, you have come to certain conclusions and recommendations.

Mr McCormick —Yes, we have. I will table those on notice.

Senator McGAURAN —Am I right to say that you have definitely alerted the committee to a failure to report certain problems?

Mr McCormick —That reporting would be to the ATSB, not to CASA.

Senator McGAURAN —A failure to report to them?

Mr McCormick —I could not really speak for the ATSB and what they received, so I think it best for the ATSB to respond to that part of it.

Senator O’BRIEN —You might like to then ask for information on whether they had dealt with those reports and, if so, how they dealt with it.

Senator McGAURAN —Mr Joyce told us today—and I paraphrase him and if I am wrong I will be the first to withdraw—that it is not so much the number or frequency of incidences that have increased, it is the media getting hold of them. He did not use the word ‘beat-up’, but just the fact that the media has got hold of them and reported them, so it looks like it is more than it is. Is that so?

Mr McCormick —I could not comment on Mr Joyce’s frame of mind when he was making that particular statement, so it is hard for me to put it in context hearing it as third-hand or second-hand here. The issues that have come up with Qantas have been dealt with on an issue-by-issue basis by our field staff and by Qantas maintenance and management. I do think there is an element in the press such that as soon as something happens it is going to hit the front pages pretty straight; yes, that is my personal opinion. Whether that constitutes a beat-up of Qantas, I would imagine they have a brand to defend and they are big enough and ugly enough to take care of themselves, so that is for them to debate on the public perception issue. All I am concerned about is the actual incidents and the actual effects and what we do about them.

Senator McGAURAN —And the number of them. We seem to get the impression—and the chairman said—that there seems to be an increase in frequency, is that so?

Mr McCormick —We will take that on notice, but I do not think there has been a serious increase in incidents over perhaps my tenure, which is virtually two years, but we will look at that and we will take that on notice.

Senator McGAURAN —Just getting back to the stick shaker events, will we see in your report such detail as the experience of the right-hand pilot in the Dash 8 at the time? This inquiry has discussed the inexperience in flying hours up in the air, as distinct from the simulator, of the right-hand pilot. It could be these 15 stick shaker events are a direct link to the right-hand chair. Will we see that sort of detail in your report?

Mr McCormick —Not actually being able to recall the report to my mind, I will take that on notice and we will certainly see if we can put that sort of detail in the report. We certainly will know who was flying the aeroplane and then perhaps, depending on what we have from the ATSB, we will be able to establish their experience level.

Senator McGAURAN —Jetstar used the figure of 300 hours flying time. I am not quite sure, but I take it as in the air. I have to make this distinction because there is now a culture where they are simulating the simulator with up in the air experience. I have taken it that 300 hours in the air gets you into the first officer’s chair in Jetstar. I have heard that it could be as low as 200. What is the figure?

Mr McCormick —Commercially, that is required by Jetstar? I do not know. Flying is first and foremost a psycho-motor skill. It is a hand-eye coordination thing.

Senator McGAURAN —Do you have any benchmark before they get into that chair?

Mr McCormick —What I could say is that in the military 300 hours could see you in combat. It is most probably relevant. In World War I, it would have seen you dead, I think, so there is an element—

CHAIR —Seven minutes in the tail gun is all you lasted.

Mr McCormick —Correct.

Senator McGAURAN —That is an interesting comment.

Mr McCormick —I guess it has been covered in a 200-hour course.

Senator McGAURAN —So, it does not particularly concern you?

Mr McCormick —I think it is dangerous to take that in isolation, but it does not particularly concern me, no.

Senator McGAURAN —Yes. There are a million variables to that.

Senator XENOPHON —Just one last question and I will put a number of questions on notice. On 11 February this year there was an accident at Cork in Ireland where six people lost their lives. As I understand it, the investigation has only just commenced. One of the issues that has been raised is not so much about the circumstances of the accident, but that the flights were sold as Manx2. They were scheduled and operated under the designator of a German airline FLN, by a Spanish airline, Euro Continental, although the aircraft actually belonged to another Spanish airline, Flightline BCN, which appears to be linked to yet another Spanish airline, Ibatrans. You have a Manx based airline, not part of the European Union, a flight between two EU states, an aircraft belonging to an operator from a third EU state and two crew with different native languages. I think there is going to be a real bun fight as to which insurance they were on, which country’s law will apply to that insurance and the like. I am not saying that is in any way directly related to some of the issues that are being discussed today, but I am interested in Jetstar Asia and Jetstar Vietnam. They are part of the Qantas Group, but they have a minority shareholding in those airlines, but there is also the power of the brand—the Qantas brand and the Jetstar brand—that they have certain controls over. Most Australian consumers, when they buy a flight on a Jetstar airline—it does not matter whether it is Jetstar Asia or Jetstar Vietnam—assume that it is completely under the umbrella of the Qantas Group. What role does CASA have in relation to those sorts of arrangements that can sometimes be quite complex?

Mr McCormick —We are very cognisant of this sort of issue. I think I referred to this last Tuesday night. We recently had an AAT decision concerning Avtex and Skymaster. These organisations were involved, unfortunately, in the tragic death in Canley Vale of the pilot and a nurse, and they had previously been involved in an accident where an aeroplane crashed in Botany Bay and also killed the pilot. It is quite a voluminous decision—it runs for 152 pages. In there a senior member makes quite a few references to this sort of activity—where it looks like it is one organisation but it is actually being flown by another organisation, and those pilots and aeroplanes move between them. I am not saying that is the same as you have mentioned here and I am not familiar with the Manx crash, but we also have CAR 206, which is about interposed entities, borrowing AOCs and using other people’s activities.

About 18 months ago—it is just from memory—we started a total review of organisations in Australia that were doing this in what was called the 206 interposed entities. That has resulted in quite a few operators who no longer can offer flights on a charter basis when in reality they were offering them on a schedule at a fixed fee, sometimes through a travel agent, and when in reality they were avoiding the sort of oversight they would get if they were regular public transport. We have gone out of our way to stamp that out. We have seen very good results on that. It has not been the world’s most popular program as you can imagine, but it is something we should have done, and that CAR 206 has been recognised as bad law for some 26 years. So, we are looking as we go forward in the CASRs, to address that, but we are very cognisant of borrowed AOCs. If an airline does not operate to Australia at all and it does not have VH on its tail; therefore, the crew will not have Australian licences. And I really am talking about Jetstar Vietnam here. Our ability to reach into that operation is very limited.

Senator XENOPHON —But it still has the Jetstar brand and the Qantas Group brand, which is an iconic brand.

Mr McCormick —Correct.

CHAIR —I regret to inform everyone that this day has drawn to a close—

Senator XENOPHON —I was afraid you would say that, Chair.

CHAIR —even though we would like to go on forever. We would be grateful to CASA if you could respond by 11 March to any questions that have been put on notice.

Mr McCormick —Certainly, Chair.

CHAIR —Thank you very much.

Committee adjourned at 3.57 pm