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

CHAIR —I welcome representatives of Qantas and Jetstar. I also notice that you have sent a senior and full team. Qantas and Jetstar have lodged submission No. 31 with the committee. Would you like to make any amendments or additions to that submission?

Mr Joyce —No.

CHAIR —Mr Joyce, would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr Joyce —Yes, I would. We are pleased to be here. As you have seen, we have some senior representatives from the Qantas Group here. All of us have taken this inquiry and the matters under consideration very seriously. A lot of hard work has gone into it. Nothing is more important to Qantas than safety. As Australia’s national carrier, Qantas have greatly valued the opportunity to be part of this process. We have sought to be fully responsive to the full range of questions and interests expressed. We have provided over 50 pages of written evidence, including a formal submission and extensive responses to the questions on notice. We have also spent two hours with the committee on 25 February. I know in your deliberations you have consulted a wide range of individuals and organisations, and taken submissions from many sources—and obviously Qantas have not been privy to some of these sources. We have sought to deliver the facts to the committee about our safety values, safety systems and safety record as well as responding healthily to the other issues that have been raised.

We are never complacent about safety and we are always looking for ways to improve our own practices and the safety of Australian aviation. That is why we have devoted such significant resources to this inquiry. Where genuine safety matters have been identified during this inquiry, they have either been investigated or are being investigated by the appropriate regulatory authority. I would like to add one further point. I hope that in your deliberations you are mindful of one overriding reality: Australia is one of the world’s safest aviation jurisdictions and I would be disappointed if the confidence in our overall systems was undermined.

Australia’s first-rate safety record is a result of a comprehensive and vigilant approach agreed between the industry and regulators. This model is endorsed as global best practice by IATA and ICAO. The ATSB and CASA are globally recognised as aviation safety leaders and the Qantas Group safety record is outstanding by any international standards. More importantly, we are never complacent and we are always vigilant, and we will always put safety first. We are happy to take questions from the committee.

CHAIR —Thank you very much. Would it be fair to say that as a consequence of the publicity surrounding this inquiry it has been an opportunity for Qantas and Jetstar to double-check internal processes and procedures? If there was every any doubt from the flying public, could this inquiry provide an assurance that the processes are in place to ensure that the chances of human failure in flying with Qantas are at the barest minimum?

Mr Joyce —I agree completely with you. We are always very conscious of continuous improvement. In all of the Qantas airlines we focus on any information that becomes available. One of the important things that we do regard is that there is a good process out there; when issues occur there is a process for the regulators, for ourselves, to review those issues, to learn from those issues and continuously improve the operation. We encourage as many people as possible to report incidents within the Qantas group. Last year we had more than 9,000 reports that came through to the group. Those reports are reviewed and risk assessed; we analyse them and then we absolutely make every endeavour to improve the airline’s performance and all elements of safety. This inquiry and any attention that is paid to airline safety is a positive because we always want to figure out ways to improve the situation in airline safety.

CHAIR —I guess a lot of people saw Four Corners the other night. Obviously the Qantas pilots in that plane, who are very experienced, passed the test, as it were, and the flying public should take some lessons from that. I thought it was a very difficult situation; it could have ended up a lot worse than it did. This may be too near to speculation, but would experience have helped in the cabin that day as opposed to inexperience?

Mr Joyce —First of all I would say you are absolutely right. The Four Corners piece was a fantastic piece. Obviously Qantas at all levels assisted with the development of that. It shows you the open and transparent approach that the group has because we made every piece of information on everything that occurred on that day fully available to the journalist. It did show how professional all of the people within Qantas were and how they handled that instance. The pilots did a fantastic job, the engineers did a fantastic job, our ground staff did an amazing job and our emergency centre did an amazing job, so all of the experience, the effort that we put in did pay off at the end of the day. On the particular issue of training, I will ask Pete Wilson, who is our chief pilot, to talk about how he would view that.

Mr Wilson —I would totally agree with what Alan just said. As far as the experience issue that you raised, it really gets down to the training of the crew. All of the crew, whether it is a captain, a first officer, a second officer, receive extensive training and they work well together as a team, hence the result that we had out of that particular incident.

CHAIR —There seems to be a question that the committee has to ponder about separating the pay and hours et cetera from safety. This is an issue for the committee. But in the case of the Darwin incident, it would be fair to say that, despite the difficult circumstances that the take-off found itself in, the training succeeded there. They got through it all right, the windshear event?

Mr Joyce —This is the Jetstar incident in Darwin?


Mr Buchanan —There has been a lot of misrepresentation of that event, so I would like to read a couple of sentences from one of the pilots involved if the committee would allow me to do that.

Senator O’BRIEN —We are happy for Qantas to put its view on the record. If there is evidence from a pilot who was involved, it is our preference we take it from the pilot involved. If there is some question as to a version of events from the pilot to someone else and then someone says there is a question about the version of events from the pilot to someone else in Qantas or Jetstar, it would be preferable from our point of view to have the firsthand evidence, which then can be tested against whatever we have before us.

CHAIR —Could I just raise a procedural matter before we proceed any further? Does Qantas or Jetstar have any objection to the media being present?

Mr Joyce —No, we have no objection.

Senator XENOPHON —Chair, just to put this in context: when this issue was raised about the windshear incident there was never any question about the competence of the Jetstar crew. In fact, on the contrary, by all evidence they behaved in an exemplary fashion. The issue was one of whether they had sufficient information at air traffic control and whether the ATSB should have investigated it further.

Mr Buchanan —We have very good processes in this country with the ATSB and CASA to investigate these matters. One of the things that is a concern to us is that when these matters get raised outside of those forums it makes it quite difficult for us and for those bodies to be able to investigate the incident properly, especially when people are holding back information that could be material in a safety investigation and it then gets raised in this forum.

Senator O’BRIEN —Which is why we do not object to Qantas giving its view about the matter, because another view has been put which may or may not be one that you share and that has received publicity. So, in fairness, we could not object to you saying what your view is. The only issue we have is if it is another version, second-hand evidence; it would be much better to clarify the matter at source. If that means we have to do it at another time for finality purposes, then so be it. But Qantas should have the opportunity to put its view on the record.

CHAIR —We have received a copy of this letter. We have not contacted the author of it. In fact, I tried to ring him and they tell me he is on his honeymoon out in the scrub somewhere. I hope he is having a good time out there! But it would be better form for the committee to hear from him and get authorisation. We have received it; we are not going to publish it. And until we get authorisation from the author, we would just as soon put it into our file until we hear from the author.

Mr Joyce —Chair, we are comfortable with that. We would also ask that the author’s identity be protected. This is important for us because we do not want any recrimination against the author.

Senator XENOPHON —Recrimination against?

Mr Joyce —The pilot in question.

Senator XENOPHON —From whom? What do you mean?

Mr Joyce —There is a very heated atmosphere at the moment, and we just want to make sure there is no recrimination against them.

CHAIR —I can understand some people are worried about their wellbeing and job security et cetera.

Mr Joyce —Yes.

Senator XENOPHON —I thought the idea was that Jetstar have an opportunity to give their view—

CHAIR —If they would care to.

Mr Joyce —Which we will. Go on, Bruce.

Mr Buchanan —First and foremost, without going into the detail of the pilot’s submission, it is worth saying that he has written an unsolicited letter saying that Captain Woodward’s testimony is a complete misrepresentation of the facts, his testimony and what he said previously on the fact. We would encourage the committee to talk directly to the pilot and get the facts of the matter. It is also worth saying that this is now an active ATSB investigation and therefore we need to be mindful of what the ATSB thinks of this matter. We would encourage the committee also to talk to the ATSB and get the facts of the matter; rather than getting hearsay and information from people who are not involved in the incident we encourage the committee to talk directly to the people who are either investigating it or to the pilots who were involved in the incident to get the facts of the matter.

Senator XENOPHON —Mr Buchanan, my understanding from ATSB is that initially they were not going to investigate it any further, it was closed. Has something happened since then that they are now looking at it in more detail? Again, I am emphasising that I do not think there is any question about the way the captain and the first officer—

Mr Buchanan —There was evidence tabled in this forum by Captain Woodward which has now led to the ATSB investigating the incident.

Senator XENOPHON —But there was also an issue—again, nothing to do with Jetstar; the pilots relied on the best available information and acted prudently and cautiously—as to whether air traffic control in Darwin or the Bureau of Meteorology could have given some further information that would have assisted them. I think it was a systemic issue that may be looked at.

Mr Buchanan —There is lots of information that the ATSB and CASA always look at. The ATSB are now investigating the incident. The ATSB will put their findings forward, and I would encourage the committee to ask them for their views on that matter. They now have all of the facts, they have had all of the information, and they will be forming their own judgment on the matter. I would say that is the benefit of the process we have in this country. We have got a very strong independent investigative body and a strong independent regulator. We should provide all the safety information and anyone that does have safety information has a duty, in fact a legal responsibility, to make that information available. Therefore those independent bodies can fully investigate the issue.

CHAIR —I would not like to think that this committee endangered an investigation by ATSB, so I think leave well alone until that is completed.

Senator O’BRIEN —I would rather they investigated something that did not need investigating than not investigate something that perhaps might.

Mr Joyce —I think that is fair and I think everybody would have the same position on that. Whatever the ATSB believes they need, that is fine.

CHAIR —In terms of the resourcing of ATSB and CASA and their capacity to deal with all the things they have to deal with, including whether equipped legally or not and whether there need to be changes to air regulations or the law, there is oversight of other airlines that fly into Australia and their safety standards. Would you be of the view that to enable that to occur there have to be increased resources given to CASA and ATSB?

Mr Joyce —I think with the aviation white paper and the review that has taken place of the regulatory environment, there is a renewal and a refreshing of that that has been proposed that is quite comprehensive. We think that process is a very important process. We think that as part of that there will be a requirement for more resources within CASA. That is good for aviation and aviation regulation and we are fully supportive of the process that CASA is going through. We are actively involved with a number of different committees working with CASA on that review process. We think that is a very important item for aviation in this country going forward and it is something that we are fully supportive of.

CHAIR —My final question is that one of the things we seem to be getting consistently, and in Jetstar’s case quite a bit of it, is the fatigue factor and the management of fatigue. Given the frailty of the human body and the way people behave in their spare time, whether when they complete their shift they go and have a lie-down or go to the pub or go to the nearest nightclub or whatever, should there be tougher regulations on off-duty periods for pilots who have got to do a back of the clock and then return with another back of the clock however many hours later?

Mr Joyce —First of all for the whole group and all of the airlines anywhere in the world there is a dual responsibility. We have a responsibility of making sure that we are doing the right things by the rosters, by the design of them, to ensure that we minimise and eliminate pilot fatigue. It does become an issue in terms of the safe operation of aircraft. Pilots also have a duty to manage their own fatigue, because obviously airlines cannot regulate what pilots do in their spare time and we have to make sure that it is held at a dual responsibility and that is the way the systems work. In terms of the group, we have been at the leading edge of looking at fatigue management. We have done a lot of work in this space. I might ask Mr John Gissing to talk about some of the work that has taken place from the group’s perspective and then might go on to the Jetstar particular issue.

Mr Gissing —Qantas has been involved with developing fatigue systems for many years. We have a safety management system which is the overarching structure within which we manage various risks, of which fatigue is one. We implemented right across the group in 2003 through to 2005 an integrated fatigue risk management program which involved all safety critical personnel, engineers and other groups. We have been working on that for some time. I think it is interesting that as the years have gone by we have learned more and more about the science of fatigue and the ability to predict how fatigue can impact operations generally.

We are working with the ICAO proposals at the moment. As recently as October last year, ICAO has tabled the implementation guiding draft form and across the group we are working on initiatives to improve our fatigue risk management systems in line with those recommendations that we expect at the end of this year to be tabled for consideration by member states. So a lot of work is continuing, and we will be in a very good position to be well ahead of any requirements that are brought in at that time.

CHAIR —It is a difficult business and we will come to that in a sec. Metabolically, a bloke like—I had better be a bit careful here—my mate Alan Jones appears to be able to live on very few hours of sleep a day and still perform at full rip. Some people need 10 hours sleep, some people need 12, some need three or four hours—perhaps Senator Xenophon only needs a few hours.

Senator XENOPHON —I need more.

CHAIR —You can test when you come through the door for drugs and alcohol but you cannot actually test metabolically whether this guy should have eight hours sleep and not gone to the pub. How the hell do you manage it?

Mr Joyce —That is why the dual responsibility comes in because it is up to the pilot to identify he is feeling fatigued, not comfortable and should not be flying. We rely on that as well as the system. Pete, do you want to say anything?

Mr Wilson —It is a very good point and what I can say is that, to show that that dual responsibility works, we get some pilots who contact us and say, ‘I’m not fit to fly’ for a multitude of reasons. When that happens, they are stood down or do not have to operate the service, and we recrew it.

CHAIR —They have no fear of recrimination or discrimination.

Mr Wilson —Absolutely not. It is something we take very seriously—fatigue—as to the performance of the crew. We encourage it: if somebody is not fit to operate then we want them to put their hand up. Not fit to operate can be a whole variety of reasons from personal to fatigue, anything.

CHAIR —What about a flu? Mr Buchanan, have you got something you want to add to that?

Mr Buchanan —I think maybe just to shine a light a little on the fatigue risk management process because I think there is perception out there that we run the rostering practices to the limit of the compliance envelope. The way the fatigue risk management process works is you have got a compliance structure you start with and then it is like an onion: you peel back the layers, and each layer adds a little more conservativeness to the rostering build. You start with compliance and the limitations under the CAO 48 exemption rules. You come into that and you look at what the EBAs and the industrial agreements rostering practices that are agreed between the employees and the company built agreements. You can come to a number of roster build practices, which are a series of learnings that are from instances and safety investigations and different analysis we have done previously. You then come into another lens, and we do fatigue analysis, which takes a look at the whole rosters and that builds up an understanding of what the longer term fatigue implications are. You come back then to safety reporting. You come in again to the safety forums and the ASC. You have then got the line managers, the captain and the cabin manager taking last line responsibility for whether someone is fatigued or not when they are on duty. Like, Mr Joyce said, ultimately, you have got a dual responsibility: that is the organisation and everything we are doing to get there; and the individual also has got a responsibility to put their hand up if they are fatigued before they come onto work. Out of that you get a lot of examples. To sum it up, that is why are pilots are working on average 18 hours flying a week where you have got a compliance maximum of 25 hours a week. The difference is a lot of these other practices that get built up around that roster build.

CHAIR —If I was to compare the workload and the rosters and the back-of-the-clock work et cetera between Qantas and Jetstar, from the evidence and from the conversations we have, I have an impression that you work your guys harder than some other people do. You don’t think that is the case.

Mr Buchanan —I do not think that is the case and I think in the additional questions we provided on the stats on the cabin crew, you can see the hours worked are almost identical. I think also it is worth taking into account those hours—18 hours a week flying—still exclude six weeks annual leave and a whole raft of other measures that are built into the pilot agreements where they are not actually working.

Mr Joyce —Look at some of the things we have done recently to minimise any risks that we have. In Tokyo, for example, with the tremors we were concerned about the ability of our pilots and our crew to get appropriate rest so we changed their schedules. Jetstar led the way with that. They have changed the schedules to base the crew in Osaka, and Qantas based the crew in Hong Kong to avoid any potential disruptions to people’s sleep and to avoid the fatigue issue. So we have demonstrated, on an ongoing basis, how we minimise the risk associated with that.

CHAIR —Does CASA have oversight of what you do in Hong Kong and Tokyo?

Mr Joyce —They do. In the case of the Tokyo, we went to CASA. We did our own risk assessment of what we regarded as the risks associated with the operations into Tokyo. We did that in a very detailed and formal way. We gave CASA a copy of that. We took the actions ourselves because it is our responsibility to maintain the safety of the operation. We asked CASA on their views of that risk assessment, and they gave their views back on how that was handled. They regarded that process as very appropriate.

CHAIR —Jetstar operates in New Zealand on the Australian air operators certificate. How do they supervise what you get up to in New Zealand?

Mr Buchanan —It is the same rule. So the CAO 48 exemption, which is a rostering rule, is the same as the Australian AOC. One of the clauses in that is that CASA has the ability to step in and mandate any rostering requirements they see fit. It is worth saying that, through our whole time of running under the CAO 48 exemption, which was in place from nearly when we started, we have not once had CASA step in with any concerns on the roster builds.

CHAIR —As I said before, I would not own an airline if you gave it to me—it is too damn difficult. You train your New Zealand cadets in Australia on New Zealand rates of pay?

Mr Buchanan —No, we train cadets in two locations: one in New Zealand with an organisation called CTC and one in Melbourne under Oxford. Cadets when they are in training are not actually employed by the organisation. They are just going through the cadet program either in Oxford or CTC.

Senator XENOPHON —In relation to the cadets, there was some media on this two or three weeks ago in relation to four cadets that were based in New Zealand. Is that right?

Mr Buchanan —The initial cadet stream has been employed in New Zealand. I can give you a bit of background to the media event. What we have been doing with the cadets is that we want them to get exposure to our best captains and our best training captains around the networks so we have been moving some of the cadets as they go through their training back into Australia. But in doing so we did not want any perceptions around us doing that for pay reasons or as a way to bypass industrial laws, so when they come into the Australian environment they are paid under an Australian contract—they pay Australian taxes and they are paid superannuation. But the primary purpose is to give them exposure to our best training captains and the most experienced captains for training purposes.

Senator XENOPHON —Those four New Zealand cadets were based in New Zealand initially?

Mr Buchanan —We have had cadets trained in both countries. When we offered cadets a contract of employment, all of the initial cadets were offered a contract of employment in New Zealand, which is where we want the cadets to work eventually. That is where their positions have opened up. Now what we are doing is pushing them through the initial training procedures.

Senator XENOPHON —Senator Milne asked you questions about this on 25 February, and about whether there was a NZ$42,000 base salary and whether the cadets were operating in Australia. Your evidence then was that the information was incorrect.

Mr Buchanan —Yes, we said that NZ$42,000 salary was incorrect at the time.

Senator XENOPHON —So you are saying that the salary was not NZ$42,000 or in that vicinity at the time.

Mr Buchanan —No, we are saying that the first cadets that have come on are working in New Zealand and they will get paid an average salary of between NZ$64,000 and NZ$71,000 based on the current roster builds that we are seeing in our pilots in New Zealand. We said an average salary of NZ$67,000 versus the New Zealand average salary of NZ$39,000. When they are working in Australia, they are on an Australian contract and they get paid around A$87,000.

Senator XENOPHON —I have been advised that the contract shows that the guaranteed minimum pay is NZ$42,000 a year. Could that be the case? So it is a minimum of NZ$42,000 compared with what they might actually get.

Mr Buchanan —What they are referring to there is someone working 11.3 hours a week. Of course if someone is working 11.3 hours a week they will get paid less. That salary number that has been quoted by other sources excludes annual leave and allowances, and therefore is not a correct representation of someone working as a pilot in New Zealand.

Senator XENOPHON —Subparagraph 19.1(A) states that the base salary set out in schedule 3 states that the guaranteed minimum pay is NZ$42,000, which does not include those other matters you refer to.

Mr Buchanan —It does not, and it is for working 11.3 hours a week.

Mr Joyce —I think it is fair to say that the numbers that Bruce quoted are our expectations of what the pilot will get paid. That number is not a realistic expectation. We are not going to have any of the cadets flying that low number of hours. It is the difference between what is the minimum level in the contract and the full expectations of what the pilots are going to work.

Senator XENOPHON —You have minimum levels, so the minimum level could be $42,000.

Mr Joyce —Yes.

Senator XENOPHON —I understand, but that has put it into context. Where are these four cadets now—the four cadets who were referred to in the media?

Mr Buchanan —The four cadets are in Australia now.

Senator XENOPHON —Are they working for Jetstar?

Mr Rindfleish —They are currently based on the east coast of Australia. They are currently transferring from the New Zealand arrangements, on a leave without pay basis, onto the Australian contract.

Senator XENOPHON —They are not being paid at the moment?

Mr Rindfleish —They are being paid at the moment. They are in the process of transferring over from New Zealand arrangements to the leave without pay arrangement when they will then be paid on the Australian contract.

Senator XENOPHON —They will not be prejudiced against in the longer term in terms of their careers with Jetstar?

Mr Rindfleish —No.

Senator XENOPHON —Can you please explain this to me: they are on New Zealand contracts at the moment? Is that right?

Mr Buchanan —They joined the organisation and they were given roles in New Zealand on New Zealand contracts, which is where we ultimately want them to be flying. They have come across. They do not miss a pay period; they are not in a hiatus where they are put on the bench and not paid for a period of time. Once they get moved into an Australian role they then get paid in Australian dollars and the New Zealand salary stops.

Senator XENOPHON —They cannot fly in Australia at the moment, can they?

Mr Rindfleish —They cannot fly in Australia until they are established onto the Australian terms and conditions. They are qualified now to fly in Australia; we are just going through the transfer process.

Senator XENOPHON —There is one thing I do not understand. I do not want to labour this as I want to ask about safety management systems and fatigue, which is a particular concern that has been put to me by a number of pilots. But they cannot fly in New Zealand, can they? They were intended to fly in New Zealand but they cannot actually fly in New Zealand?

Mr Rindfleish —When we set up the cadet pilot scheme, by agreement with CASA we decided that the best place for all the cadets to get their initial qualifications and experience was with the group of pilots that fly around the east coast of Australia. It gives them the greatest exposure to different groups and exposure to the most experienced captains. So we agreed that they would be based in that area. That does not preclude them from flying within New Zealand. It is really a matter of keeping a close eye on them. Numerous Australian pilots based in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne fly regularly in New Zealand.

Senator XENOPHON —But it is the case that they were trained in New Zealand?

Mr Rindfleish —They are ab initio to their initial rating frame. They have not been trained by Jetstar in New Zealand, no.

Senator XENOPHON —Do they do any training with Jetstar in New Zealand?

Mr Rindfleish —I think one pilot flew a training flight from Christchurch to Auckland return, with a very experienced training pilot.

Senator XENOPHON —But these pilots could not actually fly to New Zealand upon completion of their training, could they?

Mr Rindfleish —Yes, they could.

Mr Buchanan —There is no issue with where they fly. The term ‘cadet’ is getting bandied around in terms of a very broad period of time. Part of that time they were in CTC or Oxford doing their training course. Part of it is this process now where they have started flying with us. They will continue on their cadet contract for a six-year period. The term ‘cadet’ gets put around all of that. We are dealing with a specific part of the period of time where they are coming in and we want them exposed to our most experienced captains for the first 500 to 1,000 hours of flying.

—In New Zealand, though, is it not the case—and please correct me if I am wrong—that you cannot pilot public transport aircraft, even as a first officer, unless you have 500 hours airtime? Is that the case?

Mr Rindfleish —That is under the New Zealand rules. No pilots of ours have flown outside of those rules. The pilot who flew in New Zealand had nearly 800 hours experience.

Senator XENOPHON —But did the other cadets have that 500-hours minimum?

Mr Rindfleish —The other cadets have not flown airline aeroplanes in New Zealand. The training they were doing there was the cadet pilot training scheme prior to coming to work with Jetstar.

Senator XENOPHON —Captain Wilson and Mr Gissing made reference to the issue of fatigue management. I received an email that I will show to Mr Buchanan dated 7 January. The addressee and the person who wrote it have been deleted, but my understanding is that he had a position with Jetstar at the time out of the Perth base managing the roster of the Perth base. I do not know if you have seen that email. I do not think it is necessary to mention the person’s name, so as not to cause him any embarrassment.

CHAIR —They are great things, emails, aren’t they?

Senator XENOPHON —We could, Chair, but I thought the fair thing to do was just to put it. Have you seen that email before?

Mr Buchanan —No, I have never seen it.

Senator XENOPHON —It goes to a cultural issue. Chair, I will table the email in due course. The email starts off by saying: ‘This email comes with a warning. If you are easily offended then delete this email and read no further.’ The next paragraph says: ‘Tough nut, princesses’, and then it says, ‘You aren’t fatigued, you are tired and can’t be bothered going to work.’ It was then quite scathing, as I understand, of pilots at the Perth base who were complaining about issues of fatigue and getting leave. Is the person who was running the Perth base still in that position?

Mr Buchanan —We do not have anyone in our business who works at running Perth base rosters. I would have to investigate to find out where this came from.

Senator XENOPHON —Do you have a pilot who is in charge or a senior pilot for that base in terms of the way you structure things?

Mr Rindfleish —That structure changed late last year. We have a pilot who is responsible for overseeing the Perth operation and the management of pilots in Perth.

Senator XENOPHON —Is that the same pilot from January this year.

Mr Rindfleish —Yes, it is. As I say, the structure has changed. We used to have people called base pilots and they now have had someone put in—

Mr Joyce —I would like to make a comment because I think it is important. There is a potential here for a warehouse of information, accusations and material to be combined and accumulated against the airlines. There is a process that we go through. It is in our interest to know about these things and it is in the safety interests for the aviation market in Australia for us to know about these things. The fact is that people are holding them back when there are plenty of processes and procedures within the current framework for these to be reported. It could have been reported to CASA and CASA would have run an investigation. It could have been reported to Jetstar Safety. It could have been reported into the whistleblower process that we have in the Qantas group. We have so many different mechanisms where these claims can be investigated.

You can understand that it is very hard for the management here to be given notes on the spur of the moment when these things can go through a proper investigation and, if somebody has done something wrong outside of the parameters that the company operates in that will be dealt with and stopped and we will make sure that it does not occur again. That is what the safety management system is all about it. There are plenty of mechanisms for that to occur.

I have to say that I am very disappointed that these things are being built up like this, because it is not in the interests of safety that that is occurring. We need to get them to come through the proper processes and the proper diligence to make sure that is happening.

—Mr Joyce, I think the issue has been that a number of Jetstar pilots have come forward to speak but they did not want to go public on it. They were concerned that there was a cultural issue at that particular base where complaints about fatigue were treated quite dismissively and they did not feel confidence in the system. You can understand that concern, can you not?

Mr Joyce —I can. But we are communicating it all the time that there are plenty of opportunities, if there are concerns about this, for them to express their concerns in different ways. The PricewaterhouseCoopers whistleblower system, for example, is completely independent. CASA could have been told about this and they would have done an investigation on it.

There is something worrying us as well. The note we have not read out very clearly shows on the record that there is misleading information out there and that that misleading information is being used to make accusations and claims about the organisation and Jetstar, and it is clearly wrong from what we have seen. What worries me is that we need to go through the proper due diligence process, the proper investigation process, for all of these that could be in the same category. You can understand my suspicion after reading this note from one of our pilots about an issue that was raised in the committee. The pilot says it was not true and that he was in misrepresented to this committee.

Senator XENOPHON —That is a separate issue, though.

Mr Joyce —My point is that all of these should follow the process that we have, because it will be properly investigated and the material will be looked at, and if there is something wrong it will be fixed.

Senator XENOPHON —But have there been complaints about the Perth-Singapore roster or the Darwin-Singapore roster, for instance?

Mr Buchanan —The Darwin-Singapore roster is a good example of where there have been no fatigue issues raised.

Senator XENOPHON —No fatigue issues?

Mr Buchanan —No fatigue issues on that particular roster pattern. In fact, we looked through our records on that one. A good example of fatigue risk management process working well is where, in December, we started the Melbourne-Singapore direct services on the A330s. We consolidated our Darwin flights and upgraded the aircraft to an A321. Because of the larger aircraft, we were exceeding our own duty time limitations on the Darwin-Singapore’s sector. We were finding a number of sectors in January. The guys, through the airline safety committee, put a number of actions in place in January. The number went down to a smaller number in February and that more than halved the problem, but the guys were still not happy with it in February, and in February they made the decision to overnight the crew in Singapore. That is a good example of the fatigue risk management process and the internal processes working well. It is not even about individual fatigue reports from pilots; it is about us looking proactively at compliance and what we are doing in terms of our internal statistics and then proactively responding to that.

Senator XENOPHON —What does it say when some pilots feel that they need to give this information to senators because they feel that the system in place at Jetstar is lacking or that there is not a culture where those concerns could be treated seriously?

Mr Buchanan —Look at all the evidence of what is actually happening inside Jetstar; look at the responses; look at the proactive things being done on rosters; look at what has happened, for instance, at the SEQ base last year; look at what has happened in terms of building up the fatigue risk management process; look at what we have done on the Singapore-Darwin service—any of the evidence. Where we are finding issues in our business we are proactively resolving them. We get thousands and thousands of reports. We have one of the highest reporting rates across the group, in Jetstar. I do not see any evidence either on that basis or in external audits. We have had 12 major external audits in the last 12 years and all the evidence from them suggests that our business is actually—

Senator XENOPHON —We will go to the issue of CASA as well in a moment. You said there have not been any complaints about the Darwin-Singapore flights, but, on 26 March—just a few days ago—did the Jetstar pilot committee representative meet with the chief pilot in management and that, for the JQ57 and JQ58 Darwin-Singapore return flights the Jetstar pilot committee has been successful, after lobbying CASA and the company, in reverting this to an overnight in Singapore?

Mr Buchanan —That is incorrect. The decision was made in February through the airline safety committee meeting in February.

Senator XENOPHON —But there will be a change?

Mr Buchanan —Yes, absolutely.

Senator XENOPHON —That is encouraging.

Mr Joyce —That is the way the system should work. Bruce outlined exactly what takes place in terms of the review. As I said, last year over 9,000 reports came in. We monitor reporting levels. If there were a reporting problem in any division of the company, any segment of the company, we would go in and look at that from a group perspective. From the group’s perspective, the reports that come in show a healthy reporting culture. They show that people are putting reports in. I have to say again, if there are any concerns from people about recriminations or activity that takes place, there are plenty of processes in place for people to not go through the Jetstar organisation, if they are uncomfortable or whatever, but go to the regulator. As a great example, that document should be sent to the regulator for the regulator to look at.

Senator XENOPHON —I am not sure, but I think it may well have been.

Mr Joyce —That is what should be happening. We are very happy to cooperate with the regulator, as we do, to have a look at these issues when they arise. We have absolutely no problem in doing that, and that is the right process. I have a suspicion, having looked at that—and, again, I am worried about this note that we have now from the pilot—that there is a lot of misrepresentation and misinformation out there which is taken in on the basis of fact.

Senator XENOPHON —It was from one pilot to another pilot, and I understand that this pilot was in the more senior position at that base, being quite dismissive of fatigue concerns.

CHAIR —We have tabled it?

Senator XENOPHON —Yes.

CHAIR —Okay. I do not find this extraordinary. Some people are sookier than others. There was a bit of sookiness in the media there are a few weeks ago, and I will not go near that again. I am inclined to bring out the best sookiness in people. I am a sook myself and a bit of a princess when it comes to crutching heavy crossbred ewes. Some blokes can do 150 a run, but if I do 75 a run the sook comes out in me.

Senator XENOPHON —There is a bit of a difference in piloting a plane, though.

CHAIR —But, in fairness, going to back of the clock, the author of the letter said:

In the last four weeks I have done 7 back of the clocks, 2 lots of back to back and 1 after JQ117. I personally found the back to back the hardest and after JQ117 no dramas. By trial and error I have worked out what works for me and I can manage the shift. I can say that I hate the shift—

And I hate pulling out heavy crossbred ewes—

and definitely don’t operate to my normal standard. I am tired throughout the shift,—

Please take note, which sends a little signal—

feel terrible, but would not call it fatigued,—

That is a personal judgment—

All I ask is that you give the BOC flying a go ... If you honestly believe you can’t operate safely, not just because you feel terrible, then call in UFD. But it is UNFIT FOR DUTY! I can’t see how it can not be taken from your personal leave—

Which I think is fair enough—

I don’t see how it can be right that if you couldn’t get enough rest, for what ever reason, call in UFD then get a free day off. In the meantime I get called in off a standby ...

It sort of says that there is a bit of human frailty in how much some people can handle and some cannot. None of this is very surprising to me and I think it is quite an honest interchange between two pilots. One bloke is saying, ‘Toughen up, mate, or use the rules.’ I look at this and say that maybe the system is working—if some people cannot deal with it. Would it be fair to say that back-of-the-clock work out of Perth and Darwin is probably at the limit, that there is an orange light flashing?

MrBuchanan —I would have to get the statistics and look at it. But, as I said to you, I look at the averages of work hours across all the bases and I cannot see any of them getting close to the limits at the moment.

CHAIR —This person, who is the senior person, says, ‘The current BOC is a horror shift but let’s look at the big picture,’ which is about keeping the base open et cetera, ‘if you think this is tough go and do a bit in Darwin.’ We are here to make sure that we look at all the issues. I see nothing at all wrong with Senator Xenophon exploring this to the extent that it needs to be explored but, at the same time, we just need to know that there is an honest system where—

—I think it is fair, Chair. The fact is that the commercial operations of the services in Perth and Darwin involve back-of-the-clock services. That is the way the economics and the operation work. That is the commercial driver. The safety driver and the operational driver is how we can do that in the absolute best and most safe way. What we are continuously looking at is how to improve. I think Bruce gave the greatest example in how the Darwin-Singapore process was continuously reviewed and the implications that it had for fatigue. At the February Airline Safety Committee meeting, a decision was made that that service would be converted to an overnight service.

That continuous improvement is always there. As we get more information and different information about it, and as we investigate these things, we do make changes. Thousands of changes would take place every year in the airline’s operations, based on the safety reporting culture that is there, based on those analysing them and based on those using that material. That is why I am encouraging everybody—any information that is there, even this note, even if it is innocuous and that actually signals us the right thing—should go through the proper channels.

Senator XENOPHON —Why do you call it misinformation? You referred to it as ‘misinformation’.

Mr Joyce —No, I said there is some misinformation out there.

Senator XENOPHON —This was broadcast to all the Perth based pilots from a senior pilot.

Mr Joyce —I am saying that even this note should go through the proper process and should be reviewed.

Senator XENOPHON —So, Mr Rossiter, were you aware of this note?

Mr Rossiter —I have not seen that before, no.

CHAIR —The difficulty—

Senator XENOPHON —Sorry chair, can I just follow this up with Mr Rossiter, who is in an important position as head of safety at Jetstar. Is it proposed to speak to the author of that note to—

Mr Joyce —Absolutely. We will investigate that. We will go through the proper channels to make sure it is to rights. I did not say it was ‘mis-impression’; I said maybe it is an innocuous note and it actually signals that it is the right exchange that should happen. But even if there isn’t—

Senator XENOPHON —But telling pilots, ‘toughen up princesses’, what sort of culture do you think that engenders?

Mr Joyce —If it is inappropriate, we will take it through the proper channels and that will not be tolerated within the company. That is what we said. Having now presented to us and having us try and do a full investigation and give a response within a few minutes is not appropriate due diligence or practice; it needs to go through a proper process.

CHAIR —If I were the pilot doing back-to-back, back-of-clock flights—and you were dealing with it as the human body can—the worry you would have in the back of your mind. I am sure that is what a lot of the Jetstar pilots think: ‘How long are they going to keep this up for? Are they going to keep loading us up until we drop dead?’ I know what I would have done if I would have got this. But I had better not say it here.

Mr Buchanan —Can I just say to the committee that one of the things that is worth understanding is around the limitations of pilot hours. Some pilots do like those long back-of-clock sectors, because you clock up your hours very quickly. When you look at a Perth-Singapore return, which is what is referred to in the letter, you are talking about potentially 10 hours of flying on that sector. The pilots in a month can only do 100 hours of flying, under the rules. That means you are working 10 days. None of them will be working to the limit anyway—so they are working less than 10 days. So, when you think about it, a month where you do all your work within 10 days is actually not a terribly bad thing, and some people actually like to get through long sectors like that and get rid of their flying patterns fairly quickly. So you may hear stories where someone did three or four in a week but you have to understand that within the broader context of the limitations—and the average weekly and all the other things that I talked to around the other controls at work—they are still only going to be working to those hours that we talked about before.

CHAIR —Look, I understand that, but I am worried about what happens in the other 20 days of the month. How do you know when the pilot comes back that he has not run four marathons and had two nights running at a pole-dancing nightclub or something? That is the bit. You nearly need, in terms of safety, to have some sort of definition of rest requirements? I do not know how you do it, but—

Mr Joyce —I think the best way still is, coming back to this dual responsibility of the pilots’ feeling, as Peter pointed out; if they are feeling unwell for duty in any way, including fatigue, it is their responsibility to put up their hand and say they are not going to do that duty. That is the only way, I think, you can manage—

CHAIR —The worrying thing for me, Senator Xenophon, in this letter is where he says—and this is the senior pilot, I take it:

I can say that I hate the shift and I definitely don’t operate to my normal standard.

That is a bit of a worry.

Mr Joyce —Yes.

Senator XENOPHON —This is also a bit of a worry—and this question goes to both Mr Joyce and Mr Buchanan—does the fact that you have not seen this letter, that it has not been brought to your attention via any of your pilots at the base in Perth indicate that there is a lack of trust or concern about bringing things to you? It worries me that you have not seen it.

Mr Joyce —Again, we do not know the reasons unless we go through it and ask the pilots exactly why that was the case and we do the proper investigation. Again, I come back—we have over 9,000 reports every year, so the vast majority of people in this company have absolutely no problem in reporting any incident that occurs. We welcome it and we encourage it. When reporting rates actually drop down we go out there and try to communicate to get reporting rates up. We are passionate about it. I am very passionate about safety. I would absolutely love to see these things and people raising it to us. We want to see them and we want them to go through the appropriate process.

What we see around the organisation—again I keep on saying it—is that the vast majority of people in the Qantas group have absolutely no problem in using the existing procedures that are there. If some people do have a problem with using the internal company procedures, there is a process with CASA, there is a whistleblower policy with PwC. So if they do not trust me or Bruce and that is the problem, then they have absolute mechanisms to overcome that. None of those processes, I believe, have been used in this case, because we have not heard about it.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure, and no doubt we will hear from you about that. I want to go to the issue of the CASA audit—and maybe Mr Rossiter can assist us on this. Jetstar out of the Darwin-Singapore flights operates to an exemption to CAO order 48, which relates to flight and duty time limitations. Mr Rossiter, at the time, on 18 September 2009, you were the manager of CASA Air Transport Operations Southern Region—correct?

Mr Rossiter —That is correct.

Senator XENOPHON —And you signed off on this exemption?

Mr Rossiter —Yes, that is correct.

Senator XENOPHON —You commenced work with Jetstar in—what was it?—December.

Mr Rossiter —15 December.

Senator XENOPHON —And just for the record, because it was raised by previous senators—I think I know the answer, but I think to be fair to you: at what stage did you apply for a job with Jetstar?

Mr Rossiter —I did not in fact have a conversation with Jetstar about any potential of even entering into a process until after the time of the signing of that exemption.

Senator XENOPHON —That was in October some time?

Mr Rossiter —The exemption was about—

Senator XENOPHON —The exemption was 18 September.

Mr Rossiter —Yes, 18 September. It was about three weeks after that that I first had a dialogue with Bruce.

Mr Buchanan —Can say a few things on this one?

Senator XENOPHON —Yes, but you can understand why I am raising it—because it was raised by some of my colleagues. I am quite satisfied with that answer, but I think it is important to put that on the record.

Mr Buchanan —But just to give a bit of context around the CAO 48 exemption: that is a document that was renewed for the fifth time by Mark. It is a document that exists for almost all airlines in the world. It is a pretty standard process it goes through. It is really to deal with the flight time duty limitations that were derived back—I don’t know—50 years ago and were not really thought through.

Senator XENOPHON —That is not quite right, though, is it, because there is a difference between international operations and those short-haul international operations? That has been one of the challenges to CAO 48.

Mr Buchanan —I am talking about the original ones. That is why you have the CAO 48 exemption which exist now, which is trying to deal with modern jet operations, RPT services and—

Senator XENOPHON —and the shorter haul international legs?

Mr Buchanan —A combination of both, yes.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure. I accept that.

Mr Joyce —Can make another comment. It is a general point that should be made. The interchange between CASA and the airlines has taken place for some time. There is a sort of an impression that there may be some impropriety in having people change between the two organisations. We feel that it is actually really good for safety and the improvement of safety practices in this country to have that interchange, because people who come from the regulator into the airline get a different dimension, a different perspective and actually improve the safety within the airline community—and vice versa. We talked about CASA resources and CASA’s need to build up resources going forward. The prime source of those resources will come from the aviation industry. What we see within CASA is appropriate checks and balances. In this case there were appropriate checks and balances when Mark came across—for other people that review his approvals and his activities to make sure that the areas no impropriety in anything that occurs.

Senator XENOPHON —Mr Joyce, I am not suggesting it. I just think it was important to have that on the record: that at the time that the exemption was given Mr Rossiter had not engaged in any discussions with Jetstar. I want to be fair to Mr Rossiter. That is on the record.

Mr Joyce —I accept what you are saying, Senator. I just wanted to explain from our perspective that there are a lot of checks and balances and this is a good thing; it is not a bad thing.

Senator XENOPHON —I want to ask a number of questions in relation to the exemption and also the audit that was given. You are familiar now with the document that was tabled that was a special fatigue audit of Jetstar of 10 May 2010 by CASA. It was an internal document for CASA’s human factors section. Mr McCormick from CASA said that the inputs of that document was then put into a letter that was sent to you, Mr Buchanan, on 10 May 2010, although the audit was critical of a number of aspects of operations in terms of issues of fatigue. You are familiar with the letter of 10 May 2010 that was sent to you?

Mr Buchanan —I am familiar with the topic. I should start by saying that we have never received the internal draft document or whatever was discussed here. We have not received that document. I am familiar with the audit and the audit outcomes.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure, I acknowledge that, but the letter from Max McGregor, the manager of CASA Air Transport Operations southern region on 10 May—this very short letter—:

Further to the excellent meeting held on 9 April 2010, please find attached an ... audit report formalised for your attention. May I reiterate the appreciation for your assistance and cooperation.

When this matter was raised publicly, as reported in the Brisbane Times:

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said safety was the airline’s priority and CASA regularly undertook such audits.

He said the audit ‘‘delivered no formal request for corrective action into areas assessed’’.

‘‘Jetstar is currently formalising its integrated fatigue risk management system in accordance with best practice.’’

That is a fair summary of Jetstar’s position?

Mr Buchanan —That is a fair summary.

Senator XENOPHON —But what I do not understand, Mr Buchanan, is that Mr McCormick told the Senate inquiry, and I quote:

As a result of the combined audit and its recommendations being sent to Jetstar, all of those findings had been satisfactorily addressed by Jetstar.

So you can understand the confusion. Jetstar seems to be saying, ‘We did not have to do anything.’ CASA is saying in their evidence to the Senate that what matters that had to be attended to have been attended to. Who is right?

Mr Buchanan —Maybe if I start off with a bit of an overview. We have gone through 12 major audits over the last two years. This is one of the CASA audits particularly focused on the fatigue. There are five levels of findings that CASA can put out in a report. The first level starts off with an observation and it is just that—an observation. It does not require any response from the airline. It goes all the way up: request for corrective action; safety alert; show cause; serious and imminent threat. They are the five levels that CASA can use.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure.

Mr Buchanan —The report that we are talking about had 12 observations.

CHAIR —Where does ‘show cause’ come into the level of priority?

Mr Joyce —Is the highest one

Mr Buchanan —It is the fourth one—one from the top.

Mr Joyce —Sorry, yes.

Senator XENOPHON —The top one being, ‘You are going to be grounded’?

Mr Buchanan —‘Serious and imminent threat’. ‘Show cause’ is a very serious issue. ‘Safety alert’ is very serious. We get a few requests for corrective actions that would appear in a normal audit process. This particular audit had observations only. But we take safety so seriously. What we try to do is no matter what happens, if we get someone who points out something we can do better, we always try and respond to it and build upon our safety management systems. So we responded to CASA on all 12 observations that they made during that report.

Senator XENOPHON —But your spokesman said that the audit:

… delivered no formal request for corrective action into areas assessed

Mr Buchanan —That is fair to say, because there are no formal requests. With the CASA response you have five levels. On the first level there is no formal request to respond, but we want to collaboratively work with them anyway to improve our system well and above in the compliance level. So there is no formal request to do anything, but we still want to work with CASA to build a better safety management system.

Mr Joyce —I think, in fairness, the difference is a very technical difference. What Simon Westerway was referring to was the no requests for corrective actions in terms of the CASA definition. But there were observations and the observations were fixed.

Senator XENOPHON —So not a strictly technical, formal request for corrective action, but Jetstar did do things as a result of the audit process?

Mr Joyce —Absolutely.

Mr Buchanan —Yes.

Senator XENOPHON —Okay. It is a bit semantic, though, isn’t it?

Mr Joyce —But in the aviation industry requests for corrective action have a meaning and an important meaning, so we have referred to them in that way. But you are right: there are two differences here. The observations were, as Bruce says, our observations, but they were acted on and we did make the changes.

Senator XENOPHON —I do not want to labour on this. So it is fair to say that recommendations that were made, whilst not a formal request for action, had been acted on by Jetstar?

Mr Buchanan —Yes, all 12 observations have been acted upon. Mr McCormack said I think in his testimony that he was comfortable with all 12.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure. And the special fatigue audit that has now been tabled of 10 May, which presumably you have a copy of—

—That is the Darwin one you are talking about?

Senator XENOPHON —This is the one that was written by Ben Cook from the human factors section. You do not have that? It was tabled. That goes into more detail and was quite critical of some fatigue issues.

Mr Buchanan —I am unaware, but I am happy to have a look at the report you are talking about.

Senator XENOPHON —Okay, it is a tabled document. In relation to fatigue risk, you have said that you have one of the most sophisticated fatigue risk management systems. You use the FAID system?

Mr Buchanan —We use many different things. The onion was the analogy I was using. We try to use many different aspects to get at fatigue. There is no perfect science around this. As Mr Gissing was saying before, the science around fatigue is still being developed and a lot of the regulations in this area are still only coming out now. So it is early days. For instance, last year we recruited one of the experts in this field, who has a PhD, to try to make sure that our fatigue risk management system and our resources in this area are top-class and world-best in taking not just one input but as many inputs as we possibly can to build the best fatigue risk management system we can.

Senator XENOPHON —That could require changes to the roster build agreement, couldn’t it?

Mr Buchanan —Absolutely.

Senator XENOPHON —Mr Rossiter, are you familiar with the Independent Transport Safety Regulator of New South Wales’ transport safety alerts in relation to the FAID model? The most recent one was on 12 January 2011. Are you familiar with that document?

Mr Rossiter —No, I am not.

Senator XENOPHON —It was referred to when Virgin Blue gave evidence. There is a transport safety alert No. 34 of 27 July 2010 headed, ‘Use of bio-mathematical models in managing risks of human fatigue in the workplace’, and on 12 January 2011 there was a TSA No. 35, ‘Use of bio-mathematical models in human fatigue: further information on the Fatigue Audit InterDyne model’. These are public documents on their website that are quite critical of FAID. These were used for train operators, but I think the principles are the same for pilots and probably more critically so. Mr Gissing, were you aware of the transport safety alerts that were quite critical of the FAID system?

Mr Gissing —I have been aware of studies that look at various tools. I think it is important to note that any tool or mathematical model is a gross error check at the end of the day; it is not a device or a software tool by which we are reliant—

Senator XENOPHON —And that is what the transport safety alert said?

Mr Gissing —Absolutely.

Mr Joyce —I think it is important. It would be worthwhile for John to put in what we do over the risk management of fatigue because I think it is very important to put it in context. While FAID is a tool, our system is not reliant on FAID exclusively to everything else, and other systems may be. So it would very worthwhile for John to explain how our system of fatigue management works.

Senator XENOPHON —I am just concerned that the Independent Transport Safety Regulator is highly regarded nationally and it had two key alerts based on the FAID system. Again, I acknowledge that you understand the limitations, but neither of you had heard of these alerts. I just wonder whether there is a system for checking alerts like that from transport regulators.

Mr Joyce —Again, I think you have to put into context the role that FAID plays in the organisation. If we were relying on FAID as the exclusive way of judging risk of fatigue in the organisation then, of course, every activity that takes place on FAID would be something that we would monitor very closely. But FAID is one element of a very comprehensive system that includes a lot of other checks and balances. As John says, it is a gross error check at the end of day; it is not something that we are reliant on for our fatigue management system.

Senator XENOPHON —But Jetstar is looking at further developing the fatigue risk management system, is that right?

Mr Buchanan —As Mr Joyce said, it is one element in the fatigue risk management system. Also, the Chair’s point is very valid. These models, and everything we do on the organisation side, are about creating opportunities for people to rest. Whether people actually take those opportunities to rest is another matter. Therefore, it has to be a dual responsibility. We can never know what the individual does when they are not at work. So you need to have this dual responsibility where the individual and the organisation are playing active parts in managing fatigue.

Senator XENOPHON —But you are developing a fatigue risk management system now, is that right?

Mr Buchanan —The group has a fatigue risk management system.

Mr Joyce —I think it is worthwhile putting this in context. There is a lot of work going on internationally on this. The group has been taking the lead on it and helping the international community. I think John can explain how it works.

Mr Gissing —I think formal fatigue risk management systems get confused sometimes with the existing systems of managing fatigue within the SMS. We are effectively managing fatigue as part of the SMS. All of the elements of the SMS reporting policy responsibilities document responsibilities of management and responsibilities of aircrew and other parties. In developing the management of fatigue as an individual risk within that system, the science is getting better and better all the time. When FAID was first developed it was a very good tool for what it was intended to do. Over time the science has been developed, more studies have been done and other tools have been developed, but it is only a very tiny part of the overall system and largely as a gross error check. So the focus on FAID or any other software package that has imported some of the science from those studies is what we are looking at—

Senator XENOPHON —I understand that, but is the fatigue risk management system that Qantas uses the same as the fatigue risk management system of Jetstar?

Mr Gissing —Fatigue risk management systems are as unique as the SMS. They meet the same standard. The outcomes are the same under the SMS standard requirements—

Senator XENOPHON —But you are part of the same group. Wouldn’t you use the same fatigue risk management system so that there is uniformity to it?

Mr Gissing —As part of the design, we are looking both at the individual AOCs and across the group at where that design is going to end up. So we are in the design phase at this stage and we are looking at how we would apply the system overall, and we will choose the best outcome that we think suits both the group and the individual AOCs.

Mr Joyce —It is worthwhile talking about the fact that the international community is working towards a standard as well.

Mr Gissing —I think it is reasonably well known that ICAO has developed a draft standard and that we expect at the end of this year—

CHAIR —Can I just interrupt?

Senator XENOPHON —I am trying to understand this. Mr Buchanan, when you gave evidence previously you said that, ‘We have one of the most sophisticated fatigue risk management systems now.’ Is that the case?

Mr Buchanan —I believe that. I think we are investing well ahead of the curve, and it is across the group—

CHAIR —Senator Xenophon, with your indulgence, can I just ask something? It does not make sense to me as a worn out welder that you would have a different standard in Qantas to Jetstar and that then there would be an international standard. The danger will be that you do not, as we are trying to do, fight the eternal battle with trade where they are continually trying to lower the bar to get everyone the same standard. I would like to think that you were raising the bar to get everyone the same standard. It worried me at the last hearing to hear that you can be compliant but not flying safely.

Mr Joyce —I think that is a good comment. The international community has been, as John said, working on the ICAO standards on this. There are ICAO and IATA standards on a whole range of things. When an IOSA is done at a different airline it is to an IATA standard. We pride ourselves on taking the standards that are there internationally and then seeing how Qantas can either lead the way or enhance those standards. That is what we have done throughout our entire history. On fatigue management, there is a system. We should change that word. The word ‘system’ can refer to IT, which I think causes confusion when it refers to a system of processes and procedures that are in place. There is a system—processes and procedures that are in place—that is quite advanced within the group. Across the group, we would be one of the world’s leading elements of it, because we have had representations from and talks with international organisations on international standards. That does not mean you get complacent and leave it there. There is always more that you can do. What we are doing is looking at how we can enhance those systems going forward. What John is talking about is that design of the systems has taken place to improve that going forward.

CHAIR —I will only interrupt once more because we have to go to Senator O’Brien. In the standardisation of fatigue management and flying safely as a result of that, as well as the skill of the pilot in flying and understanding the plane and how it works do you take into serious consideration the physical capability of the pilot? Take me, for example. I think I am due for a bypass check-up. I am getting old and broken. But do you consider whether that bloke could run up that flight of stairs? There was an issue here with a security guard some years ago. I had better not talk about it now. But I used to think, ‘If I was causing trouble here, all I would do is run up those stairs and he would not be able to come up after me because he is unfit.’ Do you have a minimum fitness requirement? Do you check cholesterol? Do you check the fatigue that comes from prostatitis and all those things?

Mr Wilson —They have standard medicals they have to do. Those medical requirements change with age. Without going into the detail of each particular medical, basically the older you get the more stringent and broader and more frequent those checks become, for that very reason that you are addressing.

Senator XENOPHON —If the Qantas group has consistent standards, why would there be a different fatigue risk management system for Jetstar compared to Qantas? I do not understand that. It seems that whatever fatigue risk management system is in place now there is a new one being developed. Is that a fair summary?

Mr Gissing —The group standard will be the same right across the group. There is already a policy and a standard will be set, outcome based wherever possible and prescriptive where required.

Senator XENOPHON —But the implementation could be different for each airline.

Mr Gissing —If the implementation needs to be different in order to meet the needs of the specific operation, meeting the same standards and the same outcome, that may well be the case.

Mr Joyce —It is the same as when we talk about pilot training and pilot recruitment. Different airlines within the group have different processes and procedures in place for them because the operations for the different parts of the organisation are different. They operate different aircraft and different route structures and different networks. So we have always regarded it as appropriate. Remember there are accountable managers for each of the ALCs; they have the accountability to look at their systems and processes and make sure they are right for those organisations and take in the experience of the Qantas group and applying it. So it is a big advantage for each of ALCs and it is there because each of the operations are different.

Senator XENOPHON —I might ask more questions at the end.

Senator O’BRIEN —I have some questions about cabin crew in Jetstar, and if we have time some questions about stick shake reference to Captain Davey. We are given to understand that for Jetstar cabin crew some individual shifts can run as long as 15 hours and that is permitted under the contract of employment of particular employees. Is that right?

Mr Buchanan —I think at the last hearing I said that the roster limitations are 12 hours for a lot of them. Obviously if people flying long-haul international will have extensions and will have longer duties, but there are rests on those aircraft. There is the possibility for the shorter ones also to extend to 15 hours based on disruption. So you will get situations in the airline where the patterns or whatever can occur and the nature of aviation is you will have extensions of duty. I just come back to the average hours worked. They are the anomalies that tend to get a bit of focus but the average hours worked for a cabin crew member across our business is 27 hours a week.

Senator O’BRIEN —Sure. If we are looking at the issue of fatigue and it is suggested that shifts can be as long as 15 hours, what I would like to know is how frequently an employee would encounter such a shift. If it occurred, would that mean that they would automatically be rostered off for a set period? How does that work?

Mr Buchanan —There are rest periods that occur once a duty time limit like that has been extended and there are extended rest periods. We are happy to provide you with that information.

Senator O’BRIEN —That would be helpful to understand because if there is a delay in the system or a weather problem and there is no crew available or, for example, as I am also told occurs, cabin crew arrive at a place which should be the end of their shift but find that there is a staffing problem and they are asked to effectively perform another shift, that would be also where this extended shift arrangement would occur. I would be keen to know what guarantees the staff have of extended rest periods and limitations of those in position. If you can help us either now or on notice that would be good.

Mr Buchanan —To talk in broad terms about that, during the last few months in particular—as you can imagine—in aviation, disruption has been quite amazing given Christchurch, Japan, the Queensland floods, Cyclone Yasi, the volcanoes in Bali and a series of other events have caused us lot of disruption across our network. So you do get a lot of crew out of base, but what ended up happening was we had to cancel a lot of flying because we had crew out of base on rest periods, we had crew in the wrong base and we tried to move crew out of certain ports—like Alan was talking about with Tokyo. Therefore, we have had to cancel a series of flights because of those events. Rest periods are definitely adhered to when duties are extended, and I can give you some back-up on that. It is easy to focus on the anomaly. It happens in any industry and in any work. You can imagine a finance person when it comes to budget time. There are always periods of time when anomalies occur and people do work longer hours. I think the average hours is the best sign of the average amount of work people are doing.

Senator O’BRIEN —I would be happy if you could supply the additional information I requested on notice. Another issue that has been raised with us is the incidence of fatigued staff who arrive at home base and then need to transport themselves home in a fatigued state. I am reminded of circumstances where a doctor in training worked an extended shift in a country hospital then attempted to drive home and was killed in an accident. The issue has been raised that, as some studies suggest, at a certain stage of fatigue you are likely to be affected worse than if you were driving under the influence of alcohol. Is that something that is being considered in your assessment of duty hours and the welfare of crew?

Mr Buchanan —It comes back to dual responsibility as well. If a crew member feels they are fatigued then they would speak to their line manager and we would provide them transport home. A recent example in what we have been doing in South-East Queensland, where we have people working both Gold Coast and Brisbane, and sometimes the drive times can be longer, is we have put a formal process in place where people can ask for accommodation if they are working two shifts out of one base or if they arrive late. They are the sorts of thing we are all the time trying to improve upon. If you can imagine a cyclone or a flood, you get a lot of events that occur that you can never foresee and therefore it is very important the individual takes dual responsibility for fatigue.

Senator O’BRIEN —Is there a process where your line managers are kept up to date on opportunities for crew to take advantage of those things? How does it work?

Mr Buchanan —The line managers are involved in all the safety and improvement actions. So if there are safety reports or other feedback coming in they will be involved in that. The line manager involved is also the first point of call if a crew member is fatigued or if a crew member does want to take some time off or whatever the particular story might be.

Senator O’BRIEN —There must be certain circumstances where you need someone to work extra time and there is a view of the employee that they do not feel they are up to it, and them not feeling up to it means you are going to have to cancel a flight because you do not have anyone else. What instruction do you give your line managers about that sort of conflict, because clearly that is where a conflict is going to occur if somebody is pleading for a staff member to do a job and the staff member is saying, ‘I really don’t feel up to it.’

Mr Buchanan —You do get difficult situations. The recent events highlighted that where we were trying to get customers out of a particular port. We had recent incidents where we were trying to get aircraft out of—

Senator O’BRIEN —You do not have to tell me about all the difficulties of being delayed. I have experienced most of them in my time. I have been told a lot of stories too about difficulties in getting crews for particular aircraft when time limits have expired. I understand that. Sorry for interrupting; I just thought I should just put that on the record.

Mr Joyce —I think it is a thing across the group from everybody’s point of view is we say: nothing is more important than safety. We make that very clear. We have had roadshows where we have gone around to every employee, QantasLink and Jetstar and we say, ‘You have to put safety first,’ So if somebody says that they are tired, they are not able to operate a sector, that is a clear message to the organisation. You accept that, and the operation does not occur because we are not going to have a flight where people are operating inappropriately. If there was ever an example of a manager that puts somebody under pressure on flight sectors, we could come down on that because that is not us taking safety as a top priority, and that is the mantra across the entire organisation.

Senator O’BRIEN —Can you tell me what a tag flight is?

Mr Buchanan —A tag flight is a flight that extends often from an international service. An aircraft may arrive, for instance into Gold Coast, Cairns or Darwin, and then will continue on that international flight into another port. That is often what is referred to as a tag flight.

Senator O’BRIEN —So it is a domestic leg and an international leg at the same time.

Mr Buchanan —Technically, it can be flown as an international or domestic leg but, as far as what we are trying to do from a customer perspective is, it is a through flight that stops in a port is the best way to think about it; it has a stopover.

Senator O’BRIEN —It is a flight, presumably, where you have got an aircraft crewed from an international destination that comes into, say, Darwin, and then, if you are going to continue as a domestic flight, everyone will go through Immigration and Customs in Darwin and then would check in for the next leg. That is the tag leg, is it?

Mr Buchanan —Sometimes they will clear Immigration and Customs; sometimes they will go straight through. It depends on the aircraft patterning. It depends on the other end, but effectively the customers are going through, so Singapore to Melbourne, or Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, through to Sydney are classed as examples of those sectors.

Senator O’BRIEN —I understand you have engaged cabin staff in both Singapore and Bangkok.

Mr Buchanan —That is correct.

Senator O’BRIEN —And they fly some of those legs, including the tag legs.

Mr Buchanan —The international tag legs the crew will fly and they may be operated as domestic services but as international flights.

Senator O’BRIEN —I could book onto one of those flights in Darwin, for example, onto a particular tag flight to travel to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne or wherever it was going.

Mr Buchanan —Like you could in Sydney and go to Melbourne on a variety of different services.

Senator O’BRIEN —Presumably, for me to get onto the plane, I would not have to go through Customs at the other end. So the other passengers would have gone through Customs in Darwin.

Mr Buchanan —That is correct.

Senator O’BRIEN —That would be the same for the crew?

Mr Buchanan —It depends on the terminals they operate out of. You would have seen stickers in Sydney—for instance, if you operate out of the international terminal as a domestic passenger, they give you a special sticker.

Senator O’BRIEN —I have not done that. I have not had one of those stickers.

Mr Buchanan —There is a variety of different terminals and different immigration requirements, and we try to best meet the airport and government immigration requirements at the particular ports.

Senator O’BRIEN —So those crew would continue. What length of flight are we talking about, say, from Ho Chi Minh city extending into a tag flight in Australia?

Mr Buchanan —It would be four to 4½ hours out of Saigon to Darwin and it might be another four to five hours on the tag flight.

Senator O’BRIEN —Clearly, it fits within the time limitations of the agreement. Are the time limitations of staff engaged in those international ports different from the domestically engaged Jetstar cabin crew?

Mr Buchanan —There is a variety of different arrangements in place on the Australian domestic arrangements. Some of the international crew will align with some of the Australian international crew, but the domestic crew have different agreements and different time limitations and how they work in Australia.

Senator O’BRIEN —So, obviously, the international crew overnight at the end of the destination and then go back on a subsequent flight?

Mr Buchanan —Yes. They will overnight in Melbourne or Sydney and then may work another international sector. They stay on the international network and eventually will end up back in Bangkok or Singapore.

Senator O’BRIEN —Do you know if your competitors follow the same practice?

Mr Buchanan —Our competitors operating out of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Jakarta and Vietnam are definitely operating on the same basis.

Senator O’BRIEN —They are the other international carriers which come into Australia?

Mr Buchanan —Yes. I do not think there are any other Australian carriers with hubs in Darwin or as big a presence in Asia as what we have.

Senator O’BRIEN —Obviously the other one would be Virgin. I am not sure about Tiger.

Senator XENOPHON —There used to be based in Darwin.

Mr Buchanan —They closed their Darwin operations.

Senator O’BRIEN —I have been forward a copy of what purports to be a terms of engagement for Singapore-based staff. It is a fairly low salary level compared to Australian salaries so it must be advantageous for Jetstar to use those staff on the domestic leg.

Mr Buchanan —There is a lot of movement of staff around the network but when we started in 2004 Jetstar had 100 per cent of its business in the domestic network and 100 per cent of our staff were Australian. Now 66 per cent of our business is outside the Australian domestic market and we still employed two-thirds of the staff inside Australia. So you can see that for Jetstar versus a loss of our competitors in Asia we are still employing and creating a lot more jobs in Australia even though a lot of our growth is in Asia. As we grow in Asia, we are absolutely recruiting people in Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. In all those markets we are building a strong presence. You will hear a lot of talk about the fringe—Perth to Singapore or Darwin to Singapore—but a lot of the growth in Asia is for flying in Asia. We have now started seven destinations in China, four in mainland China in the last 12 months. We fly domestically in Vietnam. We fly Singapore to Japan. We now fly a lot of different network structures. We have had compound growth in Singapore of 50 per cent and 40 per cent over the last two years respectively. That has given us huge growth in that marketplace and we have recruited a lot more people in Singapore to fund flying in that marketplace. Our cost structure in those markets and our employment agreements in those markets are merely competitive with other operators in those markets.

Senator O’BRIEN —So salary levels and conditions of employment are comparable with other operators in the same market?

Mr Buchanan —That is correct. I think we provided in answers to some questions on notice the salary levels in Singapore and Australia.

Senator O’BRIEN —Which question was that?

Mr Buchanan —From Senator Milne, question 3, we provided on notice an indicative salary range for a Singapore-based crew member would be in the order of $36,000 to $46,000 and an indicative salary for an Australian-based cabin crew member would be in the order of A$50,000 to A$69,000.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Is that a labour disadvantage of two to one? I do not know how they do it internationally but in the year 2000, for instance—this is one of the reasons America is technically insolvent—America had a 25 to one labour disadvantage against China. They could not compete. What is the worst labour disadvantage you work with?

Mr Buchanan —I would not know that off the top of my head. At the end of the day, you have to be competitive in each of the local markets to recruit cabin crew and pilots. Pilots tend to be more of an international market than the cabin crew and the salary levels are commensurate with the local market levels. You cannot grow by the amount we are growing by without having attractive, competitive salaries to attract the right people into the business, and that is what we base our business on.

Senator O’BRIEN —Thanks for drawing my attention to that. The agreement I have seen has raw numbers, which I have not been able to work up to take into account other things. Obviously the bases are not insignificantly lower than those figures, but that is typical, isn’t it? That is the average and is not atypical?

Mr Buchanan —Yes. The Bangkok salaries are very similar to the Singapore salaries. The salaries inside Vietnam are substantially less, as you can imagine, for domestic flying inside Vietnam, but they are all commensurate with local market levels.

Senator O’BRIEN —Is any special dispensation required for international crew to operate on the domestic tag leg?

Mr Buchanan —I am unaware of any special dispensation.

Senator O’BRIEN —Just for completeness, I thought I would ask that question.

CHAIR —Did you want to go to stick-shake?

Senator O’BRIEN —Yes. Given the time—

CHAIR —I would be keen to have you ask about stick-shake, because obviously that is something we need to get their heads around.

Senator O’BRIEN —Do you want to talk about stick-shake on the record or off the record?

Mr Joyce —We are comfortable. What would you prefer?

Senator O’BRIEN —We always prefer evidence on the record, but I am conscious that at some stage you might be asking us that, so I thought I would start with that question.

Mr Joyce —If we get into some territory that we think is a problem, we could go off the record.

Senator O’BRIEN —Mr Davey, perhaps you could give us the benefit of your views about stick-shake incidents that have been experienced in your Q400 fleet.

Mr Joyce —Could I open on that and then get Mark to come in? We have been very focused on the stick-shaker issue that has occurred on the QantasLink fleet. What Mark will go through is that there are a number of different categories of stick-shakers that you can classify them into. The ones that would have the safety concern are the low-velocity, low energy, stick-shaker events, of which we, since 2008, have had four. We had three in a batch in 2008 and one a year later. They are the ones that are really the focus. We are happy to go through the other ones and why they are not a concern.

CHAIR —The one that came into Moree—

Mr Joyce —Yes—again, that was not a low-energy stick-shaker issue. That falls into one of the other categories. We have environmental issues and speed reference issues that occur. We are happy to explain them, but we think the focus should be on the low-energy ones where the issue has been.

Senator O’BRIEN —Mr Joyce, I fly on Q400s regularly, so I am very interested in whatever you can tell me about them.

Mr Joyce —There are a lot of protections. What we are talking about are the protections in place before you get to a stall issue with the aircraft. In all of these cases we have seen that we have not penetrated all of the protections. What we have seen is that the recovery has been good for the QantasLink pilots and they have recovered the situation. I will ask Mark to take you through the different levels of protection that take place, the low-energy stick-shaker events and then the activities that we have put in place since we identified the first one and how we are working through these issues to try and eliminate the events completely.

Mr Davey —In relation to the defences that Alan was just mentioning, there are six levels of defence that an error has to penetrate prior to the aircraft stalling. Those six levels of defence are company policy and procedures that guard against low-speed events. We have policies and procedures in place and, basically, crew coordination procedures, where pilots alert each other if the aircraft speed should get below certain parameters. We have initial and recurrent training programs that provide skills to pilots to avoid low-speed events. We have stick shaker devices in the aircraft; the stick shaker actually vibrates when the aircraft reaches a predetermined speed or angle of attack prior to the stall. We have documented stick shaker recovery procedures that pilots are trained to conduct. There are stick pusher devices in the aircraft that activate just prior to the stall to lower the aircraft’s angle of attack and we have stick pusher recovery procedures that we train pilots to conduct.

In relation to the actual events, we have had environmental events. Environmental events are where a momentary stick shaker happens, usually due to turbulence or windshear, and the event comes and goes before the pilot can really take any action. It is usually less than one second and it is usually caused by a momentary displacement of the alpha vanes—they are vanes on the front of the aircraft that measure the aircrafts angle of attack—so, if the aeroplane experiences moderate to severe turbulence, the alpha vane may be displaced and you may get a momentary stick shake. The other category stick shakers that we have experienced are stick shakers as a result of what we call the ‘increased reference speed switch’ being inadvertently left on when it should have been turned off.

Senator O’BRIEN —I will understand that when I read the Hansard?

—Sure. It gets a little bit complicated. When an aircraft is flying in icing conditions and it accumulates ice on the wings, the speed at which the aeroplane will stall increases. In fact, if it has no protection, the stall could occur before the stick shaker or stick pusher activates. So, in the Dash 8 aircraft, we have a system where we actually bias the stick shaker and stick pusher speeds—that is, we actually increase them. So we bias them up—in the Q400 aircraft 20 knots, in the Q300 10 knots—so that when the aeroplane is in icing conditions, there is ice on the wings, and as a result the stall speed has increased, those systems will activate before the aircraft stalls. The events that we have had have not been in icing conditions; they have been events where the aircraft has been in icing conditions and has exited icing conditions—so it is in clear air and there has been no ice on the aircraft—but the pilots have forgotten to switch off the increased reference speed switch and the stick shaker is activated. But it is important to understand that in these events the actual aircraft speed has been nowhere near the stalling speed of the aeroplane. That is because the system has been biased upwards and there has been no ice on the aircraft.

CHAIR —Is there a difference in mode and training requirements in that area between a Dash 8 and a 400?

Mr Davey —The 300 and the 400 have the same system.

Senator XENOPHON —Not the Dash 8 but the earlier—they are all identical in terms of how you deal with shaker?

Mr Davey —No, they are not. On the earlier model Dash 8s the speed bias is activated by turning the propeller de-ice on, and in the later model Dash 8s the speed bias is activated through a switch called the ‘increase reference speed switch’.

CHAIR —So when you are converting from one plane to the other in training you are satisfied there is ample instruction to pilots making the conversion?


Mr Davey —In response to these events we have obviously investigated them to understand their causation. We have implemented and are implementing crew coordination procedures and hard checklist items to ensure that the pilots turn the increased reference switch off when it needs to be off and that they do not inadvertently leave it on after exiting icing conditions.

Senator O’BRIEN —Regarding the training, are pilots who are operating the Q400 all given their training in the Q400 or are people learning in the Dash 300s and then applying it to—

Mr Davey —Their training path is usually via the Dash 8-300, then on to the 400.

Mr Joyce —If we go to the low-energy events, with the safety events, they were all on the Q300s, not on the Q400s as well. So it was on that aircraft and that has been in the fleet the longest.

CHAIR —My Joyce, I think you said earlier that you had confirmed that it is not a design fault.

Mr Joyce —The Q300 issue we have had is not a design fault. As Mark said, on the VREF switch there is a procedure that is designed for that. There is a procedure, which we are reinforcing, for the pilots to actually switch that switch off at the appropriate times. That has given us a number of the stick shaker issues that have occurred in the 15 that I think have been quoted previously. We are really focusing again on the four safety issues, which are the low-speed ones, and there is a whole series of different reasons, not related, I think it is fair to say, Mark, to any design issues on the aircraft. A number of different audits have taken place on this. It is worthwhile talking about them.

Mr Davey —In relation to the four low-speed events, three in 2008 and one in mid-2010, obviously we have investigated those events. We have conducted end-to-end reviews of our recruitment, training programs and our operating procedures. We have had external subject matter experts involved in those reviews. We are at the back end of implementing the procedural changes associated with those reviews. In addition to that, though, as part of that process last year we invited Bombardier, the aircraft manufacturer, to come in and conduct an audit of our crew operating procedures and our training programs. That audit involved Bombardier reviewing all of our manual suite that details our crew operating procedures, observing pilots flying aircraft on line operational flights and observing our recurrent and initial training sessions in the simulator.

CHAIR —That begs the question: is there anything peculiar about the regular pattern of these things, as opposed to elsewhere around the world, where the same aircraft are flown? Is this happening all around the world?

Mr Davey —Yes, it is. It has happened—

CHAIR —That would almost lead you to believe that it was something to do with the aeroplane.

Mr Joyce —I think there are a few things in what IATA is reporting. We see some of the stick shaker events, if you want to call them that, as being environmental ones as an example. They occur on the Boeing fleet today, so we get them on our jet aircraft. Peter, it is worthwhile talking about that.

Mr Wilson —The environmental ones that Mark mentioned earlier generally result from turbulence and windshear. You get a momentary blurp on the stick shaker. It is not an uncommon occurrence. On the 747-400 fleet over the past 12 months we incurred about 40, I think. I am not sure of the number but the point is that it is not an uncommon occurrence as a result of these things. And as Mark also indicated the aircraft is not near stalling. It is momentary thing that the pilot has no time to react to whatsoever.

Mr Joyce —Our belief is that on the four safety issues—I will come back to another one which could get into the mix—there are procedural issues and attention issues. As Mark has been going through, we have changed them. We have done a whole series of different activities starting when the first three occurred. There was a marked difference after those first three occurred in a batch. We had a long period with big improvement in the flight data information that showed these techniques were working. Then we had this one issue occurring later. We have since gone back in and done a whole series of more comprehensive reviews on it to try to figure out if we had missed something or if there were something else we needed to do. It may be in special events around that one issue, but there are various things that we then put in place to try to make sure we eliminated it going forward. Those procedure changes, as Mark says, are going through the system as we speak.

CHAIR —Do you think that is going to alter the pattern of the regularity of the event?

Mr Joyce —I think so. It already reduced after that batch of three. A year later we only had one. We want to eliminate them completely. We believe that the process we are putting in place is the process designed to do that. There is another set of stick-shaker issues which people could be referring to. I think Bombardier called them nuisance events. They are under Q300 issues. I might get Mark to explain them and how they work. But these, again, are not safety issues. They are just activities that occur on the Q300 aircraft.

CHAIR —All around the world?

Mr Joyce —All around the world on all operators.

Mr Davey —On the 300 aircraft only we have had a number of what Bombardier technically refer to as nuisance events. These events usually occur during cruise or descent—in other words, when the aircraft is at high speed and nowhere near the stalling speed. The events usually last less than one second and only one control column momentarily shakes. All operators around the world are experiencing these. Transport Canada is aware of the events and they are also working with Bombardier to identify a fix. Bombardier has provided us a letter which tells us that these events are not safety flight related and, in fact, Bombardier recently conducted a risk assessment and the representatives in that risk assessment were Transport Canada designated airworthiness delegates. The risk associated with these events was rated as low.

CHAIR —Who paid for that assessment?

Mr Davey —It was convened by Bombardier.

CHAIR —Of course, you are only as independent as the person who pays you.

Mr Davey —I think it is important to understand that at that risk assessment there were Transport Canada designated airworthiness delegates.

Mr Joyce —I repeat what Mark said. We do not see these as safety issues. They occur typically in cruise. They occur for brief seconds. They are not indicating any stall issue that is going to occur on the aircraft. We have not rested there, because we have been leading the way with Bombardier for some time now for them to remove these spurious issues that are occurring.

CHAIR —But are the low-speed events, which are a safety issue, pilot error?

Mr Davey —Yes, they are. I think the important thing to understand there is that we have put a huge amount of effort into analysing why these events have occurred and into understanding the causation of the events. We are addressing that causation with training, recruitment and pilot standard operating procedures.

CHAIR —Pardon my ignorance, but do you simulate these in a simulator?

Mr Davey —Yes, we do. As a result of these events we have increased our frequency of stick shaker recovery training, but we have also in the simulator events included what we call threats. That is, we create events where pilots may become distracted and lose situational awareness of their speed. What that is designed to do is allow us to give training to pilots to give them better situational awareness, better monitoring skills and better speed awareness.

Mr Joyce —To recap: we are not being complacent. We are calling in Bombardier. We had a recent big audit take place with Deloitte where a whole series of safety experts from around the world found that the actions that we had in place subsequent to these events were good, sufficient and addressed the problem. So the way Qantas has gone about identifying the problem, finding the root cause of it and putting actions into place to address it, from all the experts we have called upon, is correct. The other thing is that, as Mark pointed out, there are still a whole series of protections before this becomes a stall event. We still have protections within it, and in all of these cases the pilots did the appropriate stall recovery before we got there.

CHAIR —So would it be fair to say—I would be interested in knowing whether you simulate the distraction of the pilots so you can enable the stick-shaker event to surprise him—it is due simply to distraction?

Mr Davey —We do not actually distract the pilots to lead them into a stick-shaker event. We provide distractions which allow us to have confidence in the pilots. One of the things we identified as one of the contributing factors to these events was that pilots were distracted by something. As a result of that, we put distractions in the simulator events to give us confidence that the pilot group is managing and appropriately prioritising their tasks in the cockpit so they do not get distracted and so they do not lose awareness of the aircraft speed.

Senator XENOPHON —For the sake of completeness—you may want to take some of these on notice, because there are time constraints—are the four cadets being employed on a part-time basis? If so, why is that? Can you reassure the committee that the four cadets will not have their future employment prospects harmed in any way as a result of the fact that this is something that has come under the scrutiny of the committee?

Mr Buchanan —Let me start with the second point. I can absolutely guarantee that anyone who wants to talk about safety in any of these sorts of formats, whether it be the ATSB, CASA or a Senate hearing, would never be in any way jeopardised or have their career in any way harmed.

Senator XENOPHON —These cadets have not come to it. It was via the union that these things were brought. Let’s make that clear.

Mr Buchanan —There is no concern. We have no issue with that whatsoever. The pilots are all employed on a similar contract to how we employ pilots around the region. They are all paid hourly. The New Zealand pilots—remember when we got into discussions around salaries—are paid $70 an hour. Then what we do is have a minimum guaranteed floor of hours that they get. The Australian pilots are the same. The cadets are paid $96 an hour.

Senator XENOPHON —Secondly, what was the result for the crew of that go-around incident in Singapore where the allegation was that the captain was using or had a mobile phone in his hand something that? You may want to take that on notice. What Senator Heffernan raised initially was that the wheels were not down when they should have been down and it was a go around. Was there any administrative action taken in respect of the captain? Was the first officer praised for reporting the issue? Did the first officer return immediately to flying duty? I do not mind if that is on notice.

Mr Buchanan —I am happy to take that on notice. I would also say that that particular incident is an active investigation of the ATSB, so I would not want to prejudice it.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure. But in so far as you can without prejudicing any inquiry. Finally—this is from a partner of a Jetstar cabin attendant—there is an assertion made. I do not need to give you the email; I just want to put a couple things that were put to me. It says the sign-on time before flights has been reduced to fit in with longer duty periods. Has the sign-on time for cabin crew changed?

Mr Buchanan —Not that I am aware of. But I am happy to take that on notice and—

Senator XENOPHON —Sure. The other issue is that there is an assertion that a company memo was sent that said that cabin managers are no longer allowed to stand down staff if they feel that they do not have the required knowledge during the pre-flight briefing. You can either take that on notice or clarify that now.

Mr Buchanan —I am happy to take that on notice, but my understanding of the way that process works is that if the cabin manager has a concern they always talk to the captain and it is the captain who has responsibility for the safety of the aircraft who ultimately makes the call on standing down crew.

Senator XENOPHON —If you could you just clarify whether the cabin manager has ever had that authority and whether there has been any change to that I think that would satisfy that query.

Mr Buchanan —Okay.

CHAIR —Senator O’Brien, here is your last chance.

Senator O’BRIEN —I think I am satisfied on the basis that you are saying that the four stick shaker events which were actual safety issues were on the Dash 300. I think you are telling us that you are satisfied that the issues that may have contributed to those events have been dealt with as far as is possible through your training systems with both 300 and 400 pilots.

Mr Davey —That is correct.

Senator O’BRIEN —And systems have been incorporated into your simulator program to equip the pilots to deal with those events on a continuing basis.

Mr Davey —That is correct.

CHAIR —On behalf of the committee and the travelling public, I will just say that we are very grateful to Qantas and Jetstar for the way you have attended this inquiry and you have my sincere thanks.

Proceedings suspended from 11.16 am to 11.31 am