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ATSB AVGAS contamination report.

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30 March 2001 A44/2001


The Federal Government will swiftly consider the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s recommendations on aviation gasoline contamination, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said today.

In January 2000, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) grounded 3,100 general aviation aircraft after it was found that aviation gasoline (avgas) produced by the Mobil Altona refinery was contaminated with a production additive, ethylene diamine. Following discussions with the Government, Mobil has so far paid $21.5 million in compensation to 1400 claimants.

"The ATSB has pointed out that the two international standards for the quality of avgas are inadequate, partly because they are not comprehensive. The standards are set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence.

"I will be writing to my counterparts in the United States and Britain to propose an overhaul of the international standards. I am pleased to note that the American Society for Testing and Materials has already started re-examining the standard.

"The ATSB also noted that there was no real regulatory oversight of the production of aviation fuel. CASA’s predecessor, the Civil Aviation Authority, stopped monitoring fuel quality in 1991. There are a number of other Federal and state regulatory agencies with  roles in this area, however there is no single agency with the comprehensive responsibility for ensuring that appropriate standards are met.

"I have tasked my department with convening an urgent meeting of these regulatory agencies to consider their roles in regulating the quality of aviation fuel and to make recommendations to the Federal and state governments.

"It must be understood that large scale fuel contamination problems are extremely rare. The avgas contamination in Australia was unprecedented. Air safety regulators throughout the world will be studying our experiences and the ATSB report closely. 

"The ATSB report comments that there was not a single injury or serious accident caused by the fuel contamination incident. CASA took the right decision when it grounded the aircraft, despite the strong criticism from the industry. The regulator’s decisive action prevented an engineering and financial problem from becoming a human tragedy,” Mr Anderson said.

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin (02) 6277 7680 or (0419) 233 989

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2000 Last updated:  Monday, 02 April 2001