• AOPA CEO Ben Morgan at Ausfly 2019. (Steve Hitchen)
    AOPA CEO Ben Morgan at Ausfly 2019. (Steve Hitchen)

AOPA Australia CEO Ben Morgan has taken the opportunity afforded by the impending weight limit increase for RAAus to accuse CASA of playing games with general aviation.

The new limit, expected to be published on 2 December, will mean that RAAus will be able to administer aircraft with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 760 kg rather than the 600-kg limit they are restricted to now.

However, CASA has retained a minimum stall speed for the aircraft of 45 knots, which eliminates many aircraft and which some manufacturers are saying will be almost impossible to meet.

Despite CASA having active technical working groups (TWG) on the stall speed and self-certfied medical issue, Morgan believes that real reforms won't happen until CASA stops defining pilot privileges based on MTOW.

"I think what every RAAus pilot in Australia needs to see is exactly what AOPA has been banging-on about now for the six years I've been with them, which is [CASA] plays games with us.

"Instead of recognising that take-off weight has nothing to do with a pilot's competency to fly, CASA goes and provides an arbitrary weight limit increase, but they leave the stall speeds alone.

"They're playing games with the RAAus pilots as much as they play games with the general aviation pilots, and I think what's important for the RAAus pilot community to see is that they are not immune to the same types of games that end up damaging the aviation industry.

"[RAAus pilots] are part of the same aviation eco-system in which we are all being handcuffed by people imposing restrictions on us that should not exist."

RAAus has indicated that they are disappointed that the CAO 95.55 exemptions due for release on 2 December would not enable a higher stall speed, but is providing technical advise through the TWG.

Although broadly supporting the new MTOW limits, Morgan says that the 760-kg weight and self-certfied medicals form two pillars that CASA is using to divide the general aviation community.

"If you look at CASA's approach regarding pilot medicals and its arbitrary allocation of weights, it is a complete fallacy; it's the big lie," he told Australian Flying.

"The big lie is that we as pilots need to be told how heavy our aeroplanes need be, we as pilots need to be told we have to go through either extremely ridiculous over-the-top and cost-laden processes to be determined fit to fly, or you can have self-certification.

"The whole thing is a nonsense."

Morgan cited the experiences of other countries where he says dropping the Class 2 medical requirements has not brought about a decrease in aviation safety.

"The UK and the USA, and other leading nations around the world have all years ago reformed their systems and recognised that in order to open up aviation and get aviation moving right across the spectrum, not just for one group, but for the entire aviation industry, you have to adopt a self-certification medical standard and you have to allow people to fly aeroplanes of choice," he said.

"The safety data coming out of the US right now is showing that self-certification medicals have not resulted in any increase in accident or fatalities full-stop. It just hasn't happened."

The USA's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced the BasicMED system in 2017, which enabled pilots to fly aircraft that are certified to carry no more than five passengers and with an MTOW of up to 2721 kg on a self-certified medical standard, among other conditions.

"What I am looking forward to now is the next set of excuses from CASA as to why it can't fix the system; why it can't introduce self-certification medicals," Morgan said. "We need only to reflect back to the senate inquiries of the past years when we've seen CASA representatives stand there hand-on-heart and tell the government that we don't allow self-certification medicals because aircraft that weigh more than 600 kg pose a higher risk.

"Clearly these aircraft don't pose a risk. We know that's the case, we know that's the big lie."

Morgan also issued a call to every RAAus pilot to get behind the efforts of AOPA Australia in the hope that one day they will be able to train to fly aircraft of even greater MTOWs than 760 kg on a self-certified medical.

A CASA spokesperson said the regulator was bewildered with Morgan's comments and pointed out that AOPA representatives are on the TWGs for both the maximum stall speed for RAAus and the self-certified medical (Class 5) for GA.

"Consultation on the development of a new class of self-declared medicals for general aviation pilots is underway," the spokesperson said.

"A change to the maximum take-off weight for sport and recreational aircraft has been announced and consultation on the associated stall speed has begun.

"These issues and others are being progressed through technical working groups made up of a cross-section of people from the relevant aviation sectors. This work is being undertaken as soon as practical.

"Once details of the proposed changes are settled through the technical working group process, CASA will give the aviation community the opportunity to have their say through the normal broad consultation process.

"In addition to maintaining safety, CASA is committed to cutting regulatory red tape where changes do not have an adverse effect on safety and can be applied in a fair and equitable manner.

"AOPA is aware of the work currently being undertaken and members of the organisation are contributing to the technical working groups.  We thank these people for their time and expertise.

"CASA is working closely with RA-AUS to have issues settled early in 2022.  We thank RAAus for their constructive approach to the development of these reforms."

comments powered by Disqus