• RRAT hearing Chair, Nationals Senator Susan McDonald from Queensland. (still from parlimentary feed0
    RRAT hearing Chair, Nationals Senator Susan McDonald from Queensland. (still from parlimentary feed0

A senate report on the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation into a 2017 Angel Flight crash has made no recommendations directly impacting the ATSB.

Instead the report, which was released late on Friday afternoon, made two recommendations involving the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

The inquiry, conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) with Senator Susan McDonald as chair, was prompted after the ATSB investigation report made recommmendations against Angel Flight's management and procedures, but failed to address the actions of the pilot.

The two recommendations contained in the report were that CASA should remove legislation requiring additional maintenance for aircraft used in community service flights and clarify the term "operating crew" in relation to additional pilots and mentors.

Most notably, the RRAT did not recommend the crash report be withdrawn, nor did it recommend that CASA remove the experience restrictions placed on Angel Flight pilots.

Angel Flight CEO Marjorie Pagani told Australian Flying that the organisation welcomed the recommendations, but thought the RRAT should have made recommendations against the ATSB as well.

"Angel Flight welcomes the two recommendations," Pagani said, "they address two most important issues for us with the CASA instrument and we look forward to prompt implementation of the recommendations."

CASA said today that it had not had time to consider the inquiry outcome given that the report came out late on Friday evening.

"CASA only received the report late on Friday evening immediately before a long weekend," a spokesperson for the regulator said. "We will need to take some time to review the report and consider the recommendations.

"We are however somewhat perplexed that a senate inquiry into the performance of the ATSB somehow results in two recommendations for a completely separate organisation, CASA."

The RRAT committee specifically pointed out that nothing in the report was intended to criticise the ATSB, but expressed concerns that:

  • whilst arriving at the conclusion that Angel Flight pilots are under greater pressures than private pilots on regular private flights, the ATSB relied on feedback given to CASA rather than conduct its own survey of pilots
  • the ATSB drew conclusions that community service flights were a greater safety risk using a dataset that showed only two accidents in a 10-year period
  • the ATSB's conclusions on the perceived pressures were drawn without having data on the number of flights that pilots voluntarily canceled.

" ... it is disappointing that there is no mention of ATSB’s failure to investigate the circumstances leading up to the accident prior to the arrival at Mount Gambier," Pagani said, "and no specific recommendations requiring ATSB to take any action on the serious criticisms of its investigations."

The full RRAT report can be downloaded from the Australian Parliament House website.

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