• EASA DTOs can train to only PPL standard using single-engined aircraft. (Sonaca)
    EASA DTOs can train to only PPL standard using single-engined aircraft. (Sonaca)

Despite the aviation community pushing for CASA to adopt the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) as a basis for the reform of Australian flight rules, the regulator in the mid 2000s instead committed us to mirror the rule set of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

But it seems in some cases, the mirror is not giving a totally accurate reflection, and EASA Part-DTO is one regulation that hasn't yet made it into the Australian CASRs.

EASA Part-DTO: imagine a flying school that doesn't need an Air Operator's Certificate or a Part 141/142 approval to operate, but self-declares its compliance in a manner similar to manufacturers "certifying" their own light sport aircraft. They are known as Declared Training Organisations, and they're designed to best fit the training needs of RPC, RPL and PPL holders by slashing compliance red tape to the bare bones.

But they're restricted; DTOs can teach only on single-engined aeroplanes, gliders and balloons to the VFR and NVFR syllabuses. They can also teach aerobatics. Training for all other disciplines by the strict EASA standard would need to be done at a Part 141/142 school.

A DTO needs no approval needed from the regulator. A representative of the organisation submits a declaration that the confirms the school has a safety policy with which it complies, lists the courses provided and identifies the aircraft to be used, the operational sites and the management team.

Most critically, a DTO has no need for an operations manual. Even though CASA would have oversight, they would not perform audits on a DTO.

The cost of RPC and ab-initio training would be significantly lower that it is under the current paradigm, which some campaigners believe would remove a significant barrier to new entrants and revitalise flight training at aero clubs and in the regions.

But not everyone in the GA community is on board with the idea.

Sources within the flight training community are divided over the concept. Some have told Australian Flying that the idea has merit, whilst others are concerned the DTO concept could give rise to "cowboy" operations.

Among the positives raised are ease of entry for new schools and lower establishment costs. Among the negatives are fears that this could lead to a lowering of standards and prove to be under-regulation.

Fears were also raised that CASR Part 141 schools–which train the majority of RPL and PPLs–would be deprived of significant base income, whilst being unable to convert to a DTO themselves in order to maintain the ability to do multi-engine and IFR training.

CASA has told Australian Flying that introducing the DTO rules is not under current consideration, but a project could be started if a proponent came forward.

"EASA does have a different structure to manage some licensing schemes called a DTO," a CASA spokesperson has said.  "While this is not currently the Australian model, proponents of this scheme can provide information and supporting documents to CASA for consideration.

"Alternatively, this topic could be referred to the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel to see if there is broader industry support."

With the flight training community holding reservations about the scheme, that broader industry support may prove difficult to achieve.

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