The Civil Aviation Safety Authority will abandon the regional oversight model and move to a national structure in an attempt to combat inconsistencies within the regulator.
The changes, which are expected to be implemented on 1 July this year, will result in staff being deployed on a national level and the Certificate Management Team (CMT) concept also abandoned.
CASA is making the changes after constant and regular feedback from the aviation community that regional offices would provide advice and interpretation that was inconsistent with other regions.
Briefing the FlySafe forum in Adelaide last Wednesday, CASA Branch Manager – Regulatory Service and Surveillance Transformation Chris De Luis said that the regional office model had its shortcomings.
"The regional model was based on an office in a particular location and the approach to oversight ... was based on who was in that physical location," De Luis said.
"When you structure yourself by regional office with physical teams ... you tend to get a bit of diversity that comes in over time. You can manage that with strong quality assurance process holding it all together, but it was our view that it was time to review the regional office model."
De Luis stressed that the new structure would not impact much on private pilots, but for organisations such as flying schools, charter operators and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) companies, would deliver improved services in terms of:
- regulatory guidance and interpretation
- pre-application support
- organisational approvals other than medicals and licences
- surveillance activities such as audits and response.
"One of the goals is standardisation," De Luis told the forum. "We've listened to the feedback we've received, and one of the significant pieces of feedback is that you can get different answers from different regional offices.
"Ultimately we expect these changes to result in the provision of a better quality of guidance material, because there is a significant time spent by CASA staff providing advice on what a regulation means, and this has been going through the regional offices on a local level."
One of the most significant changes for operators and businesses is the move away from using CMTs, which were a team of inspectors and experts assigned to manage a particular operator's certificate on nearly all matters.
CMTs would handle both the regulatory services and the surveillance functions, which became a problem for CASA as it tried to maintain a healthy separation between the two.
"We will no longer have the certificate management teams," De Luis said. "In some ways it was good for industry because it provided a one-stop shop; you could go to that individual. What we're doing is trying to deliver our functions in a better way, so the outcome should be better for everyone.
"It will probably cause concerns for some people. As has become apparent through this change process, through some of the variation that existed across the industry and CASA, these things already existed.
"In the short to medium term I expect to see some issues arising, for example, someone may have been talking to one FOI and now they're talking to another one that may say something different. The inconsistencies were probably already there, we just weren't seeing them.
"We believe the outputs will be more effective and efficient, and for the aviation industry, a more level and fairer playing field across the country regardless of where you engage with CASA."
De Luis stressed that the new structure would not see the physical regional offices close and no staff would be relocated to other regions nor made redundant because of the changes. Surveillance teams will remain in place and still perform their functions.
"What we are doing is deploying our staff nationally ... rather than a regional basis. It creates a lot more flexibility and improves organisation and management holistically," he said.
CASA will spend the next few weeks consulting with staff on the impacts of the changes internally and will amend the new structure if it needs to do so.
Operators and businesses can also expect further communication from CASA before 1 July.