CASA has today said it will remove the 45-knot stall speed limitation on ASAO-registered aircraft from CAO 95.55 after 80% of respondents to feedback requests said the change would maintain current safety standards.
The stall speed limitation has restricted the ability of aircraft owners to take advantage of the new 760-kg maximum take-off limit to be applied to RAAus' new Group G aircraft, and removing it has been seen as the final hurdle to the new rules being implemented effectively.
Group G is intended to bring GA aircraft into the ASAO fold and will not apply to aircraft with light sport aircraft (LSA) and ultralight approvals.
"The focus of this consultation was on the safety aspects of removing the stall speed limitation from the definition of lightweight aeroplane," CASA states.
"The aim of the proposed changes to CAO 95.55 is to provide greater flexibility to the sport and recreation flying sector, as it will provide for a wider range of aircraft that can now be utilised, some which had been previously excluded.
"While there were a few responses which disagreed with the proposed amendments, overall they were generally accepted. CASA is satisfied that because the change applies only in relation to lightweight aeroplanes for which a certificate of airworthiness is in force and not to light sport aircraft or ultralight aeroplanes, most of the safety concerns identified by the submissions are acceptable and can be managed within the existing CAO 95.55 framework.
"For lightweight aeroplanes, CASA agrees with the responses regarding the need for pilot training to include a broader range of skills. CASA supports greater pilot and organisational responsibility for general competency in relation to the operation of heavier, faster, and more complex aircraft.
"CASA agrees that, with the expanded availability of appropriate training types, the competency standards for pilots of these aircraft should encompass training not possible in the LSA/ultralight group, including the training of instructors in the demonstration of stalls, spin avoidance, and recovery techniques in lightweight aeroplanes to pilot certificate holders where appropriate for the type."
CASA will now amend CAO 95.55 to remove the stall speed limitation and include required competency standards.
The change has been widely supported by the GA community.
"The change will have very little to no impact on our operation," said Sue Woods, Jabiru Aircraft Business Manager. "It is a matter of physics. If the MTOW goes up, the stall speed has to go up. To be able to use the higher weight granted, the 45-knot stall speed limitation must be removed."
Matt Bouttell, CEO of Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus), which stands to benefit from the change the most, said there was "no safety or other justifiable reasons to not progress the removal of a 45-knots stall speed and for the immediate implementation of the proposed policy ...
"Other than when a specific design standard such as CS-VLA limits stall speed within the design standards, it’s unclear to RAAus why CASA would impose such a restriction on RAAus when it does not apply this to other segments of the industry, including its own authorisations such as the Recreational Pilot Licence ... RAAus is of the view that if the RPC is equivalent to the RPL, then RAAus firmly believes that insufficient safety grounds exist to prevent the exact privileges of the RPL from being applied to RPC holders.
"RAAus welcomes the abolishment of this mechanism for differentiating market segments, of which is beyond the remit of CASA per the Civil Aviation Act 1988. RAAus is of the view that this alleviation will stimulate private aviation and provide Australian aviators a choice that is both safe, and likely, more cost effective to safely operate under an ASAO rather than CASAs own system."
However, the feedback showed there was still some resistance to the change, with the strongest objection coming from the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA).
"SAAA is not confident that the proposed amendment to CAO 95.55 is being driven by a safety (technical) agenda, and consequently we question the veracity of the proposal," their feedback as published on the CASA website states.
"The proposed amendment has, as has prior extensions of permissions available to aircraft operating under CAO 95.55, a sense that the amendment is driven by commercial considerations to support a private business – particularly as such extensions are offered on an exclusive basis to a private business and its members.
"This is clearly at the expense of and to the disadvantage of other aviators who own and operate same class aircraft in same airspace in accordance with VH-registered aircraft regulations.
"This undermines confidence in having 'safe skies'. We question the merits of the proposal which opens the door to faster, heavier, higher performance aircraft with generally ever-increasing stall speed, higher wing loading (and hence less forgiving wings / slow speed flight stability), energy and more complex systems unless pilots are adequately trained by adequately qualified (and trained) instructors and aircraft are maintained to adequate standards.
"This is of great concern to SAAA whose priority is to keep its members – and by extension, all aviators, other airspace users, and persons on the ground or water, as safe as is reasonably practical do so.
"It makes it extraordinarily difficult to encourage aviators to do things, beyond those required by the regulations, to keep themselves and others safer when they can be lured away to by attractive less onerous operating conditions available to one sector of GA on an exclusive basis – this is not at all helpful to enhancing safer outcomes."
The full feedback summary and published submissions are on the CASA website.