• AAAA CEO Phil Hurst testifies to the Senate RRAT committee on 7 September 2021. (still from parliament house feed)
    AAAA CEO Phil Hurst testifies to the Senate RRAT committee on 7 September 2021. (still from parliament house feed)

Aerial Application Assocation of Australia (AAAA) CEO Phil Hurst has called for cultural and structural change at CASA, pointing to earlier inquiry recommendations as evidence of the need.

Hurst made the comments yesterday whilst giving evidence to Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) References Committee inquiry into general aviation, which was held via video link.

"We think we've got to reform CASA to make it efficient and regulation general aviation in sensible manner," he said, "and that includes a major independent and cultural review of CASA, a major structural change within CASA to create a general aviation division, and a create an independent industry-based taskforce to rewrite the rulesets that are terribly impacting on GA at the moment.

"It's not just our industry [aerial application] that's struggling with this, the general aviation industry in the United Kingdom has gone down the same path; they've just produced a general aviation roadmap, and interesting in that the issues that have been canvassed and the recommendations are very similar to that which the GAAN [General Aviation Advisory Network] has already done."

Inquiry chair Senator Susan McDonald said she was not convinced review of CASA's culture was the right thing at the moment given that Director of Aviation Safety Pip Spence and CASA Chairman Mark Binskin had only just started in their new roles.

"We have a new DAS and we have a new Chairman of the Board at CASA," she said. "They're a couple of months into the job and I am reluctant to recommend a cultural review of CASA in the same way that Airservices has just gone through or that the aviation regulator in New Zealand has just gone through, because I think the new CEO should be given the opportunity to get out a big broom and sweep away the old cultural approaches and attitudes.

"I think all of the industry is watching carefully to see that that happens."

However, Hurst said he felt CASA needed major reforms, citing several past inquiries that had recommended cultural change at the regulator.

"The new DAS put out a newsletter talking about minimalistic change being required in CASA," he pointed, "and I think it needs to be challenged head-on. CASA is beyond minimalistic change. There have been consistent inquiries and reviews of CASA for decades and the recommendations have been very consistent.

"They go to the heart of reforming CASA and largely have not been implemented."

Hurst went on to state that the UK Civil Aviation Authority had undergone reform to create a general aviation champion within their structure, and that a similar thing in Australia would help the cultural issue in CASA if it focused on simple rules for simple operations.

McDonald said she felt that CASA under the new DAS and Chairman should be given the chance to show they are interested in prioritising the success of the industry over "just claiming safety" on everything.

The RRAT inquiry is scheduled to hold several more public hearings between now and December when the final report is due to be tabled.

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