General aviation advocates are concerned that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has sent the new CASR Part 135 to rulemaking without including any maintenance requirements.
Part 135 covers air transport operations for small aircraft, and effectively applies regulation for heavy Regular Public Transport (RPT) to charter operations.
With the announcement in July that CASA will develop new GA-specific rules, operators and maintenance engineers are waiting to see if these new, less onerous, regulations can be applied to Part 135 operations as they are in the USA.
According to Ken Cannane, Executive Director of the Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA), sending Part 135 to rulemaking without any maintenance requirements has left the industry in the dark.
"When you go down the line of adopting one direction or the other, it has to be adopted in a total format," he told Australian Flying. "We're doing maintenance rules for general aviation, which interlink closely with the CASR Part 91 sub-part, which covers requirements of the USA.
"As for Part 135, CASA hasn't given any indication whether it's going to be the FAR sub-section of 135. Operators need to understand the maintenance requirements, not just maintenance people.
"[CASA] needs to bring it together into a single platform. I was under the assumption that Part 135 would include the maintenance requirements for a Part 135 operator!
"It's a foolish thing we've done. Years ago we included a sub-part in every part, so every operator knew what was going to be applied within that new regulation.
"If you follow the FAR system, it does have a separate sub-part in every FAR operational rule which lays out the maintenance rules for that standard of operation."
Inquiries to CASA about which maintenance regime will be applied have not yielded any answers, which Cananne believes is not helpful to companies operating under Part 135 in the future.
"All they've said is 'we'll look at it after we get the maintenance rules in based on the FAR system for general aviation'," Cannane says. "It's a never-never situation that leaves people not knowing in which direction they're trying to head. Operators really should know now!"
Other charter operators have told Australian Flying before of fears that Part 135 will apply maintenance rules applicable to heavy RPT, which is likely to come with a greater cost impost than the new GA rules being developed.
In the USA, FAR Part 135 enables aircraft to be maintained using the general aviation rules. It is yet to be seen if CASA will allow that given they have defined all passenger-carrying operations out of GA and into CASR 135.
According to a CASA spokesperson, the maintenance rules have not been included because CASR 135 differs from FAR 135 in that the Australia regulation is operational and therefore doesn't include maintenance.
"The airworthiness/maintenance elements of the program have been split up according to the current operational classifications RPT/charter/aerial work/private," the spokesperson said. "We covered RPT back in 2010 with CASR Parts 42 and 145. Maintenance for charter, aerial work and private is still under CAR.
"The remainder of the airworthiness reg reform program (charter, aerial work and private) has been split into two projects, one to cover the private and aerial work sectors, and a second to cover charter."