A university research paper submitted to the Senate Inquiry into general aviation has highlighted several problems with the Australian maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry.
Written jointly by Central Queensland University Associate Professor Dr Anjum Naweed and Dr Kyriakos Kourousis from the University of Limerick in Ireland, the paper examines changes within the sector which are perceived to have reduced safety.
Dr Naweed said the paper, titled Winging It: Key Issues and Perceptions around Regulation and Practice of Aircraft Maintenance in Australian General Aviation, covered a broad spectrum of the general aviation sector.
“It covers operations other than scheduled commercial air transportation such as agricultural aviation, business travel, flight training, medical transport, aerial mapping, aerial law enforcement–lots of ageing planes and financial constraints,” he said.
“Regulation in a general aviation context has a tendency to be less stringent, and we undertook this research to try to understand the changes which are seen to have occurred in the sector, but also to identify the current practical and operational challenges which must be tackled in order to sustain safety going forward."
The paper identified five key themes that presented challenges to the MRO industry in the current regulatory environment:
- Changes to industry and working practices
- Role of the regulator
- Recalibration of underlying values and philosophies
- Work as imagined verses work actually done
- Practical and operational challenges.
Part of the research was a series of interviews with maintenance engineers.
“Improper or inadequate maintenance of aircraft is implicated as an accident precipitating factor, and we wanted to speak directly to maintenance engineers to understand more about the behaviour of the entire system from their perspective,” Dr Naweed said.
The paper outlined key issues including a general decline in training and education, a drift in working practices and an ever-widening power-distance gap between the regulator and those it regulates.
“Issues with auditing and a bureaucratisation were a key issue, where safety was thought to be being bureaucratised, and the relationship with both the regulator and customers were affecting work practice and culture,” he said.
Dr Naweed and Dr Kourousis have said that their paper had also been well-received by the industry with an association of licensed engineers reaching out to them to express their support for the research.
The Senate Standing Committee on Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport (RRAT) inquiry into the general aviation industry is a self-referred inquiry launched in December last year. It is expected to table an interim report in December this year with the final report due in November 2021.
Currently 17 submissions have been made, but there are no plans at the moment to hold public hearings.
The research paper can be downloaded from the senate inquiry webpage.