• Senator Barry O'Sullivan, Chair of the RRAT Legislation Committee. (still from APH feed.)
    Senator Barry O'Sullivan, Chair of the RRAT Legislation Committee. (still from APH feed.)

The Senate Standing Committee on Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport (RRAT) last Monday took evidence from the general aviation industry on the subject of self-administered aviation.

Prompted by a meeting between several senators and representatives of AOPA Australia and the Australian General Aviation Alliance (AGAA) held in Canberra on 27 August, the senate inquiry into the Oversight of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) took evidence from several organisations with a particular focus on the medical reform issue.

Committee members included senators Barry O'Sullivan (Chair), Glenn Sterle, Rex Patrick and Slade Brockman.

Organisations that appeared on Monday were:

  • Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus)
  • AOPA Australia
  • Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA)
  • Australian Warbirds Association Limited (AWAL)
  • Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA)
  • Australian Parachute Federation (APF)
  • Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA)
  • CASA

RAAus, represented by director Tony King and former AOPA director Spencer Ferrier, tabled a statement that came out strongly in support of the self-administered model and did not advocate changes to the medical system as it currently stands.

"Medical certification reform, as a general concept is sound," King read from a prepared statement. "In the case of RAAus, we are satisfied with the medical system, which is working well. There is no safety case for a change concerning Recreational Aviation Australia."

The statement also outlined why RAAus believes self-administration is working very well in the case of recreational aviation.

"Our organisation has demonstrated an impressive safety record, which we see is also steadily improving. At present we have recorded on fatal accident every 100,000 flying hours in the past year.

"This is a record that we attribute to the delegated freedoms granted by CASA and our organisation's response to that delegation, which includes careful, practical management of air safety as well as practical management of aircraft registrations, pilot certification and standards as well as maintenance, manufacturing and construction."

King also warned the senate committee that changing the self-administration regime may result in economic damage to RAAus.

"Many stakeholders in the Recreational Aviation Australia sector have made and continue to make significant investments under the present rules (flight schools, community groups such as aero clubs, maintainers, aircraft owners, pilots and the like). Erosion of that investment by introduction of changes not underpinned by a sound safety case should not occur.

"A recent economic study into the sport aviation sector suggests an industry-wide capital investment exceed[ing] $1 billion. Any change by way of additional administrative costs must take this investment into account."

AOPA Australia CEO Ben Morgan make lengthy statements in support of his organisation's push for self-assessed medicals along the same lines as RAAus, but also stated that he believed CASA had withheld these freedoms in order to disadvantage GA pilots.

According to Morgan, AOPA and AGAA are seeking "universal, fair and equitable medical rights for all pilots."

"We are being denied our rights [to self-assessed medicals] and we are being denied our choice and as a consequence of this provision not being afforded to our community, we are in effect being forced to then go into the private self-administration arena as pilots because we have nowhere else to go," Morgan told the committee. 

"AGAA doesn't understand why we have a regulator that seems set on creating one set of rules for CASA-regulated participants and completely different set of rules for private, self-administration participants, and what we can see in the context of the medical reform process is regulations that have been implemented that are clearly designed to disadvantage general aviation, CASA-regulated pilots."

In a statement tabled, but not read out in the hearing, Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA) president Tony White said that whilst his organisation supported a self-assessed medical system, a double-standard existed.

"CASA has determined that the 'self-certified medical' is safe. We agree.

"Why? If deemed by CASA to be safe for RAAus powered aircraft pilots this should be immediately offered to all CASA controlled private pilots that operate powered aircraft.

"CASA has been allowed to establish a double standard of pilot medicals that 1. financially advantages a privately-owned self-administered organisation, RAAus, 2. disadvantages all other private pilots and organisations supporting those pilots operating powered aircraft with VH registration.

"SAAA is on record as agreeing with the 'self-certified medical'. Unfortunately, CASA continuously evades and hides behind a litany of existing rules and regulations that retain the medical double standard. In fact, in their latest attempt to fix this issue, [they] just compounded the problem with the advent of Class 2 Basic."

CASA CEO and Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, described some of the evidence provided as "cherrypicking" and stated that AOPA Australia had agreed with the new medical standards and signed of on Part 149. However, there was some dispute between Carmody and the senators whether or not documents tabled by CASA actually proved that AOPA Australia had agreed to anything.

The committee is set to meet again in December.

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