Queensland Liberal National Party senator, Barry O'Sullivan, has questioned the way the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has handled the restrictions placed on aircraft with Jabiru engines.
After what it says is an unacceptable rate of engine failures compared with other manufacturers, CASA banned aircraft with Jabiru engines from flying over built-up areas as "precautionary limitations."
In Senate Estimate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport in Canberra on Monday, Senator O'Sullivan questioned CASA Director of Aviation Safety Mark Skidmore and Associate Director Jonathon Aleck over the performance of the Jabiru engine since modifications were made, and suggested the issue had dragged on too long.
"During a meeting on 14 November were you advised that there had been design developments that had been made to the Jabiru engine over recent years?" O'Sullivan asked Aleck. "You were made aware of that?"
"That there had been design developments to the engine over the years—yes, certainly. We were aware ..." Aleck replied.
O'Sullivan continued: "And they submitted to you that they felt they had resolved some of these critical issues that you had used to place these limitations on them? Did they make that submission to you?"
Aleck: "They suggested that was so."
O'Sullivan then expressed some frustration and finished with the suggestion that a Senate Inquiry might be needed to sort it out if CASA was not forthcoming.
"What evaluation have you now done on the enhanced engines to see whether their performance is better, and up to an acceptable standard, versus the old engines?" he asked.
"Gentlemen, this company [Jabiru] is on the verge of tipping over and this has been a long-running saga ... If any of the facts that are being presented to me are correct in relation to how CASA has dealt with this company—how long it has taken and the manner in which the consultations occurred—then there is a problem: a serious problem.
"I will not have time to deal with it today, but maybe we can have a quiet audience for me to go through some of these issues with you; otherwise I will be asking my colleagues to join me to have an inquiry to have a look at how you have dealt with this."
Aleck replied that CASA would be happy to talk the senator through the issues outside of the committee room.
Earlier, both Skidmore and Aleck confirmed that a tear-down test of a Jabiru engine with three modifications showed the engine could endure 900 hours, when the standard called for only 200 hours.
"This [engine] had 900 hours," Aleck said, "so that was quite impressive."
According to CASA, Jabiru engines had 2-3 failures every 10,000 hours, when the US National Transport Safety Board had established an acceptable level of one every 10,000 hours.