– Steve Hitchen
Professionals Australia has delivered CASA a brickbat with sauce on it. Their submission to the senate inquiry into GA has slammed the regulator for their culture, saying that staff are under pressure because of shortages and skills are being lost as people head for the door. We've known for some years now that CASA's culture is very poor regardless of the endless rhythm of inquiries and reviews. Any organisation with a good culture does not induce an affair like the Glen Buckley/APTA debacle. It is interesting that the PA submission singled-out the Southern Region office as an example of one in crisis. It was that office that oversaw APTA. But if you delve into the PA submission a bit more, you might find some comments that may cause your brows to furrow. Here's one: PA claims that general aviation needs more oversight than commercial aviation. Some in the industry may argue that the opposite is true; the lack of complexity in GA aircraft compared to airliners means the level of oversight should be less, not more. And as GA includes non-passenger carrying ops like aerial ag, piling on the oversight would be contrary to CASA's stated aim of focusing on passenger-carrying ops. It takes a good reading to uncover much of PA's contention, but it's worth the time.
In his final senate estimates last week, CASA's outgoing CEO and Director of Aviation Safety Shane Carmody had to deal with a chair who sounded like she'd had enough. Queensland Senator Susan McDonald bluntly put it to Carmody that the cost of regulation was driving general aviation operators out of business. Ever the consumate bureaucrat, Carmody stated that he didn't believe it was CASA's charges that were the problem, citing the cost of maintaining 40-year-old aircraft as one expense that he didn't think was CASA's fault. It was a very smooth response that evaded the real issue, helped by McDonald, who didn't ask the right questions. Yes, CASA's charges are not great compared with other costs, but CASA's charges make up only a fraction of the cost of regulation. Several schools have estimated the costs of complying with Parts 61 and 141/142 at around $100,000. That was an expense just to keep the flying school open; it had no return, it changed nothing, it improved nothing. It did make a large hole in the bank account. And Part 61 particularly turned out to be junk regulation. Any rule set that needs a working group to fix it the moment it was implemented justifies that term. What the good senator should have asked CASA is whether or not changing to Part 61 and Part 141/142 returned $100,000 in value to the flying schools. It would also be fair to ask if taxpayers got value for the money they shelled out on the 30-year epic reform program. I'd bet now the aviation industry believes it hasn't.
Two more gone. How many now? In December last year two aviators were killed at Mareeba practising an engine failure after take-off (EFATO) in a twin. The honour roll is getting long. It is a very melancholy fact that a pilot is more likely to die practising EFATO in a twin than they are in a real situation. When a twin loses 50% of its forward thrust it loses more than 50% of its performance, and when you're close to the ground on climb-out time is not on your side. Reactions need to be fast; they need to be correct. Unfortunately, the aeroplane doesn't understand you're only practising; it responds with a great deal of reality. There has to be a solution to this. CASA does permit EFATO in some aircraft to be done in a simulator, but that's very restrictive given the availability of sims for most GA twins: they just aren't out there. But given the inherent danger in this, surely it would be worth permitting generic GA twin simulators to be used for EFATO training? Most one-engine inoperative (OEI) training can be done safely at altitude, where is risk is far less, but EFATO has to be done in a situation where there is no safety net. Simulators would provide that net, and although there would be a reduction in fidelity, is that enough to justify mandating a manoeuvre that has a history of creating tragedy?
You're on wood now! Nominations for the 2020 CASA Wings Awards close on Wednesday. We've had a fantastic response this year, presenting the judging team some headaches. The quality of the candidates and the submissions is very high, so the panel will be up late at night trying to sort it all out. Please, if you're still working on your submission, get your skates on and get it in.
May your gauges always be in the green,