Senate Commission of Inquiry releases interim report
The Senate Legislative Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) released its interim report on the Senate inquiry into the general aviation industry in Australia last week.
The 150-page report covers the committee’s findings from industry submissions and public hearings since the inquiry was announced in 2019, as well as previous inquiries such as the Air Safety Regulatory Review of 2014 and the General Aviation Advisory Network (GAAN) Strategy. article published last year.
Signed by committee chair, Senator Susan McDonald, the interim report contains 12 recommendations.
- CASA reviews cost recovery, considers caps for people and businesses in financial difficulty
- CASA is considering a series of improvements to the regulations, including simplifying CASR Part 61 and combining Parts 141 and 142.
- CASA streamlines licensing requirements to avoid duplication and the need for multiple licenses
- Government amends Civil Aviation Act 1988 to include duty to support and develop aviation
- CASA audits regulatory framework to align with FAA and NZCAA
- CASA explores opportunities for international mutual recognition of maintenance licenses and qualifications
- minister conduct culture review at CASA by December 31, 2022
- a new Industry Complaints Commission (ICC) be established outside and independent of CASA
- government launches holistic review of aviation training pathways
- government to ensure measure to promote careers in aviation includes general aviation
- the government creates a regional fund for airport infrastructure
- the government ensures that representatives of the AG are included in the modernization of the Airports Act 1996.
“GA…contributes to the connectivity and sustainability of Australian life, particularly in regional and remote areas,” the report states in its background section.
“It provides education and health services, regional freight and transportation, community security, tourism, recreation, executive and specialist mobility for primary and secondary industries, while playing a major role in firefighting and search and rescue activities.
“GA is also an important part of flight training, with many flight crew transitioning from flight training institutions to GA before working for airlines.”
The interim report presents the findings in six chapters covering:
- overview and context
- GA Security and Related Risks
- problems with laws and regulations
- CASA culture including the ICC
- education, training and skills
- airport management.
After numerous submissions and witnesses focused on the high cost of regulatory compliance, the RRAT committee focused on CASA’s cost recovery program, recommending a review of the regulator’s pricing regime.
“The cost of aviation security is high, but the committee recognizes that the economic burden is becoming too great for many individuals and businesses involved in the GA industry,” the RRAT committee believes.
“Many costs are not within CASA’s control but, for those that are, consideration should be given to capping the amount CASA charges for its services to people in financial difficulty.
“Whether this occurs on a case-by-case basis or as a maximum amount per fiscal year for an individual or organization would need to be determined. Nonetheless, the committee recommends that this area of spending be reviewed by CASA.”
The committee came to a similar conclusion about the culture within CASA and its relationships with stakeholders, recommending a review focusing on how CASA did business and the level of industry expertise it retained.
“For many years, GA industry stakeholders have identified, commented on, and suggested solutions to some of the systemic and structural issues that continue to plague CASA,” the report states.
“These include organizational inefficiencies, slow regulatory reform, lack of consistency in the interpretation of regulations, and the difficult relationship that exists between CASA and the GA industry.
“The committee is of the view that CASA’s lack of consistency and misinterpretation of policies and legislative frameworks is, at least in part, due to a lack of adequate resources and an inadequate level of priority given to the retention of the personnel and corporate knowledge within the organization.
“It is also clear that despite the positive views expressed about individual CASA staff, the culture of the organization as a whole needs to be addressed.
“As noted by Professional Australia, a comprehensive, independent and systemic review of CASA’s organizational culture is needed.”
The Board of Inquiry also addressed weaknesses in the training system for pilots and maintenance engineers, noting problems caused by duplication and poor results, noting in the process the work done by the GAAN strategy document to identify potential solutions.
“It is extremely important that consistent and streamlined training pathways are in place,” the report says. “The committee is concerned about reports of students having to take multiple exams for different institutions and authorities – an indicator that the education system is not properly aligned between training and regulatory bodies.
“The panel agrees with the recommendation made by GAAN that a holistic review of training is needed to remedy and revitalize the GA sector, in order to strengthen the aviation ecosystem as a whole.”
The Senate inquiry is still collecting public submissions, although at the time of writing, no public hearing is scheduled before the final report due date of October 22, 2022.
The full interim report is on Senate RRAT Inquiry Home Page.