Aviation safety regulation timeline 1982-1996

Updated 7 February 2011

Matthew James
Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Section


Affordable Aviation Safety Regulation
Airline Deregulation and Australian Air Crashes
Ageing Aircraft and CASA Conflicts
Stable and Secure Skies with Air Traffic Control
Storm Clouds Gather over a Mountainside
Australasian events bring Regulation into Review


A good safety record is a judgement of past performance and does not guarantee the future, although it is a useful indicator. In 2000, it was demonstrated that even highly reputable operators are not fail safe, with the crash of an Air France Concorde at Paris and a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 at Taipei. While major Australian airlines may be a good choice, because they have not had a recent fatal event, they may also be a poor choice for the same reason. Technical development and continuing pressure to maintain an accident free record will counter this.

Airline operators, pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, government regulators and makers all have a stake in making aviation as safe as possible. While pilot error is said to be on the decline, factors of fatigue, weather, congestion and automated systems have complicated safety. Our wide, flat continent with generally mild weather and limited congestion assists with safety. In Australia, general aviation seems to face the greatest task of improving its safety record while airports too must be safe.

The industry is continually finding means to make flying safer through better training and new safety technologies. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), manufacturers and others bodies cooperate in this aim. As they expect world air traffic to double or more by 2020, the accident rate must be reduced in order to avoid major accidents occurring more frequently around the globe.

The safety record of overseas operators is only relevant to the Australian scene through a comparison of accident or fatality rates and then on a category by category basis. The most relevant comparative safety figures for passenger carrying activities are the number of fatalities per 100 million passenger miles and/or the number of accidents per the number of aircraft operation cycles. ICAO publishes these figures on worldwide and major airline operating country bases.

This timeline of major international and domestic events related to aviation safety, over the past twentyfive years, takes a global perspective of the subject. The many references to overseas accidents are included for their influence on Australian aviation operations and safety. Nonetheless, the timeline is a selective record of events, with a particular focus on those airlines that fly here.


CAIR, the Confidential Aviation Incident Reporting scheme was in use by BASI and the ATSB since 1988. It served the industry well, until replacement by a new voluntary and confidential aviation reporting system, introduced by the Federal Government, entitled the Aviation Self Reporting Scheme (ASRS) that commenced operation on 21 February 2004.

ETOPS, extended-range twin-engine operations permits commercial air transports to fly routes that, at some points, are further than a distance of 60 minutes flying time from an emergency or diversion airport, by incorporating specific hardware improvements and establishing specific maintenance and operational procedures.

LAMP, the Low-level Airspace Reform Plan of the Special Aviation Reform Group (ARG) was the subject of over two years of consultation and development. On May 13 2002, the Transport Minister announced that the Government had accepted the recommendation of the (ARG) and that the National Airspace System (NAS) would apply.

NAS, the National Airspace System had claimed fundamental characteristics of simplicity, compliance with ICAO airspace practice and its allocation of services on the basis of risk. The NAS was said to follow United States practice and involved modifications of the existing airspace environment ranging from new airspace classifications to changes in pilot and air traffic controller procedures.

SIMOPS. Australia's history of low airport congestion obviated any need for simultaneous runway operations using crossing runways (SIMOPS) to control movement except in recent times at Sydney Airport. In October 1997, ASA and CASA introduced Land and Hold Short Operations (LAHSO) procedures for cross runway use.

TAAATS, the Australian Advanced Air Traffic System is a fully integrated airspace management and air traffic control system with its design based on the amalgamation of Australia's six Flight Information Regions into two. This resulted in all en route air traffic control being consolidated to two centres located in Brisbane and Melbourne.

TCAS, the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System is an instrument integrated into an aircraft cockpit. It provides a set of electronic eyes so the pilot can "see" the traffic situation in the vicinity of the aircraft.. The instrument sounds an alarm when it determines that another aircraft will pass too closely to the subject aircraft. TCAS provides a backup to the air traffic control systems regular separation processes.



Australian Maritime Safety Authority


Aviation Reform Group


Australian Aviation Council


Australian Search and Rescue


Airservices Australia


Aviation Safety Forum


Aviation Self Reporting Scheme (ASRS)


Air Traffic Control


Australian Transport Safety Bureau


Bureau of Air Safety Investigation


Civil Aviation Authority


Confidential Aviation Incident Reporting scheme.


Civil Aviation Safety Authority


Extended Twin engine Operations


Federal Aviation Administration


International Air Transport Association


International Civil Aviation Organisation


Low Level Airspace Reform Plan


National Airspace System


National Transportation Safety Board of the United States


National Transportation Safety Committee of Indonesia


Procedures involving the independent use of intersecting runways


The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System


Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System






Affordable Aviation Safety Regulation

This was a decade of infamous jet air disasters around the globe (although not in Australia) that led to better understanding of the causal factors involved in such events. In Australia, 1988 saw establishment of a separate air safety regulator said to operate on economic principles and the operation of an independent air accident investigation bureau.


13 January 1982

Air Florida Boeing 737 crashed in Washington River, during severe snow and ice conditions, killing 74. The case highlighted the effects of severe weather conditions.

Flight International, 22 January 1983.

7 May 1982

Department of Aviation established taking on the former Department of Transports regulatory responsibility for 441 government or licensed airports around Australia and regulating the operations of almost 7000 aircraft. The first Minister for Aviation was The Hon Wal Fife MP.


24 June 1982

A British Airways Boeing 747 bound for Perth dropped 25000 feet, when its engines failed after passing through a volcanic plume over Indonesia, but landed safely. The CSIRO later undertook ash detection development.

Job, M. Air Disaster 2, March 1996.

9 July 1982

Pan American flight 759 Boeing 727 crashed near New Orleans, probably due to severe wind shear, killing 145.

Flight International, 22 January 1983.

19 August 1982

The Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1982 debated in Parliament.

House of Representatives Debates, p.735.

26 August 1982

Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1982 was put before Parliament to impose an aviation infrastructure levy.

ibid., p. 455

15 September 1982

The Air Navigation Legislation (Validation and Interpretation) Bill 1982 was before Parliament to facilitate the Department of Aviation's legal position.

Senate Debates, p. 1011.


The Advance Inquiry chaired by Sir Sydney Frost looked into the 21 February 1980 crash of a turboprop Beech Super King Air aircraft at Sydney Airport, into the main sea wall, that killed 13. This was the first fatal airline crash in Australia since the loss of Vickers Viscounts in 1968 (26 dead), 1964 (24 dead) and 1961 (19 dead).

Sydney Morning Herald, 7 October 1996.

31 August 1983

Korean Airlines flight 007 Boeing 747 shot down over Sea of Japan by a Soviet fighter, killing 259. On 23 September, a Gulf Air Boeing 737 was lost to alleged sabotage, killing 111. Both cases raised wide concerns and an extraordinary assembly of ICAO.

Flight International, 28 January 1984.

27 November 1983

Avianca Boeing 747 crashed near Madrid Airport killing 181 of the 192 aboard. On 12 December, two aircraft collided at Madrid Airport, killing 92.

Flight International, 28 January 1984.

9 May 1984

The Minister for Aviation The Hon Kim Beazley MP introduced the Air Navigation Amendment Bill 1984, to give protection to aircraft crew-members from the use of cockpit voice recorders for purposes not related to safety.

House of Representatives Debates,
p. 2127.

13 September 1984

The Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1984 and the Air Navigation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984 introduced by the Minister for Aviation Mr Kim Beazley to provide for charging arrangements. On 13 December 1984, Hon Peter Morris MP became the new minister.

ibid., p. 1288.


The Department of Aviation's released a Review of the Future Role of the Flight Service Officer in the Provision of Air Traffic Services that envisaged the integration of air traffic control functions. With a booklet titled Two Years in the Aviation Hall of Doom aviator and entrepreneur Mr Dick Smith declared that the department had 'had its day' and was 'totally stupid' with regulations that 'reduced safety'. The Minister for Aviation endorsed the safety regime showing Australia having a low accident rate.

Airspace 2000 and Related Issues, p. 1; Canberra Times, 24 May 1985; Australian, 2 March 1985; Flight International, 1 December 1984.

22 November 1984

(Bosch) report released of the Government-commissioned Independent Inquiry into Aviation Cost Recovery.

Australian Financial Review, 21 December 1994.

23 June 1985

Air India flight 182 Boeing 747 was destroyed over the Irish Sea and 329 people died, due to a terrorist bomb later traced to unaccompanied baggage. Security measures were reviewed. Canadian authorities charged a suspect in 2001.

Flight International, 8 March 1986; The Australian, 7 June 2001.

2 August 1985

Delta Airlines flight 191 Tristar L-1011 crashed at Dallas Airport killing 135, due to a violent wind shear microburst. The development of wind shear detectors continued.

Age, 27 July 1987; Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 1985.

12 August 1985

Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 crashed into a mountain killing 520 of 524, after a structural failure related to maintenance occurred. A review of Boeing 747 structure integrity followed, including inspections of all aircraft.

The Australian, 29 October 1986.

22 August 1985

A British Airtours Boeing 737 caught fire at Manchester Airport killing 54. Many died while trying to escape.

New Scientist, 29 August 1985.

12 March 1986

The Minister for Transport and Minister for Aviation Mr Peter Morris introduced the Air Navigation Amendment Bill 1986 to ratify the (Chicago) Convention on International Civil Aviation and to give effect to its provisions in Australia. These security changes arose from the Korean Airlines flight 007 case of 31 August 1983.

House of Representatives Debates, p.1198.

13 June 1986

Federal Airports Corporation established under the Federal Airports Corporation Act 1985 to assume responsibility for management of 17 major airports by 1988. Meanwhile, Ratner Associates reviewed the Air Traffic Services System while the concept of affordable safety emerged.

Flight International, 25 January 1986.

3 September 1986

An AeroMexico DC9 and a Piper Archer collided on approach to Los Angeles Airport and crashed killing 85, highlighting problems of air congestion and light aircraft detection by larger aircraft.

Age, 3 September 1986.

24 July 1987

Departments of Transport, Aviation and Communications amalgamated to form the Department of Transport and Communications under its Minister, Senator Gareth Evans, who was replaced a year later by Hon Ralph Willis MP.

Airservices Australia web site,

August 1987

Severe turbulence injured 48 on a flight from Tokyo to Sydney. The following May, on a San Francisco to Sydney Qantas flight, 24 people were thrown around and injured in similar circumstances. The compulsory wearing of seat belts while in flight became an issue, as did the search for effective clear-air turbulence detectors.

Age, 17 May1988; Sydney Morning Herald, 16 May1988.

24 August 1987

Northwest Airlines flight 255 MD-80 crashed on take-off from Detroit killing 156, attributed to crew and power failures. See: http://www.flight255memorial.com/thecrash.html

The Australian, 25 August 1987.

10 October 1987

Cargo Westwind jet on charter to Ansett crashed off Sydney Airport killing two. As was usual, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) began an inquiry.

Age, 28 September 1987.

8 December 1987

Presentation of the Government's responses to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure report, No Port in a Storm, on aviation safety regulation, as well as a separate report on sports aviation safety.

House of Representatives Debates, p. 2943.

28 April 1988

Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 lost part of its side, as a result of fatigue while in flight, taking with it an attendant. The aircraft later landed safely but with injured passengers. Ageing aircraft became an aviation industry issue.

Aviation Week and Space Technology, 24 July 1989; The Australian, 5 May 1988.

June 1988

In an embarrassing debut, an Air France Airbus A320 crashed in a Paris Air Show demonstration killing three. As the first 'fly-by-wire' airliner, it came under scrutiny.

Canberra Times, 27 January 1992.

1 July 1988

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) established under the Civil Aviation Act 1988 as a separate body from the Department. The Department of (Civil) Aviation and its predecessors had operated from 1945, but Parliament and the Government determined that separation was now best.


1 July 1988

With the introduction of the BASI Confidential Aviation Incident Reporting system, widespread claims emerged of poor maintenance and inadequate pilot standards.

Australian Financial Review, 7 December 1988.

21 December 1988

Pan Am flight 103 Boeing 747 exploded by an alleged Libyan terrorist device over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 in the air and on the ground. The issue of airline and airport security continued apace, but only in early 2001 was a Libyan convicted for the sabotage, in a Scottish trial.

ibid., 16 May 1989, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 2001.

8 January 1989

British Midland Airways Boeing 737 crashed after a fan blade fractured and the crew shut down the wrong engine. Of the 126 people on board, 47 died near East Midlands Airport. Cockpit design emerged as an issue in crashes. In early 1989, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began to permit long-range twinjet flights over the oceans, known as Extended Twin engine Operations (ETOPS) previously restricted to larger craft.

New Scientist, 23 November 1996; Flight International, 1 April 1989.

24 February 1989

United Airlines flight 811 Boeing 747 lost a cargo hatch door and nine passengers after leaving Honolulu for Sydney. In 1999, after checks for explosives or metal fatigue, the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) amended the cause to faulty wiring.

Job, M., Air Disaster 3, April 1999.

3 May 1989

The Minister for Transport and Communications Hon Ralph Willis introduced the Air Navigation Amendment Bill 1989 to vary the means of suspending international airline rights.

House of Representatives Debates, p. 1819.

19 June 1989

United Airlines flight 232 DC-10 crash-landed at Sioux City, Iowa, after an engine fan explosion. Through exceptional handling the crew managed to save 184, while 112 died, in what became a famous case of crew and ground heroism. It also highlighted aircraft maintenance issues.

Job, M., Air Disaster 2, March 1996.

November 1989

The CAA developed an airspace model that rationalised air traffic control (ATC). Meanwhile, after a series of hot air balloon accidents, a consultant Mr Phil Hanson reported to the CAA on measures to regulate balloons and operators.

Age, 6 September 1998; Australian Financial Review, 7 October 1997; CAA Media Release, 20 1990, 4 April 1990; Age, 5 April 1990.

August November 1989

The pilots' dispute between members of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and major airlines led to serious disruptions and costs to regular air services, with the provision of some flights made by government agencies.

Norington B., Sky Pirates, ABC, 1990.

January 1990

Aviator and entrepreneur Mr Dick Smith appointed Chair of the CAA and promoted an 'affordable safety' policy. He recruited Mr Frank Baldwin from the New Zealand Aviation Authority to restructure the organisation on a district basis, and reduced staff from 7300 down to 3500 over five years. The CAA Chief Executive Mr Colin Freeland and deputy Mr Alan Rainbird both resigned soon after Mr Dick Smith arrived. The Hon Kim Beazley MP became the new Minister for Transport and Communications.

Australian, 16 May 1990; Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1990.

February 1990

An Indian Airlines Airbus A320 crashed at Bangalore killing 90. The incident suggested that pilot error and computer malfunction were contributing and intertwined factors and would later become of increased concern.

Canberra Times, 27 January 1992.

11 May 1990

A Cessna Citation 500 crashed at Mareeba killing 11. The Civil Aviation Amendment Act 1990 established the CAA as a government business enterprise. The August 1990 Federal Budget announced that the $73 million contributed towards safety regulation would be phased out in favour of the costs being met by the aviation industry. CAA Chair, Mr Dick Smith said that ways to maximise safety and economy existed.

Senate, Debates, Plane Safe, p.112; Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1990 and 11 September 1990.

11 September 1990

Qantas Boeing 747 with 360 aboard missed a USAF C-5 Galaxy plane by a reported 17 metres, while flying over Phuket. The case raised air traffic control clearance issues.

Age and Sydney Morning Herald 14 September 1990.

30 October 1990

The Commonwealth's formalised economic regulation of the domestic airline industry was eliminated with the abolition of the two-airline policy. However, operational and safety regulatory frameworks were retained and a number of the States continued to regulate intrastate services. In December, the operation of Compass Airlines started, to challenge the Australian/Qantas and Ansett airlines duopoly, before the late 1991 demise of Compass.

Transport and Telecommunications Reform Prime Ministerial Statement House Hansard 8 November 1990.

17 December 1990

The Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support, Senator Bob Collins reaffirmed faith in high safety standards when he spoke at the opening of new headquarters for BASI.

Ministerial Media Release 35 1990; Sydney Morning Herald, 4 December 1990.


Airline Deregulation and Australian Air Crashes

A problematic implementation of TAAATS – The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System – led to inquiry and review. The local crashes of Monarch and Seaview Airlines planes also led to inquiries into safety regulation administration, and recriminations. The belly-flop landing of an Ansett 747 was seen as a bad omen for new airline competition. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority and AirServices Australia emerged as new regulators.


26 May 1991

Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand killing 223 after the inadvertent deployment of reverse thrust during flight. The FAA later ordered specific thrust reverser changes. Meanwhile, concerns were growing about the effects of lap-top computers and mobile telephones affecting aircraft systems during flight. The issue of bogus aircraft spare parts was of concern here and overseas.

Mercury, 3 November 1999; Australian, 18 October 1991; Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 1991.

3 March 1991

United Airlines flight 585 Boeing 737 crashed near Colorado Springs killing 25, leading to speculation about the aircraft's rudder design and operation at low speeds.

Australian Financial Review, 23 September 2000.

12 August 1991

A Thai Airways DC-10 overshot a Sydney Airport runway to just miss an incoming Ansett Airbus A320 and a waiting Qantas Boeing 747, controlled under SIMOPS. The 667 people on board the respective aircraft were unharmed.

Sydney Morning Herald, 13 August 1991 and 3 July 1993. ATSB Occurrence Report, 15 Feb. 1993..

December 1991

The CAA introduced a new Airways Management Air Traffic Services (AMATS) system to a mixed response from pilots.

Australian Financial Review, 19 April 1992; Australian Aviation, 8 1998.

20 January 1992

An Airbus A320 crashed into a mountain near Strasbourg killing 87. This was the third loss of the new fly-by-wire type of aircraft operation in less than four years.

Canberra Times, 27 January 1992.

January 1992

Pressure mounted for an inquiry into the contractor chosen by the CAA for The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS) after Hughes Aerospace missed out. Meanwhile, a study into the air traffic system by a United States safety consultant Dr Robert Ratner Associates found Australia was safe, but with room for improvements, citing 24 recommendations.

Canberra Times, 20 September 1997 and 8 May 1992; Australian Financial Review, 8 May 1992; Canberra Times, 23 November 1991.

18 February 1992

CAA Chairman, Mr Dick Smith stepped down after announcing the best set of aviation safety figures in five years, but frustrated by his inability to introduce affordable safety regulations and to restructure military airspace. As President of the Aircraft Owners' and Pilots' Association, he remained a critic of BASI.

Canberra Times, 18 February 1992; Australian, 23 March 1999.

March 1992

CAA selected Thomson Radar Australia for TAAATS while parliamentarians on both sides of politics criticised the choice. The Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support, Senator Bob Collins reconsidered the choice when Parliament heard of unorthodox processes. In May, he called for a Senate Inquiry before being replaced by Senator Peter Cook, who later announced an independent inquiry chaired by the Honourable Ian Macphee AO. Senator Bob Collins became the new Minister for Transport and Communications.

Canberra Times, 20 September 1997; Age, 20 July 1997.

April 1992

Southern Cross Airlines started, in a bid to challenge the two-airline duopoly, but hardly saw the year out before it failed.

ABC Radio 'The World Today', 10 August 1992.

2 July 1992

An Ansett Saab 340 came to rest in a ditch at Devonport Airport, after a crash landing, due to a propeller problem.

ATSB Occurrence Report,15 Oct. 1994.

4 July 1992

An Ansett Boeing 727 experienced engine failure and a fire on take-off from Brisbane, requiring emergency return.

ATSB Occurrence Report, 15 July 1993.

31 July 1992

Thai Airways Airbus A310 crashed in Nepal, killing 113. Two months later, 167 died there when a PIA Airbus A300 crashed. Automated flight systems came under question.

Australian, 26 October 1993.

14 September 1992

A leaked internal CAA document cited poor management, inadequate internal processes and external influences as rife, while major staff cuts and turnovers continued apace.

Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 1992.

4 October 1992

El Al flight 1862 Boeing 747 freighter crashed into two tall apartment blocks, after leaving Amsterdam Airport, due to an engine pylon failure. Four crew aboard and 39 on the ground died.

Australian Financial Review, 2 July 1993.

December 1992

The Macphee Independent Review of the Civil Aviation Authority's Tender Evaluation Process for the Australian Advanced Air Traffic System report strongly criticised the CAA Board and senior management over the awarding of a $200 million contract for TAAATS to Thomson of France.

Australian Financial Review, 21 July 1994.

February 1993

CAA Chief Executive, Mr Frank Baldwin resigned after the dispute over the TAAATS contract while senior executive Dr Rob Edwards lost his job.

Australian Financial Review, 7 July 1997.

February 1993

Captain Alan Terrell appointed by the CAA Board to report on the effectiveness of the operations of the Safety Regulation and Standards Division.

Plane Safe report, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 8 March 1993.

30 March 1993

The Terrell Report found that general aviation safety standards had fallen under CAA reforms. The Board later accepted all but one of 59 Report recommendations. Mr Ted Butcher stepped down early as Chairman, to be replaced by General Peter Gration with Mr Doug Roser as Chief Executive.

Australian Financial Review, 21 July1994.

11 June 1993

Monarch Airlines Piper Chieftain crashed near Young NSW killing seven aboard. The subsequent coronial inquiry found that the CAA failed to properly monitor the airline while the NSW Air Transport Council had done nothing to alert its minister about problems with the airline (see also the entries for 20 July 1994 and 6 June 1996).

The Bulletin, 5 September 2000; Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June 1996; Canberra Times, 3 June 1994.

29 September 1993

Major Class G airspace management initiative cancelled at the last minute due to industry objections and protests from the former chairman Mr Dick Smith and air traffic controllers.

Australian Aviation, August 1998; Australian Financial Review, 21 July1994; Australian, 1 October 1993; Canberra Times, 30 September 1993; CAA 74/93.

26 October 1993

The Auditor-General's Project Audit into the CAA Centre for Air Traffic Services at Launceston found problems with the ATC centre and valid reasons for its later closure.

Audit Report no. 8 199394, ANAO.

5 December 1993

The Mueller consultant report found a lack of consistent CAA application of safety regulations across Australia.

Canberra Times, 5 December 1993.

7 February 1994

Contract signed for The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS) by CAA with Thomson Radar Australia Corporation and its parent company.

Airservices Australia, www.airservices.gov.au

24 April 1994

South Pacific Airmotive DC-3 on Army charter to Norfolk Island ditched into Botany Bay after engine failure with 25 people aboard, who all survived. The resulting BASI report found that it was overloaded, poorly kept and flown. However, its pilot Mr Rod Lovell disputed all these points.

Age, 19 January 1997; Australian, 30 March 1996; Sydney Morning Herald,
5 August 1994.

26 April 1994

China Airlines (of Taiwan) Airbus A300 crashed at Nagoya Japan to claim 279 lives. The airline had previously lost Boeing 737 aircraft in February 1986 and October 1989 with 67 killed in total. A trend of poor Asian airline records continued to concern the industry.

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 1994.

4 May 1994

Opposition Transport spokesman Mr John Sharp MP labelled Seaview Air as operating dangerously and a passenger risk. The CAA upgraded Seaview's licence from charter to regular public transport operator on 27 July.

Sydney Morning Herald, 8 October 1994.

20 July 1994

The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation report into the Monarch Airlines crash at Young in June 1993 suggested the need for new arrangements in air regulation and funding, due to latent organisational failures and deficiencies within the CAA. The Minister for Transport, the Hon Laurie Brereton MP removed the head of CAA safety Mr George Macionis. He also established an Aviation Safety Agency as a separate entity within the CAA. The CAA remained under Chair General Peter Gration and Mr Doug Roser. The Minister also agreed to a parliamentary inquiry into air safety by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure, headed by the Hon Peter Morris MP, to investigate air safety standards as well as their supervision and compliance. BASI remained under Director Dr Rob Lee.

BASI Investigation Report, 9301743; Minister for Transport News Release, T44/94; Plane Safe.

8 September 1994

USAir flight 427 Boeing 737 flight crashed while approaching Pittsburgh Airport killing 132, after a rudder malfunction. The FAA would much later recommend design changes to 737 rudders for low speed operations. The 737 remained the most common airliner in Australia and now airlines fly them faster on landing approaches.

AAP, 17 April 2000; New Scientist, 4 March 2000; NTSB Press Release, 24 March 1999 SB 9909; Australian Financial Review, 5 October 1999.

2 October 1994

A fatal accident of Seaview Air Rockwell Aero Commander en-route to Lord Howe Island killed nine aboard. On 17 October, the Minister announced a judicial inquiry to be conducted by Sir Lawrence Street into the handling of operations of Seaview Air by the CAA. On 23 December, the Minister announced the appointment of a second commissioner, Mr James Staunton who later replaced Sir Lawrence Street. The Commission of Inquiry into the Relations Between the CAA and Seaview Air commenced on 16 January 1995. The intended reporting date was 31 May 1995, to the Minister for Transport, the Hon Laurie Brereton MP, but the report did not appear until 8 October 1996 (see below) with a new Government and Minister the Hon John Sharp MP. Three other inquiries were conducted through the Parliamentary (Morris) committee, the Federal Police inquiry into dealings between some CAA officers and Seaview, and by the BASI investigation. Some CAA staff were dismissed.

Australian, 8 October 1994, 1 November 1995, 9 October 1996; Aircraft, November 1994; Sydney Morning Herald, 8 October 1994; Age, 8 October 1994.

19 October 1994

Ansett flight 881 Boeing 747 crash-landed onto its nose at Sydney Airport with 274 aboard. The subsequent BASI report questioned Ansett safety procedures and training. In Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Hon Paul Keating MP defended the Minister for Transport over aviation safety matters.

Australian, 20, 21 and 22 October 1994; Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 1996, 27 September 1996. ATSB Occurrence Report, 18 Sept. 1996.

16 November 1994

The CAA grounded four airlinesSeaview Air, Yanda Airlines, Newcastle Aviation and Uzu Airafter intense surveillance. They were able to resume once deficiencies were rectified. Meanwhile, Qantas Airlink was the subject of media attention on safety concerns. The Parliamentary inquiry into air safety received a submission from a CAA officer claiming that 200 Australian aircraft including commuter planes could lose wings, from structural fatigue.

Minister for Transport, News Release T68/94; Australian Financial Review, 21 October 1994.

3 December 1994

A position paper by the Royal Aeronautical Society titled A Study of the Safety of General Aviation in Australia found unsafe flight practices in light aircraft operations. The CAA Board cleared its Chief Managing Director Mr Doug Roser of any 'impropriety', following allegations of alterations to aviation safety reports about smaller airlines.

Age, 23 March 1995; Australian Financial Review, 5 December 1994; Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 1994.

30 March 1995

The Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill 1995 and Air Services Bill 1995 introduced. Comment was sought from the House committee inquiry on aviation safety.

Minister for Transport News Release T15/95; House of Representatives, Debates, 30 March 1995, p. 2598; Senate Debates, 21 September 1995 p. 1225.

16 April 1995

CAA officers revealed a backlog of approximately 800 manufacturer warnings, apparently one month after the discovery of some 140 airworthiness directives that had not been implemented.

Australian, 28 March 1995, 17 April 1995.

23 May 1995

The Advisory report on the break up of the CAA from the (Morris) House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure contained legislative drafting recommendations to clearly define a proposed rearrangement of the CAA into two aviation safety organisations. On 30 June, a confidential study by former FAA officials recommended that the CAA Act be amended to stop cost recovery applicable to airworthiness.

Canberra Times, 24 May 1995; Australian, 7 October 1995.

9 June 1995

Ansett New Zealand Dash 8 crashed on top of a hill near Wellington killing four and injuring 17. Investigators found that an undercarriage issue distracted the pilots.

Australian, 17 June 1997; AAP, 4 July 1997.

6 July 1995

The combined Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment Act 1995 and Air Services Act 1995 established the rationale and operating arrangements for the creation of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Airservices Australia (ASA) out of the former CAA. ASA became responsible for the delivery of airspace management, control services, aviation search and rescue. In turn, CASA became responsible for the regulation of the aviation industry, licensing of pilots, aircraft certification and the setting of airspace design and safety standards in accordance with the Civil Aviation Safety Act 1988. CAA Chairman, Mr Peter Gibson and chief executive Mr Doug Roser departed when the Minister, the Hon Laurie Brereton MP announced the changes. The new CAA board had Justice William Fisher as Chairman, Mr Leroy Smith as Executive Head, and Dr Clare Pollock, Captain Geoffey Molloy and Ms Gabi Hollows.

House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1995, p.1372; Australian Financial Review, 7 October 1997; Minister for Transport News Release, T48/95.

21 September 1995

The Transport Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1995 proposed changes to the investigative powers of BASI. At the same time, CASA announced the mandatory fitting of Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance Systems to regular passenger transport operators, after a series of near misses and a BASI recommendation. The Transport Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1995 provided for the transfer of air safety investigation powers of BASI from the Air Navigation Regulations to the Air Navigation Act 1920.

Senate Debates, 21 September 1995, p. 1235; Australian, 7, 20 and 23 September 1995.

November 1995

Controversy surrounded the safety of operation of cross or parallel runways at Sydney Airport in conjunction with aircraft noise measures. Parliamentarians on both sides of politics made claims, but it appeared that either means of runway operations was safe.

Australian Aviation, September 1995; Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 1998.

7 December 1995

Class G airspace trial introduced to replace the previous low level uncontrolled airspace. The Air Navigation Act 1920 was amended to better define the role of BASI to investigate accidents, serious incidents and deficiencies.

House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1995, p. 3945.

14 December 1995

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure produced the Plane Safe Inquiry into Aviation Safety: the Commuter and General Aviation Sectors report that concentrated on the regulation of a competitive aviation industry by an organisation in conflict, CASA. It said that a combination of poor management and internal battles were counter-productive to aviation safety over the period since 1988. The report contained an extensive set of recommendations pertaining to the operation of CASA and the need for promulgated safety statistics. The Government Response of 5 December 1996 largely agreed with the recommendations and noted work on aviation safety indicators and the creation of an independent advisory panel to review regulations. On the whole, it would seem that the recommendations were implemented, in terms of subsequent reports issued by CASA, the Program Advisory Panel (Kimpton inquiry) and other agencies, as detailed below. Note that a change of government and ministers occurred on 11 March 1996.

Media Release Peter Morris MHR, 23 February 1996; Canberra Times, 24 December 1995; Australian,
22 December 1995.

20 December 1995

American Airlines flight 965 Boeing 757 crashed into the Columbian Andean mountains after the crew became disorientated, killing 159 of 163 aboard. Crew resource management and flight automation remained of concern.

Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9 September 1996, 29 September 1997.


Ageing Aircraft and CASA Conflicts

Airline fleet age became an issue of industry concern along with the crash rate of certain Asian airlines. Reviews of CASA and its board and staff re-shuffles continued with some publicly acrimonious disputes. With Dick Smith at the helm, a new CASA emerged to champion a Class G airspace trial that later had to be discontinued amid industry concerns. After this, and the crashes of Aquatic Air and Uzu planes, he resigned.


28 February 1996

Alas Nacionales flight 301 Boeing 757 crashed into the sea off Dominica, killing 189.

AAP, 1 March 1996.

April 1996

CASA board members rejected calls for their resignations from the new Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the Hon John Sharp MP.

Australian, 20 April 1996, 10 July 1997.

11 May 1996

ValuJet flight 592 DC-9 crashed into the Florida Everglades killing 110, after a fire on-board. In response to criticism of the airline and itself, the FAA brought in tougher measures for airline inspections.

Australian, 15 May 96; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 25 August 1997.

6 June 1996

NSW Coroner John Gould handed down findings into the 1993 Monarch Airlines crash critical of the airline, the former CAA and the NSW Air Transport Council. The Minister (Mr John Sharp) foreshadowed a review and other actions to address the report's recommendations.

Canberra Times, 7 June 1996; Minister for Transport Media Statement, 6 June 1996 TR46/96.

25 June 1996

The Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the Hon John Sharp MP announced reviews of the regulatory framework and role in an aviation safety ministerial statement. He also introduced the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 1996 to increase the CASA Board size from four to six people. While the Opposition supported the Bill, it questioned the motives.

House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1996, p. 2653.

17 July 1996

TWA flight 800 Boeing 747 exploded at cruise level, after leaving New York, killing all 230 aboard. Investigations would prove controversial, suggesting factors of aged wiring failure causing a short circuit explosion in the fuel tanks. Other lay explanations suggested electromagnetic radiation in the flight corridor or even a meteorite strike. The investigation was the most lengthy and costly ever undertaken by the NTSB. The FAA later issued 40 actions on fuel tank safety but the issue of aged aircraft wiring would continue to cause concern.

Engineering World, October 2000; Commentary, May 2001.

26 September 1996

The Minister for Transport and Regional Development announced an industry-based panel to oversee the CASA regulatory review headed by Ansett's Mr James Kimpton. The review produced recommendations that could be implemented in 1998, while reporting monthly.

Minister for Transport Media Statement 20 and 26 September 1996, TR101 and 110/96.

8 October 1996

The (Staunton) Report of the Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry into the Relations Between the CAA and Seaview Air was particularly scathing of CAA operations and identified a number of systemic problems. Recommendations included action against two CAA officers, and suggested mechanisms for responsibility, accountability and documentation. The minister urged changes to CASA and its management board positions. BASI undertook a separate investigation of the incident.

House of Representatives, Debates, 8 and 9 October 1996, p. 5046; Sydney Morning Herald and Australian 9 October 1996.

10 October 1996

The CASA Board released a media statement in relation to certain findings of the Seaview inquiry and lamenting comments about it made by the minister in Parliament.

Australian, 12 October 1996; Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1996.

30 October 1996

A large newspaper advertisement with 512 listed names published, later found to be sponsored by the Aircraft Owners' and Pilots' Association, requested the CASA board members to stand aside. It followed the publication of a letter by the CASA Chairman stating why the board should remain in full control despite Ministerial denigration. Meanwhile, CASA developed a program known as Airspace 2000 planned for introduction in 1998. The scheme aimed to achieve an ICAO standard with the use of systems safety, harmonisation and staged delivery.

Australian, 21, 23, 25 and 30 October 1996; Canberra Times, 23 and 31 October 1996.

3 November 1996

Falcon Airlines plane crashed into the sea off Cairns with the occupants safely reaching the shore. The subsequent report by David Wheelahan QC found a possible conflict of interest between CASA, the airline and Minister John Sharp. The Minister had sought an independent report after stating that a response from CASA was inadequate.

AAP, 18 February 1997; Canberra Times, 8 November 1996.

For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.

Back to top