Throughout the inquiry, it was consistently noted that Airservices had not completed Task Resource Analyses (TRAs) to determine the adequate level of resourcing at ARFFS stations across Australia. This chapter provides details on the TRA process, and the views of stakeholders as to its importance for the ARFFS.
This chapter also considers various elements of the regulatory framework, including the oversight role of CASA. It also discusses a number of regulatory reviews undertaken by DIRDC and CASA regarding the appropriateness and adequacy of the ARFFS regulatory framework. The chapter concludes by presenting some overall views as to the provision of ARFFS in Australia by Airservices.
Task Resource Analysis
In 2013 and 2014, the ICAO SARPs were amended to recommend that, in determining the minimum number of aviation rescue and firefighting personnel required, 'a task resource analysis should be completed and the level of staffing documented in the Aerodrome Manual'.
ICAO states that the TRA should establish the minimum number of staff required to deliver an effective ARFFS, considering the worst-case scenario in an aviation incident. The TRA should also include a workload assessment, to determine the effectiveness of current staffing levels and 'to identify the level of improvement resulting from additional staffing'.
There was significant support expressed for the TRA approach throughout the inquiry, to determine the appropriate amount of resourcing—both personnel and equipment—required for the ARFFS.
The UFUA described the TRA process (as it is written in the ICAO SARPs) as the following:
…a qualitative risk-based approach which focuses on probable and credible worst-case scenarios [and] seeks to identify the minimum number of personnel required to undertake identified tasks in real time before supporting external services are able to effectively assist ARFF personnel. [emphasis in original]
The UFUA submitted that both ICAO's Annex 14 and the NFPA 403 standard endorsed the use of a TRA in determining the minimum number of ARFF personnel at an airport. Indeed, it was submitted that ICAO had adopted the NFPA TRA model. The UFUA went further and suggested that the TRA be used to determine additional staffing requirements, over and above the minimum.
Mr von Nida of the UFUAB noted that undertaking a TRA would allow for assessments of individual airports, and take into consideration the unique circumstances surrounding each airport, particularly airports in regional and remote areas. By way of example, Mr von Nida said:
…if you're in Newman and all you've got coming is a bunch of auxiliaries it should take that into account as a factor. If you're in, say, the Sunshine Coast where you've got three hospitals and 16 different fire services around there, it should take that into account. The cavalry are really coming on that occasion, as opposed to in Newman, where there is no cavalry. You're the cavalry.
Mr Horton also described the importance of a TRA in helping the ARFFS to undertake effective rescue operations, by describing the processes involved in an emergency response:
So within three minutes the water has suppressed an aircraft fire. We are talking about a fire being fuelled by aviation fuel. On top of that—and this is where the task and the resource analysis comes in—you've got other tasks that need to be done, such as the rescue of the passengers and obtaining entry into a fuselage if entry has been prevented. That's additional staff who should be doing additional tasks. So we're not talking about the task resource analysis suddenly saying, 'You only need three people to do all of this.' You've got your bare minimum at the moment, according to ICAO standards, to be able to suppress the fire. It is all about rescuing the passengers and crew within the aircraft. It's about their survival. It's not just about saying, 'Yes, we put out the fire,' but everyone perished onboard; it is about achieving the saving of lives. That is what we are looking at with task resources analysis.
Mr Hanson suggested that the TRA was an inexpensive, table‑top exercise, 'designed to identify ''pinch points'' in operations where staffing resources may be deficient', and which would ensure the safe and effective operations of the ARFFS. Mr Hanson was of the view that the TRA process is:
…an extremely important issue for operational commanders. The provision of sufficient, well trained firefighters is fundamental to conducting safe and efficient fire ground operations.
The UFUAB further argued for a TRA to be undertaken prior to any reduction in ARFFS staffing levels. Such an approach would also align with the requirements of the ICAO SARPs.
This was considered particularly important in light of the fact that the TRA only considers the aviation component of an emergency response, and does not consider responses to, for example, emergencies in the terminal. Mr Hancox noted that this fact highlighted the issues with cross‑crewing, when trying to determine the resources needed for an emergency response via a TRA.
Use of the TRA in Australia
Evidence to the committee indicated that the TRA process was yet to be implemented formally in Australia, and had not yet taken place at the ARFFS locations across the country.
Mr Hanson noted that the justification for this noncompliance with ICAO standards by Australia was that the 'legislation does not specifically identify that a [TRA] should be completed to determine staffing numbers'. Mr Hanson suggested that this was a 'simplistic and subjective interpretation of the legislation', and said that:
The fact that there is no specific reference to staff justification in the legislation indicates there can be no inconsistency with the ICAO amendment.
Mr Hanson went on to argue that, regardless of the binding nature of ICAO with regard to the TRA, it should be completed by Airservices as part of best practice, and to address the discrepancy between current ARFFS staffing numbers, and those recommended by the NFPA.
Mr Hunter advised the committee that the union had completed a TRA of its own, in light of its view that Airservices had not completed one. The TRA undertaken by the UFUAB was based on Brisbane Airport, and the final report was provided to the committee. Mr Hunter stated that, as a result of that TRA and using the minimum standards of ICAO, the union did not believe that the minimum standards for staffing numbers were being met by Airservices.
The UFUAB cautioned, however, against 'incomplete and inaccurate' TRA models, which were based on assumptions developed using 'incorrect procedures and data'. Doing so, it was argued, could 'reduce the safety of aviation in Australia and the operational safety' of ARFFS firefighters.
Overall, the UFUAB agreed with the assertion that if a TRA was completed by Airservices now, it may meet the minimum ICAO standards, but these standards may be inadequate to respond to an aviation event. The TRA would also not take into account domestic demands on the same crews and resources.
Airservices advised the legislation committee, in November 2018, that it supported the use of task resourcing analyses to determine ARFFS staffing levels, and had 'used this approach to underpin development of staffing levels for many years'.
In response to concerns raised about staffing at specific airports, Airservices explained that the:
Current approved ARFFS staffing levels at Brisbane and Adelaide (and all other locations across Australia) were developed by Airservices, and approved by CASA, using a risk assessment process that is based on task resourcing.
Airservices elaborated that it supported ICAO's TRA methodology, and that both it and CASA supported the introduction of the ICAO TRA methodology into the Australian regulatory framework. Airservices indicated that incorporation of the TRA method was being progressed as part of a current review into Subpart 139.H of the CASRs.
Airservices confirmed that commencing in 2019, location‑specific reviews would take place at every AFRRS location in Australia—including at Adelaide and Brisbane. Airservices would implement a TRA framework based on the latest ICAO guidance material, 'benchmarked against other international ARFFS providers'.
Airservices informed the committee that it would be utilising the TRA framework to undertake the national review to 'ensure service delivery remains commensurate with the operating environment at each aerodrome'.
Firefighters and their union representatives made clear their views that Airservices was failing to properly engage in consultation, over the TRA process in particular, but also over other matters such as staffing changes.
The UFUAB indicated that it was 'vital' firefighters with a broad knowledge of operations were consulted when undertaking risk assessments. The UFUAB views the risk assessment phase as the best opportunity for experienced ARFFS officers to speak freely and provide details of their operational experience. However, the UFUAB suggested there was a lack of consultation by Airservices with the unions, arguing they were 'excluded completely' from such assessments, and that participants in risk assessments were 'cherry picked'.
Mr Horton raised concerns over a lack of consultation between the union and Airservices when considering the implementation of TRAs at airports. Mr Horton advised that, for a number of years, the Aviation Branch of the union had been asking Airservices to complete TRAs to determine resourcing. However, Mr Horton indicated that Airservices was reluctant to consult:
It got to the point where the branch took Airservices to Fair Work Australia over lack of consultation. Airservices came back with a compromise: there could be one union representative. There was a committee looking at the trial of setting up the task resource analysis and Airservices would pick who that union representative was. That committee met once with the union representative on it. The union has received no documentation regarding the outcome of that process. There's no indication of whether actual task and resource analysis at individual airports—because it needs to happen at individual airports—will involve union consultation.
The UFUAB confirmed that it had been invited by Airservices onto a TRA committee. However, since an initial meeting, the union had had no indication that Airservices was to consult further on the TRA process.
It was further asserted that the unions were spending significant time dealing with the current 'confrontational environment' between it and Airservices, with 'a dispute every week'. Mr Hunter suggested that this situation should be resolved, as it was 'not productive for anyone', and did note that since the commencement of this inquiry, consultation between the union and Airservices had improved.
Mr Walker of CASA advised that a technical working group, established under CASA's Aviation Safety Advisory Panel to consider amendments to the MOS, had over 600 interested parties registered with it. Mr Walker stated that 'Airservices, obviously the UFU and any other interested parties' would be invited to attend and participate in the technical working groups, prior to public consultation on amendments to the MOS.
In recent years, a number of reviews have been completed into Australia's regulatory framework for the provision of ARFFS. Some of the outcomes of these reviews offer support for better adherence to international standards, and would assist in effective implementation of the TRA process. These reviews are detailed below.
2015 Regulatory Policy Review
In December 2015, the DIRDC released a Regulatory Policy Review (Review) discussion paper, which considered what should be the appropriate criteria for the establishment of an ARFFS, including both higher and lower passenger numbers.
As part of the Review, DIRDC was asked to consider the use of risk assessments, rather than the current 'hard trigger' requirement for the establishment of an ARFF service (the 350 000 passenger threshold).
The Review found that a passenger threshold number lower than 350 000 passengers was not supported, and suggested that available ARFFS resources should be targeted to major passenger airports. Further, it was noted that lowering the threshold would only marginally improve ARFFS coverage across the system because:
…there would be a relatively small increase in the total percentage of passengers covered…but there would be a significant cost imposition on regional airlines which could adversely affect the level of airline services to regional airports.
The Review instead recommended that passenger numbers should be used as a trigger for a risk review, rather than be used for the automatic requirement for the provision of ARFFS. DIRDC advised that this was the preferred approach, as the current approach did not 'allow for consideration of the likelihood or consequence of an incident occurring at a particular location for determining whether ARFFS resources should be deployed'. DIRDC further stated that:
Factors such as safety measures already in place (e.g. the nature of air traffic control services), the variety of operations undertaken at the location and geographic factors affecting access to the site are not currently considered, and as a result resources are not allocated according to safety risk.
DIRDC advised that the regulatory reform package arising from the Review determined that risk reviews would be used to determine whether to establish ARFFS at airports, using the introduction of scheduled international passenger air services and total number of passenger movements—500 000 over a rolling 12 months—as triggers for undertaking the risk review.
Further, risk reviews would be used to determine whether to disestablish ARFFS at airports with passenger movements falling below 400 000 and remaining below this level for 12 months, or the withdrawal of international services, as triggers for the risk review.
However, in June 2018, Minister McCormack adjusted the regulatory reforms, such that the passenger number trigger for risk assessments remained at 350 000—rather than increase to 500 000 as proposed—and for disestablishment, remained at 300 000 rather than 400 000.
Other recommendations of the Review included:
improving and modernising the regulatory framework, including the regulations and the associated MOS, by replacing prescriptive requirements with a systems and outcome-based approach underpinned by the ARFFS provider having an SMS approved and audited by CASA;
clarifying the roles and arrangements with the state and territory fire services and the airport operator in relation to the provision of ARFFS; and
maintaining arrangements at existing ARFFS locations, including that it would not be necessary to undertake a disestablishment risk review for an existing ARFFS unless the total number of passengers falls below the existing disestablishment threshold of 300 000 in the twelve month period.
The outcomes of the Review are currently being implemented via changes to CASR Subpart 139.H and the associated MOS. DIRDC advised that draft regulations would be released for comment during 2019. CASA also advised that drafted amendments to the MOS would be provided for broad consultation with industry.
Airservices noted that it was working with both DIRDC and CASA to implement the outcomes of the 2015 Review, by amending Part 139.H and the associated MOS.
Responses to the Review
The Australian Airline Pilots' Association (AusALPA) was of the view that implementation of the recommendations of the Review would diminish aviation safety standards in Australia, and make Australia 'even less compliant' with the ICAO SARPs. AusALPA also questioned whether CASA was equipped with the relevant expertise with which to conduct risk assessments for the ARFFS, particularly given the rarity of aircraft incidents in Australia.
AusALPA further suggested that there would be other serious ramifications to adopting the recommendations:
Australia would risk not only failing to meet its international obligations, but also could cause serious harm to its international reputation should a fatal aircraft accident, involving multiple loss of life, occur at an airport where insufficient or no ARFFS provision was shown to be a major contributory factor in the non-survivability of that event.
The UFUAB likewise suggested that implementation of the Review's recommendations would 'see the standard of ARFFS in Australia' decline, particularly in rural and regional areas where ARFF services would be reduced or not provided in the foreseeable future.
Mr von Nida voiced serious concerns over the proposal to increase the passenger threshold to 500 000, as suggested by the Review. Mr von Nida suggested such an increase would move Australia further away from the ICAO standards, and compared the Australian establishment trigger to those overseas:
When you look around the world, you've got the UK, where every certified airport has an ARFF service of some type. In the US, anything with 12 seats and above has a fire service. If you look at New Zealand, for 30 seats and above there's a fire service. In Canada, get more than 180,000 passengers through the gate and you get a fire service.
The Australian Airports Association (AAA) advised that in submitting to the Review, it was largely supportive of the shift to risk‑based assessments, in conjunction with the revised passenger threshold triggers. The AAA suggested that these approaches recognise the increased passenger numbers at airports, and 'signalled a move towards more outcomes‑based regulation in line with international best practice'. Despite the later announcement by Minister McCormack, the AAA remained supportive of the suggested risk assessment process, as it would allow a number of relevant factors to be considered, rather than just passenger numbers in isolation.
Airservices wrote to DIRDC as part of the Review, offering its support for improved regulatory settings for ARFFS, and in particular for the shift to a risk‑based assessment approach for the establishment and disestablishment of ARFF services. Airservices remarked that the use of the hard trigger could be 'improved through consideration of the operational environment of each airport'.
General concerns with the establishment threshold
The UFUA suggested that, rather than passenger numbers—an 'arbitrary threshold figure'—the type of aircraft utilising an aerodrome should be used to determine whether ARFF services were provided. An ARFFS would therefore be established via a risk assessment, as opposed to a threshold trigger. The UFUA argued that such an approach could 'meaningfully model' the consequences of—for example—an aircraft crash, and was therefore preferable to the current approach which could not anticipate the worst case scenario.
Further, the UFUA argued that a number of airports in Australia with significant aircraft movements (over 200 000 aircraft movements each year, such as at Bankstown or Moorabin), but with fewer passenger movements, did not have an ARFFS. The UFUA questioned this approach, asking whether 'these busy airports, surrounded by residential suburban housing' should have ARFF services.
The UFUA continued that a number of other countries applied a 'more rigorous standard' than Australia to the establishment of ARFFS. For example, all licenced airports in the UK had ARFF provisions, and most licenced airports in the USA and New Zealand also had established ARFF services. The UFUA stated that:
If Australia were to adopt the formula used by any of these other nations, more Australian airports would provide ARFF services, in turn ensuring a safer airport experience for more domestic and international travellers.
Post‑implementation review – Subpart 139.H
In 2007, following implementation of CASR Subpart 139.H in 2005, CASA undertook to complete a post‑implementation review (PIR) of the rules that would 'look at ensuring the rules were effective in protecting the delivery of a safe ARFF service for the benefit of the travelling public'.
CASA stated that over time, it had 'become aware of some issues that could be better addressed' by the CASR, and further noted that the recommendations of the 2015 Review by DIRDC required amendments to the rules. CASA also saw the PIR as an opportunity to better align Australian rules with current ICAO standards and international best practice, and to incorporate technological improvements.
The PIR would consider a number of matters, including (but not limited to):
the key challenges facing the industry, in order to propose policy improvements;
a gap analysis between the existing CASR Subpart 139.H and the associated MOS against the Chicago Convention and its Annexes, to ensure the MOS continues to meet Australia's international responsibilities to ICAO;
a review of existing draft amendments to the MOS to reconcile these against the gap analysis;
the approach taken by other regulators internationally; and
the training and qualification framework for aviation firefighters.
In July 2018, CASA advised that the legal drafting of the CASR amendments and the MOS was underway, which, after review by the independent Aviation Safety Advisory Panel, would be released for public consultation prior to final drafting.
CASA also advised that under its current review of Subpart 139.H, proposed changes would include additional requirements for ARFFS providers to apply the ICAO resourcing model at each ARFFS location.
Concerns with the regulatory framework
Despite these reviews and their suggestions to improve the ARRFS regulatory structure, submitters raised concerns that the regulations were outdated and not aligned with international best practice.
For example, Mr Kiegan Rice noted that the MOS had been subject to the PIR process since 2007, and further suggested that it had been 14 years since the MOS was updated. Mr Rice contended that in this time, Annex 14 to the Chicago Convention had been updated 11 times, and therefore CASA was not supporting Australia in its adherence to Convention commitments. Mr Rice expressed concern over Australia's lack of adherence to the recommended practices, and was of the personal view that:
…decision makers within the ARFFS believe that ICAO SARPS is split between the standards: certain standards that must be adhered to, and recommended practices which are nice to adhere to…Australian civil aviation strives for world best practice - shouldn’t we be aiming to adhere to all recommended practices?
Mr Rice put forward his views for addressing these concerns, including finalisation of the MOS Review and update, and clearer understanding and advice from ARFFS operational standards and performance teams that the MOS is required to be read in conjunction with the ICAO publications.
Mr Hancox went further and suggested that there be a 'full rewrite of the regulations completed as soon as possible', in order to the align them with current international standards and recommendations. Mr Hancox argued that such a rewrite was 'years overdue'.
General views on the provision of ARFF services
There were divided views as to the overall efficacy of Australia's ARFF services, as well as its adherence to international standards.
It was CASA's view that there was 'no evidence' to suggest that ARFF services had been compromised in any way that 'could reasonably be seen to impact negatively on Australia's reputation or safety record'.
Similarly, the AAA expressed 'no concerns' regarding the standards for ARFF services, or the performance of Airservices in its ARFFS operations. It was the view of the AAA that Airservices undertook its functions in a 'professional, effective and collaborative manner', ensuring that incidents were responded to as quickly as possible.
Conversely, the UFUAB expressed concerns that Australia's ARFFS was no longer adhering to operational best practice, and was instead operating in accordance with a business model and looking for ways to cut services.
The UFUAB was of the view that Australia had 'without a doubt the worst ARFFS safety regulations in the world, with nearly 300 unprotected airports' and an excessively high establishment threshold of 350 000 passengers. The UFUAB concluded that:
Right now is the time to act to prevent any changes to Australian ARFFS regulations that will take us even further away from internationally accepted standards.
Mr Hunter, of the UFUAB, made clear his views that the Airservices approach to safety was based on business and industrial models which were 'not suited to the provision of emergency services'. Mr Hunter expanded on his views, suggesting that the Airservices approach allowed for:
…risk to be reduced based on likelihood [of an emergency], which allows them to manipulate the outcomes. Whilst this works in most industries, it is not relevant to an emergency services provider. ARFF should be based on the assumption that there is an event, not the likelihood. It assumes the worst plausible case scenario. The baseline for this event is and must always be 'catastrophic'.
Performance of CASA
A number of submitters and witnesses were of the view that CASA is not providing effective regulatory oversight of Airservices and its provision of ARFF services.
The UFUA voiced its strong concerns over CASA's role as the regulatory body for ARFF services, suggesting that CASA was 'reluctant to investigate and act' on what it perceived as a 'continual failure' by Airservices to provide and maintain category levels at aerodromes, alongside other ARFF regulatory breaches. The UFUA suggested that this 'failure' was a result of ARFF crew being utilised in responses to off‑airport emergencies, or for 'non‑operational extraneous duties', leading to reduced staffing levels and an inability to maintain category at an aerodrome.
It was the view of the UFUA that Subpart 139.H of the CASR 'falls significantly short of the international standard' for the provision of ARFF services, and identified a number of exemptions which had been granted to Airservices by CASA (such as an exemption to reduce the frequency of foam application training from every 90 days to every 180 days).
The UFUA called for an independent review of the CASRs, which would serve as an opportunity to 'better align the CASRs and MOS with international best practice and current ICAO standards', while taking into consideration the NFPA 403 standard as best practice, and the views of ARFF and firefighting experts.
Regarding dispensations from adherence to the regulations, DIRDC confirmed to the committee that the Department could not require CASA to issue an exemption to Airservices, and could not prevent CASA from doing so. However, if it was later identified that there were issues with a granted exemption, DIRDC would work with CASA and take the lead 'if an amendment to legislation or regulation were needed to require changes to the way in which CASA was undertaking its functions'.
Ms Spence of DIRDC confirmed that at this time, there was no evidence to suggest that there were any issues with the accuracy and efficacy of ARFFS decision‑making, and the Department was confident that the appropriate and correct decisions had been made.
According to Mr Walker, Airservices voluntarily and regularly informs CASA as to its ARFFS activities, and that when a concern was raised by the unions, that was 'fully explored'. Mr Walker continued that, in that instance, a risk assessment or safety case was sought from Airservices by CASA. Following that, the safety case was:
…assessed and analysed by our technical experts. We have a team within the air navigation and aerodromes branch who are ARFF specialists; many of them have actually been active ARFF members historically. They conduct the assessment. If CASA satisfies itself that the safety case meets the requirement, then permission is granted to proceed. If required, an exemption may or may not be issued. If further work is required, that is sought from Airservices. It's not unusual, though, for that to occur or for CASA to determine that it's not satisfied that it is safe to do so.
Mr Brad Parker, Acting Branch Manager, Air Navigation, Airspace and Aerodromes, CASA, confirmed that any changes by Airservices to its operations manual did not need to involve CASA, as the manual was an internal Airservices document. Airservices were able to make changes, and then advise CASA. Mr Parker noted that CASA would then undertake a review, and CASA 'does have the power to instruct the service provider to revert to what they were doing before or something else'.
Performance of Airservices
Strong views were put forward as to the performance of Airservices in its provision of ARRFS.
For example, Mr Barker submitted that Airservices had 'an appetite for risk', while ignoring calls from ARFF personnel for 'more staff, more resources and better compliance' with the regulatory framework. Mr Barker also suggested the lack of a serious aircraft incident in Australia may have led to a sense of complacency:
Although ARFF have responded to many aviation incidents, Australia is ‘lucky’ to have avoided a major aircraft crash or incident. This complacency has infiltrated Airservices and decisions are being made based on the likelihood of ‘nothing’ happening rather than ‘in all probability, one day it will’.
Mr Hancox commented that there was a disconnect between Airservices management, and front‑line ARFF staff. Mr Hancox suggested that a corporate mindset from Airservices compromised the safety of operational staff, as did a 'compromised relationship' between CASA and Airservices management. Mr Hancox argued that ARFF staff are frustrated with Airservices management, and that:
…safety critical issues are ignored or aren’t being fixed in appropriate timeframes. This seriously impedes operations and is a WHS issue for staff…Management need to be accountable and transparent if they are to regain our trust.
Further, Mr Tim Limmer felt that there was a 'disappointing level of care and concern for the genuine safety and wellbeing' of ARFFS firefighters.
The sentiments expressed by submitters and witnesses were not shared by Airservices. Airservices took the view that it provides ARFF services 'at or above the regulated category requirement at every fire station'. Airservices went on to state that:
By effectively utilising capacity established to meet regulated ARRFS requirements, Airservices has been able to maintain the required category level to ensure an immediate response to an aircraft emergency while also providing non-regulated services such as first aid response and mutual aid to other fire services.
As part of its submission, Airservices presented information which indicated that, for each of the 26 ARFFS airports, staffing was provided at either the CASA‑approved level, or above this level (in a combination of officers and firefighters).
For example, Airservices indicated that Adelaide Airport (during curfew) and Melbourne Airport had more staff than was required by CASA. Additionally, Brisbane and Perth Airports were staffed at Category 10 levels, for Category 10 aircraft operations (such as A380s).
Airservices further suggested that it had developed performance targets, aimed at ensuring that ARFFS vehicles, firefighting agents and firefighters for the required category were available to:
…meet the regulated response times 99.9% of the time the service is available. This means additional resources are provided at some locations over and above the regulatory standard so that ARFFS can respond to other regulated (e.g. fire alarm activations) and non‑regulated (e.g. requests for first aid assistance) emergencies while still maintaining category at or above 99.9%.
Airservices pointed out that it had consistently maintained its service performance in line with its performance targets, achieving 99.93 per cent in 2017, and 99.94 per cent in 2018. The performance targets were applied across all locations, to allow Airservices to 'better understand key impacts on maintaining service delivery', and where resources over and above the regulatory standard might be provided.
Airservices further noted that its operations were exceeding regulatory standards in a number of areas. Airservices pointed to the following as examples of this:
staffing over the CASA‑approved staffing level at some locations, including Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne;
in some locations, having up to 100 per cent more firefighting agent than required by the regulatory standard;
ARFFS coverage beyond the regulated hours of operation at Sydney and Adelaide Airports; and
firefighting (‘front line’ foam producing) vehicles in excess of the number required to deliver the service (the operational requirement is for approximately 75 vehicles compared to an overall current fleet number of 90 vehicles).
Comparison with international standards
Airservices noted that, as part of its operating model, it regularly compares Australian ARFFS with the safety standards and practices implemented by ARFF services internationally. By doing so, Airservices stated that it was able to remain aware of the latest research, industry changes and the 'impacts and benefits of emerging technologies', while working cohesively with international peers in training and the exchange of information related to ARFFS.
Despite this approach, Airservices noted that it was difficult to draw comparisons between Australian and other ARFF services, 'as the operating environment, regulatory framework and ownership structures vary across jurisdictions'. Airservices suggested that Subpart 139.H of the CASR was more extensive than its international counterparts, requiring the ARFFS to comply with a broader range of safety standards.
Similar views were put forward by DIRDC. In a letter dated 18 May 2018 to the legislation committee, DIRDC advised that differences filed with ICAO were subjective as to how each member state meets a particular standard. DIRDC highlighted that Australia was ranked sixth with ICAO and against other member states for the effective implementation of safety oversight arrangements. DIRDC argued that the number of differences filed was 'not an appropriate indicator of Australia's commitment to international standards or the safety of our aviation system'.
Airservices described its processes for researching other regulatory and industry standards:
Airservices approach to international standards is to analyse their applicability to the broader environment here in Australia, consider their relationship to the regulations, consider their validity and where merit can be demonstrated, adopt or adapt elements of them.
For example, elements of ARFFS vehicle design and performance and training frameworks have been drawn from NFPA standards.