This chapter provides an overview of the legislative and regulatory framework for the general aviation (GA) sector. The sheer volume and complexity of the regulatory burden on all operators in the aviation sector was a central concern to many submitters to the inquiry.
The chapter also explores the significant economic burden of complying with aviation regulation, whether it be the direct financial costs, or the opportunity cost in the time expended on meeting the obligations imposed by the regulations. Much of the discussion in this chapter is centred on whether the legislative instruments that underpin the regulatory framework strike the appropriate balance between safety, and the ability for the GA sector to operate economically and effectively.
Legislative and regulatory framework
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) administers a three-tier regulatory system comprising primary legislation, regulations, and other legislative instruments. These include the following:
Civil Aviation Act 1988 and
Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 (CAR);
Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR);
Airspace Regulations 2007;
Manuals of Standards (MOSs);
Civil Aviation Orders (CAOs);
Airworthy Directives (ADs); and
Other instruments such as the Australian Technical Standard Orders (ATSOs).
The regulatory burden
Parts of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (CA Act), and accompanying regulations, have come under scrutiny from various stakeholders. Central to the concerns is the complexity and onerous nature of complying with regulations, with little regard to the burden placed on operators. Many stakeholders feel the current system does not strike the appropriate balance between safety and the ongoing viability of the industry.
In 2018, the Australian Airports Association (AAA) engaged Deloitte Access Economics to undertake a study into the economic and social contribution of Australia’s airport industry. The subsequent report concluded that the regulatory burden on the GA sector was one of the factors causing operators to ‘turn to the sport and recreation sector’.
The Deloitte report details other factors impacting on GA viability, such as the ageing GA fleet, but concluded that there was an opportunity for CASA to reduce the burden to reflect the risk profile of GA operations:
The combination of ageing traditional aircraft and higher costs, and regulatory compliance have led many aviators to turn to the sport and recreational aviation sector
With CASA about to finalise many relevant parts of the regulatory framework applicable to GA, there is an opportunity to reduce the regulatory burden on GA through regulatory requirements that are more proportionate to the risks associated with GA activities but still maintain safety standards.
Views of stakeholders
Mr John McDermott, Owner and Chief Pilot of McDermott Aviation Pty Ltd, was one of many in the aviation sector who commented on the issue of regulatory burden. Mr McDermott shared his perspective in a public hearing that GA regulations ‘are far too onerous to understand, are very brutal to comply with and defy the Civil Aviation Act 1988, where it says economic considerations should be given to the impact of the regulations’.
Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) was of the view that at its core, aviation regulation is a safety system, and this should underpin the design and application of all regulatory instruments. In the design of regulation, AFAP believed that CASA was sometimes guilty of considering safety as a separate issue, and consequently played safety against issues such as cost. AFAP said that CASA must:
… take into account that civil aviation is a system of safety and that too often cost and safety are paired off as opposing challenges in regulatory reform processes and outcomes.
Furthermore, AFAP maintained that a central issue throughout the regulatory framework is that the purpose of the regulations is lost amongst the complexity, adding to the confusion and frustration felt by many stakeholders. AFAP went on to recommend the establishment of:
… an aviation regulatory reform process that has an objective to include articulation of safety objectives and regulatory-intent of aviation regulations within the regulations.
The Royal Federation of Aero Clubs of Australia submitted that much of the regulation administered by CASA ‘has been poorly developed and implemented and is overly prescriptive and complex’, resulting in adverse effects on aero clubs and GA more generally, ‘without appreciable improvements in safety outcomes’.
NQ Aviation submitted its concerns that CASA’s overall regulatory framework did not comply with section 9A of the CA Act, saying:
First and foremost, it is recognised that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA’s) primary consideration, as our Industry’s regulator, should be safety. Section 9 of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 stipulates that one of CASA’s primary functions is to develop and promulgate appropriate, clear and concise aviation safety standards. […] Unfortunately however, CASA’s management processes currently do not deliver clear and concise communications with stakeholders within the industry, and this is undermining the strength of this once vibrant sector.
Angel Flight, a charity and Community Service Flight (CSF) operator that provides non-emergency medical flights, also warned that over‑regulation, and the costs of regulatory compliance with no concomitant safety benefits, was putting the existence of their organisation and the GA sector more generally at risk. Angel Flight explained that:
Angel Flight pilots have ceased flying due to the increased costs and regulatory burden…None of the Instrument conditions improve aviation safety in the CSF sector, and none have been related to any accident (admitted by CASA).
Sports Aircraft Association of Australia concurred that safety outcomes were not manifestly improved with the increased complexity of regulations, contending that current regulation development and administration exacerbates:
proliferation of differing standards for same or similar applications or function (pilot medicals, pilot and instructor trainings, aircraft maintenance etc.)
ever increasing complexity of regulations
cost burden of administrating such regulations at the expense of more effective safety risk mitigation activities.
A number of submitters suggested ways for improving the accessibility and clarity of CASA’s regulatory framework.
For example, Aerial Application Association of Australia Ltd. (AAAA) recommended a review of the CA Act, including considering ‘embedding in the Act a classification of operations structure such that GA is identified as qualifying for relatively simple regulation based on identified and quantified risks’.
AAAA further suggested moving the regulatory development role from CASA to the Department of Infrastructure, while ‘ensuring that regulations are outcome based wherever possible, and the application of strict liability offences is used sparingly’.
The Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association Inc. (AMROBA) also contend that the CA Act was not fit for purpose and suggested that basic International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Authority Technical Divisions, relevant to Australia’s aviation industry, be identified in the CA Act, including:
Product Certification (design, aircraft, aircraft parts etc);
Airworthiness (maintenance and manufacture);
Operations (commercial, non-commercial, sport and recreation);
Personnel licensing (pilot, maintenance);
Airspace (domestic, international);
International technical agreements.
AMROBA further suggested that Section 9(1) of the CA Act be amended to require CASA to consider the following:
(bb) the design and manufacture of aircraft and aeronautical products including Australian designed/manufactured aircraft operating outside of Australia;
(bc) the continuing airworthiness of aircraft and aeronautical products registered in Australia, including Australian designed/manufactured aircraft outside Australia;
(bd) to enter into technical and operational arrangements, or both, with civil aviation authorities or other countries to benefit Australian businesses;
(be) aerodromes/airspace administration within the Australian territories.
AFAP also proposed an amendment to section 9 which would:
… permanently bestow a legal duty upon the regulator to develop and promulgate regulations with systemic and outcomes focused objectives. Such a targeted amendment should be worded with an aim to resolve the current lack of outcomes-focused regulatory activity.
The CASA Board
Several submitters expressed concerns over the make-up and functioning of the CASA Board and its failure to curb excessive regulation. Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) commented that:
… the Board is incapable of making the political decisions required of government and seems to have failed to prevent the excesses of regulatory overreach or the imposition of unnecessary costs.
AAAA recommended that the Board be either abolished, or be given full powers, including directive powers over the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety in issues of management and reform. It further suggested that the majority of Board memberships be given to people with relevant aviation experience.
AFAP pointed out that Government has provided some proactive assistance with an aim to better guide CASA, by providing Ministerial Statements of Expectation and other guidance to the Board. However, AFAP’s submission expressed its concern this guidance will not influence the change that is necessary ‘to remedy how the development and promulgation of standards are performed by CASA’. AFAP believed the 2019 amendment to the CA Act ‘remains incomplete and insufficient to remedy the heart of the problems with aviation regulatory reform processes and that of CASA’.
CASA defended the balance it was trying to achieve, and believed there was evidence that the legislation and regulatory framework is generally fit for purpose, as demonstrated by:
the low general aviation accident rate that has improved over the last five years
CASA’s regulatory requirements forming a relatively small cost compared to the total cost of operating
regulatory requirements being broadly similar to those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
CASA’s view is supported to an extent by an ICAO audit conducted in 2017. The audit found Australia’s compliance with ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) to be 95 per cent, while achieving above
‑average scores in all areas—with percentage scores for five of seven measures above 90 per cent. The weakest score was obtained for aviation legislation with a score of just under 81 per cent, higher than the global average of about 72 per cent.
The impact of COVID-19
The impact of COVID on the aviation sector is well documented in terms of the reduction of aviation activity. However there has also been an impact on those in the sector who need to access the services required to meet regulatory obligations.
AAAA cited annual Operator Proficiency Checks for helicopters as one issue that had been made more difficult due to state border closures, suggesting that CASA had made the situation ‘unworkable’ by requiring the Checks to be conducted by an Examiner.
The difficulty in adherence to regulations during the pandemic was addressed by CASA’s current Director of Safety, Ms Pip Spence. Ms Spence highlighted how challenging the last 18 months have been for the aviation industry and pointed out that CASA has responded with a ‘risk-based approach to providing industry with more flexibility without compromising safety’.
CASA’s submission also highlighted measures taken by the regulator in response to compliance difficulties faced by the sector:
CASA continues to ensure the ongoing safety of aviation by adopting a flexible approach to regulation to alleviate the pressure on all sectors of the industry. We have also strived to reduce the administrative and financial burden on individuals and operators during this time through a program of exemptions and extensions. These include:
• Over 40,000 medical certificate exemptions made available for pilots and air traffic controllers to continue to exercise their privileges without a valid medical certificate to 31 March 2021.
• Over 1,200 Air Operator’s Certificates and Part 141/142 certificates automatically extended for six months.
• A three-month extension of pilot’s flight review and proficiency check due dates between March-December 2020, with the expiry of the exemption then extended to 31 March 2021.
Mr Frank Quinlan, Federal Executive Officer, Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) acknowledged that CASA made appropriate exemptions and considered or extended alternative models and arrangements so that the RFDS could continue during COVID-19, especially around requirements for flight examiners.
The economic burden
The CA Act provides, at section 9A(1), that CASA must regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration in the exercise of its powers and functions.
In November 2019, amendments were made to the CA Act, to directly address concerns of stakeholders about the cost of CASA regulations. Section 9A(3) of the CA Act now provides that in ‘developing and promulgating aviation safety standards’, CASA must:
consider the economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community of the standards; and
take into account the differing risks associated with different industry sectors.
While the committee fully supports the safest possible Australian aviation sector, it became clear during the inquiry that the costs associated with many of the safety measures continually being implemented by CASA were having a detrimental impact on many aspects of the GA sector.
Despite the 2019 changes to the CA Act, submitters consistently remarked on the damaging impact of increasing regulatory costs on the industry, as discussed below.
There are numerous elements which contribute to the cost of operating in the aviation sector.
CASA advised that costs have increased for training, fuel, airport charges, insurance, aircraft maintenance and security costs. Drawing attention to the findings of the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), CASA stated that its regulatory requirements comprised four per cent of overall operating costs with wages (45 per cent), fuel (16 per cent) and maintenance (19 per cent) accounting for most costs. CASA acknowledged that regulatory compliance in areas like flight crew licensing, flying, training and maintenance added to the true cost of operating, but argued that CASA had not increased its fees or hourly rates since 2007.
CASA also responded to assertions in other submissions that the economic burden of regulatory compliance was too high. CASA instead noted that ‘the ageing fleet in the general aviation sector means that the costs for keeping these aircraft flying are higher than for new aircraft’. CASA said that as it continues to modernise, it has:
… worked diligently to provide time and cost saving measures to support all sectors with an emphasis on providing simpler forms, sample templates, sample manuals and introducing no touch/low intervention processing that contribute to a lower time and cost burden on operators.
Nonetheless, stakeholders were of the view that excessive costs continued to plague the aviation sector and did nothing to address safety concerns. According to AIPA, industry feedback such as that which has led to this inquiry has always been about costs to the industry, and the policy complexity of who should pay and how much:
Activities in which public policy prioritises safety require precise, consistent and constrained entry control combined with a regime of continuing compliance. Under-capitalisation, inexperience, poor management and greed are all enemies of public safety – that is why we are forced to regulate aviation.
Submitters provided examples of what it costs to obtain, renew and maintain various classes of pilot licences.
One pilot submitted that he is currently unemployed, and as a result, needs financial assistance to renew his pilot licence, Class 1 Aviation Medical and Aviation Security Identification Card. To hold a Class 1 Aviation Medical is $1,200 and requires Designated Aviation Medical Examiner and specialist to do the tests in Tasmania. The pilot estimated that under CASA rules and regulations, it costs $71,301 to earn a VFR Commercial Pilot Licence, Rotorcraft Helicopter.
A representative of Agrimuster /Katherine Helicopters provided the following example of aviation costs in agriculture:
I attained my Agricultural rating in 2006. At that time I could do a renewal every two years in any helicopter I was licenced for or wanted to become licenced for. This would cost me between $500.00 and $1000.00. I could this with any grade 1 instructor. Now I have to do a Robinson type renewal and a Mustering training renewal every 2 years then an Ag or Firefighting rating renewal every year. This is a direct cost to me of around $7000.00 every year. If I had another pilot with the same ratings as myself then you can add that price again. Every year.
Another submitter commented on the multiple CASA expenses incurred by pilots including medicals, Aviation Security Identification Cards (ASIC), exam fees and flight-testing fees. The submitter pointed out that these costs account for about nine per cent of CASA’s income and ‘[a] large portion of these are seen as ‘revenue raising’ type costs within the industry (especially the ASIC)’.
Costs, risks and safety outcomes
It was also the view of some submitters that despite the high costs associated with the GA sector, there was no commensurate impact on safety outcomes, or in reducing risk to industry participants.
Mr Clinton McKenzie argued that individuals and Australia as a society continues ‘to pay a very high price for aviation regulatory activities that have little-to-no causally beneficial effect on aviation safety, or entail costs that far outweigh any safety benefit’. He continued that:
… there is no one in the Australian government doing any analysis to determine, for example, whether 100 road fatalities could be avoided each year by increasing air travel to and from regional and remote areas and, if yes, in return for what costs – even in aviation fatalities – and, finally, deciding whether or not to pay those costs in return for the benefit of avoiding 100 road fatalities.
A Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME) and pilot also spoke to the issue of risk, and reported that:
As much as I, and many others, enjoy acting as a pilot, we are under no illusion of the potential of a catastrophic outcome. Aviation is an inherently risky pursuit, whether in a professional or hobby capacity, but CASA needs to accept that risk should be considered against the financial and emotional burden of the decisions that have been made.
One of the submitters suggested that CASA ‘continues to develop and implement major legislative and regulatory reform in the absence of information demonstrating the safety concerns requiring such change, the potential financial and economic impact on the industry, or the safety outcomes of such changes’.
Fleet Helicopter and Commercial Helicopters submitted that they:
… consistently identify CASA as one of our highest risks with regard to safety. We are continually forced to invest resources, (human, physical and financial), in order to analyse, argue against and eventually implement bad regulations that provide no benefit to either the industry or our clients with regard to safety.
The costs of interacting with CASA
In evidence, submitters and witnesses pointed to numerous examples of where interacting with CASA had placed unnecessary cost burdens on their operations. Issues were also raised about the costs incurred by the GA industry to pay for services that only CASA provides—with CASA determining the cost of the service.
One of the key issues identified by GAAN for building trust between the GA industry and CASA was that:
CASA’s cost recovery from industry be specific to services and accountable in a commercial sense, including transparent billing and timely resolution of issues.
Evidence to the committee suggested this approach was not being taken by CASA. For example, some organisations reported financial burdens arising from the time required to respond to CASA requirements. Mr Phil Hurst, for instance, noted that members of technical working groups which engage with CASA are not reimbursed for their time in providing advice.
Fleet Helicopter and Commercial Helicopters submitted that as aircraft operators, they are required to have regular interactions with CASA to renew instruments and exemptions and apply for approval to conduct new operations, or operate new aircraft types. As stated in their submission, they consider the charge rates completely unreasonable for the basic services provided. CASA’s schedule of fees are hourly rates range from $100 to $190 with the lowest rates applying to services that are mostly administrative or require a small degree of technical skills. His experience has been a default charge of $160 per hour for all tasks.
Australian Helicopter Industry Association expressed concern with the hourly charges imposed by CASA, and pointed out that the regulations were costly to implement:
Its hourly charges are arbitrary and some officers adopt a take it or leave it approach. Many industry participants feel the hourly rate approach leads to inflated costs due to CASA work quotes only advising approximate total project times. The aviation industry becomes a price taker with little recourse to usual market factors.
AAAA pointed out that:
… the cost[s] of compliance were very clearly not countenanced in the development of regulations such as pilot licencing and training organisations through Part 61/141/142, or the maintenance licencing ruleset in Part 66 and others – both of which have outcomes of crippling the Australian aviation training capacity.
One submitter pointed out the considerable revenue raised by CASA for students undertaking aviation examinations and asked how the revenue then benefits the aviation industry. This submitter wanted to appeal several questions in an exam which were ‘not relevant to helicopter operations’ and was advised the appeal would cost $1,120.
Another submitter who had received an instructor rating, pointed out that for every endorsement or rating that they wish to instruct they now need to complete a syllabus of training with an appropriately endorsed instructor, followed by a flight test with a flight examiner who holds instructor examiner privileges. Under previous licencing requirements they would have been approved to instruct any rating or endorsement that was held, without the need for the additional training costs. They described the impact as a ‘substantially increased and crippling financial burden’. They were required to invest an additional $14,220 to be able to instruct sequences that under the former licencing system they would have been authorised to instruct.
Strategies to address regulation and cost issues
In 2017 CASA introduced the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) as part of a review of the regulator’s consultation regime. It was intended that the Panel, along with Technical Working Groups (TWGs), would be ‘the primary advisory body through which CASA will direct its engagement with industry and seek input on current and future regulatory and associated policy approaches’.
In December 2021, the Australian Government published its Aviation Recovery Framework - Flying to Recovery report as a strategic guide for the recovery of the aviation sector post covid. One of the commitments in the report is to develop a ‘Roadmap to Revitalising GA in Australia’. This roadmap comprises the commissioning of research into the value and growth of opportunities of the GA sector; a targeted review of the CA Act; and proposals to encourage innovation and removing barriers in the sector.
The targeted review of the CA Act is specifically to identify and resolve regulatory bottlenecks, improve consultation processes, and encourage risk‑based and outcome-focused regulatory activity. The report’s recommendations were in part a result of a proposal from GAAN, and submissions provided to this inquiry.
The GAAN suggested that the following issues should be considered as part of the targeted review:
the current responsibilities, powers and composition of the CASA Board;
how the Act should provide a head of power for a reformed regulatory approach for GA;
whether Section 9A of the Act is still fit for purpose;
how the Act can ensure that GA aviation regulations are internationally harmonised;
how to avoid economic harm and impediments to technological and other innovations;
unjustified punitive measures; and
sections of the Act that are no longer relevant.
Mr Kerry Nolan, President of the Royal Federation of Aero Clubs of Australia, suggested that safety regulation must be reviewed in consultation with the sector and took the view that much could be simplified with ‘the cost of compliance reduced without sacrificing safety outcomes’. He hoped that a review would result in more coherent and effective regulations and that ‘safety will be the better for it’.
Other solutions were put forward in evidence about how to establish a more sustainable funding model for CASA. For example, Aerial Application Association Ltd. suggested that the long-term funding model of CASA be addressed by establishing a per seat charge on all regular passenger transport movements, including international flights, to lighten the load on GA.
Views on stakeholder consultation
Noting the establishment of the ASAP and the work of the TWGs, there was some support for the efficacy of CASA’s consultation and working group processes.
In Queensland the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) has members working on Parts 119, 135 and 145 TWGs, as well as on Parts 61, 141 and 142 Post Implementation Review Committees. The RFDS Western Operations participates on a CASA Working Group ‘on the use of night vision goggles in helicopters’ as the RFDS start to integrate aeromedical helicopters into their fleet. Mr Frank Quinlan, Federation Executive Officer of RFDS, was of the view that the CASA process, through industry working groups, ‘provides us with the opportunity to effectively have input into various processes and regulatory matters’.
However, not all stakeholders believed the ASAP or TWGs can solve the fundamental issues within CASA in relation to its engagement with the aviation sector, with particular concerns raised about the absence of pilots on the Panel.
For instance, AIPA contended that the ASAP’s fundamental weakness was that it excludes pilot groups, and thus could never have safety as its core priority:
In the absence of the informed input from pilots who actually fly the aircraft and conduct the operations that CASA is regulating, the ASAP is predominantly a special interest economic rather than safety advisory panel.
AFAP were also strongly critical of the absence of professional pilots on the Panel:
A consultative panel in the medical sector for example, similar in purpose to that of the ASAP, would not exclude doctors. Yet in aviation, the voice of professional pilots is not welcomed by CASA in the ASAP.
AIPA argued the issues lie deeper in relation to advisory groups:
The biggest problem from these advisory structures is the implied power and thus the endemic political pressure that comes with them. That political pressure is distinctly different from the politics of elected representatives, in that it is the politics of special interest groups. It would be more tolerable if all parts of the aviation industry had relevant input, but unfortunately each advisory structure is wholly or predominantly representative of vested commercial interests with minimal balance from those in the front line who are directly conducting the very aviation activities that we want to remain safe.
Committee views and recommendation
The cost of aviation safety is high, but the committee recognises that the economic burden is becoming too much for many individuals and businesses involved in the GA industry. Many of the costs are not under the control of CASA but, for those that are, consideration should be given to capping the amount that CASA charges for their services for those undergoing financial hardship. Whether this occurs on a case-by-case basis or as a maximum amount per financial year for an individual or organisation would need to be determined. Nonetheless, the committee recommends that this area of expenditure needs to be reviewed by CASA.
The committee recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) review their cost recovery process to ensure there are clear rules and transparency on how costs are determined. CASA should further consider applying a cap on charges for its services to individuals and organisations experiencing financial hardship, in a financial year.
Industry concerns over specific regulations
The committee received a substantial number of submissions referring to issues about specific sections of legislation, the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASRs), and other regulatory instruments. While this report does not attempt to canvass all the technical regulatory issues submitted throughout the inquiry, a number of the regulations did attract significant commentary. These are discussed below.
The GAAN report stated that key elements of GA regulations which require reform include:
CASR Part 61 – pilot licencing and category rating:
‘specialist training’ changes that are underway through the ASAP and TWG Part 61 reform;
flight examiner requirements;
inefficient and bureaucratic administrative practices; and
divergences from the practices of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Part 91 (non-commercial) operations.
CASR Part 66 – maintenance licencing disincentives for new personnel
CASR Part 135 – air transport rules for smaller aeroplanes – limits on number of seats
CASR Part 137 and 138 – aerial work and application concerns
CASR Part 141 and 142 – training organisation requirements
According to Mr John McDermott of McDermott Aviation, the training and licensing regulations in the CASRs (Part 61, 66, 141/142, 147) are ‘an active impediment to the regeneration of GA industry skills—even the large RPT corporates are taking their training and maintenance work offshore—and without urgent action these alone will eventually stifle GA’.
AAAA also voiced its concerns with parts of the CASRs, saying that:
CASR Parts 61 (pilot licencing), 141 (training organisations), 66 (maintenance licencing) and others have created overly complex regulatory overreach that has decimated industry training and is now belatedly under review because of this impact.
The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) also cited several regulations as problematic and noted issues with duplication:
A decade after the making and introduction of the Maintenance Suite of Regulations (Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Parts 42, 145, 147 and 66) there still exists Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) 30 and 42 relating to maintenance and licencing for a large sector of the aviation community particularly in the areas servicing rural and regional Australia. There are large sections of the General Aviation industry where the two sets of regulations overlap causing unnecessary confusion and uncertainly.
Size and complexity of CASR Part 61 – Pilot licence and category rating
CASR Part 61 sets out the requirements and standards for the issue of flight crew licences, ratings and other authorisations. The rules cover what flight crew need to do to obtain and maintain licences, ratings and endorsement and the limitations that apply to exercising their privileges. All training for the grant of a Part 61 licence must be conducted by a holder of a Part 141 or Part 142 certificate (discussed later in this chapter).
The Australian Air Transport Pilot Licence (Aeroplane) (ATPL(A)) examinations test items of the ATPL (A) Aeronautical Knowledge Standards as per CASR Part 61, Manual of Standards, Schedule 3. The CASA private pilot licence aeroplane (PPLA) and helicopter (PPLH) PPL exams are also listed in the Part 61 Manual of Standards, Schedule 3.
Several submitters had concerns over the size and complexity of CASR Part 61 and were frustrated that CASA did not take on board recommendations from industry representatives in the drafting of the regulations.
According to AFAP, not long after Part 61 was enacted CASA had to introduce many exemptions and ‘patches’, despite issues being raised by industry to CASA during consultation in the regulatory development period.
AAAA agreed that much of the confusion around Part 61 could have been avoided if CASA had taken account of the view of industry earlier in the process, saying the:
… ‘new’ CASR 61, by comparison (to Part 40 of the CAOs [Civil Aviation Orders]), is about 700 pages of regulation, which also relies on a Manual of Standards of another 700 pages. It is regularly amended to address shortcomings that were pointed out by industry during drafting and implementation.
Fleet Helicopter and Commercial Helicopters were of the view that:
CASA was consistently warned by industry leading up to the release of the Part 61 Flight Crew Licencing regulations that they were wholly unsuitable, were going to impose completely unreasonable cost upon industry and that major changes were needed in order to let industry keep operating. They failed to listen, the new regulations were a disaster and have largely decimated the training industry and now we are over 4 years down the track, and they have not fixed any of the problems other than to issue temporary instruments to provide relief from unworkable rules.
The increased volume of regulation under Part 61 concerned a number of submitters. Mr John Armstrong referred to Part 61 as a ‘complicated mess of pages’, suggesting ‘it is too hard to get across’. Mr Douglas Heath commented that Part 61 is a ‘mountain of legislation’ and that the CASRs are:
… a minefield of legislation, and it’s up to us to get it right. But there are thousands and thousands of pages that we’re supposed to interpret. We train people and we fly aeroplanes; we’re not lawyers.
Mr Clinton McKenzie commented that his ‘Part 61 licence has double the number of pages compared with the licence I was issued in 1986’.
One submitter stated that the only justification for Part 61 was harmonisation with ICAO, but the ‘result is a pilot licence document that comprises 16 pages … with no impact on safety’.
Cost implications of CASR Part 61
Several submitters and witnesses drew attention to specific issues with the cost of implementing Part 61, and with inadequacy with its requirements. For example, Captain Louise Pole commented on the Australian airline industry relying on GA to supply its future pilot pool, and how the change to the licensing system for pilots under Part 61 affected GA. According to Captain Pole, due to Part 61:
… the costs associated with getting airline transport licences make it nearly impossible, so that has stymied many people’s careers and possibly may commit them to not actually ever coming out of general aviation because they won’t be able to afford it or their employer won’t be able to afford them the time for them to be able take these skills on.
Access to flight examiners
The South Australian Regional Airspace and Procedures Advisory Committee (RARAC) submitted that crew licencing regulations under Part 61 have resulted in additional hardship for regional and remote operators:
Part 61 introduced a number of new flights tests to check pilots’ skills for things that used to be handled under a flight review, or similar. Since Part 61 has been introduced, only flight examiners can conduct flight tests. Accessing the individual or organisation with the required qualifications to examine these skills is proving a costly exercise for the regional and remote operator.
… The added complexity of training regulations has seen a number of flight schools close, or drastically alter their business model to remain viable. It would be hoped that this exercise would be seen as a warning for future regulatory amendment, but it appears not to be the case.
Mr Paul Blore, Director at Outback Helicopter Airwork Northern Territory, considered the yearly proficiency checks to be a ‘nightmare’:
I constantly have to get people from other states to do my checks which are yearly... There are extra costs for airfares, accommodation, vehicles and stuff for them to come up. It costs me $5,500 for him to come up for the day and check a couple of us out for the aerial application side of things. I have friends in New South Wales and Queensland who can drive 20 minutes down the road and it costs them $400.
Mr Phillip Hurst, Chief Executive Officer, AAAA, provided input to a CASA TWG looking at CASR Part 61 for pilot licensing and reported that industry has been trying to change CASR Part 61 since it was introduced in 2014. As a member of the TWG, Mr Hurst took the view that as of September 2021, the ‘group has been sitting still doing nothing for two years’.
Response of CASA
CASA acknowledged that the implementation of Part 61 has not been well explained or well received and, consequently, it had set up a taskforce to review the operation of Part 61 and to make changes in consultation with industry. CASA further advised that there had been some minor changes in the last six months with ‘a very extensive working group trying to change Part 61’.
Ms Pip Spence, now Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety, CASA, stated that CASA is working with the ASAP and the TWG to renew some of the Part 61 framework, to address issues that industry have highlighted and to simplify the Part 61 structure. Of particular focus will be the fly-in fly-out space by reducing the complexity of existing ratings, endorsements and approvals where appropriate.
Ms Spence pointed out that CASA will also ‘examine the potential for harmonisation of the recreational and traditional Part 61 flight crew licensing schemes for possibilities for more flexibility, with a view to enabling flying training activities’ to meet the needs of the sector.
CASR Part 141 and 142 – Flight training organisations
Training for a Part 61 licence must be conducted by a Part 141 or Part 142 flight training organisation. Approval by CASA can be in the form of a Part 141 Certificate, a Part 142 B2 Certificate or an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) with a Part 142 authorisation, or a combination of these.
Part 141 applies to training activities for non-integrated, single pilot recreational pilot licence (RPL), private pilot licence (PPL) and commercial pilot licence (CPL), or single pilot ratings. A flight training organisation that only conducts these activities does not need an AOC. However, the same principles and requirements relating to operation control that applied to activities conducted under an AOC are reflected in the threshold and ongoing operational control provisions set out in CASR 141.060.
Part 142 applies to flight training activities, contracted recurrent training and contracted checking for integrated PPL, CPL, Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and multi-pilot crew licences and ratings. If the training is conducted in a flight simulation training device, they are not required to apply for an AOC.
CASA pointed out that CASR Part 141 expressly provides that an applicant for, and the holder of, an approval to conduct flight training activities under that Part must satisfy CASA that:
flight training can and will be conducted safely and in accordance with the authorisations holder’s operations manual and the civil aviation legislation;
the organisation is suitable to ensure that the training can be conducted safely, having regard to the nature of the training;
the chain of command of the organisation is appropriate to ensure that the training can be conducted safely;
the facilities of the organisation are sufficient to enable the training to be conducted safely;
the organisation has suitable procedures and practices to control the organisation and ensure the training can be conducted safely;
each of the applicant’s/authorisation holder’s key personnel
is a fit and proper person to be appointed to the position; and
has the qualifications and experience required by CASA under the regulations.
However, the committee heard that training organisation requirements under CASR Parts 141 and 142 are causing many issues for regional flying schools.
According to one submitter ‘the time, money and efforts required to comply with the staggering amount of new regulations is significant (and does not result in improved safety)’. This submitter’s flying school could no longer deliver any training and its five instructors had to find other work.
One of the submitters expressed their confusion at the approach taken by CASA, suggesting that the ‘establishment of two separate and different regulatory flight training frameworks under Part 141 and Part 142’ was one of the ‘most perplexing’ of CASA’s processes. The submitter explained that:
Despite the fact that the type of training required to obtain a commercial pilot licence under each regime is the same, the examinations are the same, and the qualifications are the same. Despite this, CASA has established a regulatory regime that imposes a different set of requirements on operators under each Part, and that unnecessarily increases recurrent training costs to both operators and students.
CASR Part 66 – Aircraft engineer licence and licence rating
CASR Part 66 applies to all personnel seeking an aircraft engineer licence or licence rating and affects:
those seeking to become or who are licenced aircraft maintenance engineers (LAME) and others involved in aircraft maintenance;
aircraft owners and registered operators;
Air Operator’s Certificate holders;
Part 145 approved maintenance organisations;
those holding approval under regulation 30 of the 1988 CARs for aircraft maintenance;
personnel involved in design, certification and production of aircraft and aeronautical products.
Revisions currently underway include:
a post implementation review of CASR Part 66 – continuing airworthiness – aircraft engineer licences and ratings;
to provide a small aircraft licensing system that is more efficiently integrated into a progressive licensing system and to address complexity in the current legislation, the knowledge and competency standards specified in the MOS, the structure of licensing outcomes and training
under the Australian Qualifications Framework and a statement of privileges on a licence; and
reform of continuing airworthiness legislation under the regulatory reform program.
Prior to the current B1 and B2 CASR Part 66 licence categories, the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Licence groups were classified under CAR 32 as Airframes, Engines, Instruments, Electrical and Radio. The mechanical trade streams Airframes and Engines were combined as B1 licences and the Instrument, Electrical and Radio trade streams were combined as B2 Avionic licences.
According to AMROBA, the basic maintenance personnel trade skills need to be transportable across the aviation industry. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has added a B3 licence for aircraft up to 2000 kg, and a basic avionics B2L licence which is appropriate for GA. EASA has also added group ratings to the B1 licence. CASA has not committed to harmonise with the latest amendment to EASR Part 66/147, the source document for CASR Parts 66/147.
AMROBA suggest adopting the latest revisions of EASA Parts 66/147 and that FAA Part 65 Inspection Authorisation be added to Module 10 of the CASR Part 66 modular training program and that a direct-supervision model be followed.
The particular issues under Part 66 identified by Mr Reuben Bush, an experienced LAME contractor, included:
a division between turbine powered aircraft and piston powered aircraft (B1.2);
no provision for gaining of instrument and radio licence privileges to the holder of a B1 licence for VFR aircraft;
excessive requirement to have 6 months (550 hours, Part 66 AMC) of full time work every 2 years to remain current.
Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) were also critical of being excluded from the consultation process reviewing Part 66, despite the vested interest of their members in the outcome.
Study pathways for licenced aircraft maintenance engineers
CASA submitted that a self-study training pathway was being developed for CASR Part 66 (continuing airworthiness – aircraft engineer licences and ratings) to streamline aircraft engineer licensing.
According to one submitter, the downturn in LAMEs is not only due to people retiring but also to the devolution of training and conducting examinations. These activities are now outsourced to approved training organisations, most of which are located on the East Coast. However, the submitter stated that:
CASA has recently raised a project that may facilitate people being able to obtain their LAME licences through the provision scheme of self-study, CASA conducted examinations and a schedule of experience.
Mr Stephen Re, Technical Manager of ALAEA, also reflected on CASA’s decision to resume this role again with ‘their self-study and engineer logbook approach’, following an unsuccessful attempt to outsource it to the commercial sector.
ALAEA believed the previous system for CAR 31 had a more modular stepping‑stone licensing structure which was easier for regional and rural engineers to obtain and better suited to GA than Part 66, with Mr Re also raising considerable concerns with the costs of the new system:
It was recognised in the regulation impact statement that this requirement, this move to commercialise training, was going to cost the industry money at the lower end. The overall cost and the effect of that were greatly underestimated.
Mr Bush observed that Part 66 is intended to replace CAR 31, but that the replacement provisions are:
… a confusing and poorly constructed regulation that is a bad fit for general aviation (GA) Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Licensing. I and many of my colleagues agree that CAR 31 licencing system was and is a good logical progressive licensing system.
CASR Part 67 – Medical approvals
Aviation medical approvals are necessary under CASR Part 67. A designated aviation medical examiner (DAME) conducts the tests and reports findings for CASA to review and to issue certificates. However, for sport and recreational aviation, the current RAAus medical system has the same requirements as those for a car driver.
In response to Recommendation 35 of the The Aviation Safety Regulation Review Report in 2014, the Government agreed in principle that CASA devolve to DAMEs the ability to review aviation medical certificates (for Classes 1, 2, and 3) where the applicant meets the required standard at the time of the medical examination. For more contentious medical conditions it was acknowledged that different specialists could reach different views, but CASA ‘must ensure that its decisions are as transparent to the applicant as possible’, and that it ‘must make its decision based on aviation safety grounds’.
The role of the DAME has been extended by Instrument Number CASA 26/18, Dated 3 April 2018, whereby the DAME has been delegated CASA’s powers and functions for Class 2 (non-commercial) medical applications under CASR 67.165, 67.175, 67.180 and 67.195. If the DAME believes that a pilot is unfit, they need to forward the application to CASA.
CASA emphasised in their submission that they had introduced the Basic Class 2 medical certificate in 2018, assessed by any general practitioner, ‘to encourage continued participation in flying by pilots’.
CASA reported that only 0.3 per cent (85 out of 25,841) of medical certificate allocations over a twelve-month period were rejected, with Mr Carmody asserting that this was ‘hardly systematic abuse’.
Mr Angus Mitchell, Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), stated that the ATSB had not had investigations that have ‘led to a safety finding or a safety issue that would suggest medical standards need to be amended, brought in line with others or downgraded’.
Nonetheless, CASA reported that it has commenced a major review of CASR Part 67, including those elements applicable to GA. CASA’s aviation medicine guidance material is also under review to ensure it is contemporary and reflects modern treatment regimes. CASA submitted that it was delegating authority to DAMEs to ensure:
… all have the option of assessing and issuing Class 2 medical certificates on the spot, [which are] generally valid for four years with applicants less than 40 years of age or two years for those aged over 40 years. CASA no longer reviews Class 2 medical applications unless a DAME elects to refer the application for review, or unless there are certain limited conditions.
However, concerns remain that CASA still exerts inappropriate control over medical examinations. The committee received a submission from an approved DAME, who is also a private pilot and aeroplane owner and has conducted medical assessments on more than 1,500 pilots and controllers. The submitter maintained that CASA reviewed his paperwork ‘and never having met the pilot, may overturn my recommendation, request the applicant provide more information or issue a medical clearance.’ He argued that there is a lack of trust of DAMEs and has had instances of his decisions being altered without his consent. He was not aware of any area of medicine where a government regulator could review and overrule decisions of clinicians, and further explained:
My issues with the Aviation Medicine section of CASA (AvMed) is the bureaucratic over-reach, with no consideration to cost, health risk and time of the applicant, for very little gain to the safety of air-navigation. Specialist opinion is disregarded by AvMed doctors underqualified in the relevant specialty, but “experts” in armchair bureaucracy.
Similarly, Fleet Helicopters and Commercial Helicopters did not believe that CASA understand the severe stress and financial burden placed on pilots and claimed that CASA had a pattern of not accepting specialist advice:
Countless times I have personally seen pilots have a medical denied and be required to seek specialist medical advice for the resultant medical advice only to be refuted by the medical section causing the pilot (and his company) further extremely costly delays.
Mr Clinton McKenzie commented that:
CASA Avmed now demands tests and examinations, and imposes conditions and restrictions on medical certificates, many of which are not justified on objective evidence, risk and medical grounds. The assertion that CASA “approved 25,000 aviation medicals” provides no insight into the costs, stresses and risks borne by the applicants to get their medical certificates, and no insight into the conditions and restrictions imposed on those certificates.
Mr McKenzie further pointed out that he has to pay CASA a new fee to issue a medical certificate in addition to the cost of the medical examination:
I anticipate that the purported justification for the current approach to medical certification and colour vision deficient pilots in particular may be compliance with ICAO standards and recommended practices... It seems to me that the choice as to when Australia will strictly adhere to ICAO standards and recommended practices is not based purely, as it should be, on reliable safety-related data.
According to Mr Benjamin Morgan, CEO, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia (AOPA), there are issues with the private pilot medical certification process with:
… decades of medical discrimination and abuse of the aviation industry by AvMed applying medical standards that are akin to passing an astronaut’s medical test and have nothing to do with flying a private light aircraft.
Scott Montgomery reported having to need a fitness test as part of his aviation medical for his CPL(H) along with an ECG, glucose, blood and hearing test, which he considered a waste of time and money. This also occurred to another submitter, with CASA advising them that they needed to undertake a stress ECG, glucose, urine and blood test to retain Class 2. CASA no longer reviews Class 2 medical applications unless a DAME elects to refer the application for review which had not occurred in this instance.
Mrs Maude Telfer commented that before 1995, ‘they didn’t have to spend $480 to do a medical at approved Doctors who were mainly in the cities and not in the country towns where the majority of GA pilots were located’. She suggested that general practitioners should be able to conduct an aviation medical and pointed out that the:
… employees within CASA who review the outcomes of the approved aviation medical are not doctors, are not qualified and should not be allowed to make decisions regarding the medical fitness of a flight crew to undertake their duties.
Another submitter recommended that CASA AvMed employ specialist independent consultant physicians or surgeons to assess and give opinions in instances where a pilot has issues that need to be assessed and a decision needs to be made as to fitness to fly.
According to the Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA), there have been some recent improvements in the services provided by the medical division but pointed out that ‘advice to CASA from DAMEs or appropriately (qualified) medical specialists should not be second guessed by CASA staff’.
The Sports Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA) recommended that pilot medical standards for all private pilots be consistent with the Recreational Aviation Australia manual.
CASA commented on SAAA’s perception of inequities for medical standards between recreational and private GA pilots, pointing out this difference is due to recreational pilots being limited to fly aircraft under 600kg, are only allowed to carry one passenger, may only fly in non-controlled airspace and are restricted to fewer airports.
Ms Pip Spence remarked that CASA is working with the Part 67 TWG to develop options for a revised Basic Class 2 medical as well as a new Class 5 self-declared medical with consultations beginning in 2022.
Country Airstrips Australia conducted a survey of pilots about the Class 2 Medical in November and December 2021 with 776 responses overall. The main findings of the survey were that:
90.8 per cent thought the current Australian PPL medical requirements were excessive;
64.3 per cent had considered giving up flying due to the demands of the CASA medical certification process;
76.7 per cent believed that pilots were reluctant to seek medical care due to the fear of it impacting their CASA medical;
88.8 per cent thought that there was disparity between a PPL medical requirement and an RAAus driver’s license requirement; and
54.9 per cent thought that Australia should adopt the RAAus medical requirements, 21.8 per cent the US FAA diving license medical and 13.8 per cent the New Zealand FAA DL9 system.
According to Dr Sean Runacres, Director, SAR Aviation Medicine, the self‑certification process is appropriate for many pilots.
The current self-certification is based on the commercial driver’s licence for a truck or a similar vehicle. There is a lot of merit in relying on that system. The problem with that system, at the moment, is that it required it to be unmodified. If I have a heart attack, and I am well afterwards, that’s a modification under the commercial licence, which I can continue to drive on, but the self-certification process we have at the moment won’t let you fly on that.
CASA is reviewing aviation medical standards for private operations, including the consideration of a potential ‘self-declared’ medical.
CASR Part 137 and 138 – Aerial agricultural operations
CASR Part 137 regulates aerial agricultural operations other than rotorcraft operators, and includes aerial application procedures such as firefighting and application of dispersants. It prescribes the rules that relate to flying and operating aeroplanes in aerial application operations. Rotorcraft operations continue to be governed by the existing CARs. There is currently a project to amend the current Part 137 to include rotorcraft aerial applications.
AAAA supported the extension of Part 137 to include rotorcraft:
[A]s a result of CASR Part 137 being for fixed wing aerial application operations only (regardless of industry advice), helicopters conducting identical operations are regulated under the CAOs. This introduces significant variations and complexity and is further compounded by similarly different approaches taken under new regulations – such as where Part 61 deals with helicopter Operator Proficiency Checks differently to the Part 137 OPC requirements. The CAOs must be repealed as the CASRs reach full implementation.
To alleviate confusion amongst its members, AAAA have developed a Standard Operations Manual in an attempt to simplify Part 137:
Once CASR Part 137 is reviewed to manage the co-dependent requirements of CASR Part 138 over the coming 12 months, the AAAA SOM will be rewritten and reapproved for another life – thus simplifying the implementation of the revised CASR Part 137 because of its widespread uptake by AAAA members.
CASR 138 affects aerial work operations and applies to external load, dispensing and task specialist aerial work operations except air ambulance operations. Prior to new rules commencing in December 2021, many on the TWG advised CASA that Part 138 was not fit for purpose because of overreach, complexity and length. Mr Hurst, a member of the TWG, reported that the MOS for Part 138, was rejected as it was ‘unworkable’ and stated that ‘even when CASA has consultative mechanisms in place, it still doesn’t listen’.
Fleet Helicopter and Commercial Helicopters was concerned about the then‑impending release of the new Part 138 Aerial Work regulations:
CASA has advised by their own working group of highly experienced and knowledgeable industry figures that the regulation set was completely unready for release to industry, yet they went ahead and did so anyway.
NQ Aviation Services commented on the Manual of Standards (MOS) for Part 138 Aerial Work Operations, observing that CASA:
… deemed it appropriate to further burden industry in one of the most challenging business environments in recent times, with an ill-timed release and short consultation period. Regulatory reform transformed the MOS from 34 pages to one that exceeds 120 pages. This cannot be considered concise. There is insufficient evidence to support an assertion of a tangible benefit to safety outcomes with this increase in ‘content’, however the cost impacts on operators expected to comply are considerable.
Despite these concerns, new rules commenced on 2 December 2021. Operators and pilots need to comply with Part 91 – general operating and flight rules, noting that Part 138 may add to or turn off Part 91 requirements. Part 138 replaces the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) with a Part 138 aerial work certificate.
AAAA considered these changes an example of overreach and stated that they had been rejected by the ASAP Technical Working Group as ‘unfit for purpose’:
CASA’s intention to persevere with the overly complex, costly and largely ineffective current approach is despite the advice of industry participants, various statements from the Minister and the Board supporting GA, and the complete lack of clear identification of actual safety risks being ‘managed’.
McDermott Aviation commented that despite being in development for fifteen years, Part 138 was still written in the ‘same obtuse way which generates a surfeit of explanatory materials, manuals of standards, AC’s as well as company documentation, [which] are required to try and make them useable’.
There was also confusion about where different regulations are now located. Mr John Armstrong of Agrimuster thought that the aerial work in Parts 137 and 138 would now be in Part 199—although he was not sure:
I’ll have a certificate for charter, which will also then cover the EMS [emergency medical service], as far as I understand it. Then I will have a part 138 certificate for most of the other air work I do. I think eventually I end up with a part 137 certificate for the agricultural work. I may end up with another certificate to be able to conduct the mustering training as well. I’m not actually sure I’m going to be able to be chief pilot of all of these certificates.
Mr Armstrong was concerned about Part 138 and that the changes will stop him being able to do medical retrieval work.
Pre-flight planning issues
Fleet Helicopter and Commercial Helicopters was concerned about the overly prescriptive limitations on landing sites, contained within the new Part 138 Aerial Work regulations. The company said that:
The performance class requirements are overly prescriptive and far too complex to be feasibly utilised out in the field when conducting many Part 138 operations. Much of the work we conduct is in an area we have never been to before, utilising landing sites we have never landed at and will probably never again visit. The detail and amount of pre-flight planning required simply is not possible to comply with as we do not have access to any of the information required by the regulations until we arrive on-site.
The committee received evidence on several other areas of CASA regulation, as discussed briefly below.
According to ALAEA, the impact of over‑regulation by CASA is evident in its regulation and classification of various helicopters that enter Australia, in small numbers and sometimes for a relatively short period:
[T]he increased cost to individuals and businesses to be trained and licenced for the reclassified helicopters is in the range of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Where previously an engineer’s basic licence ratings covered the certification of these helicopters CASA legislated to require CASA approved commercial training courses to be completed for each helicopter. And more importantly for the majority of those helicopters there is no approved training.
Access to licenced aviation maintenance engineers
According to pilot Mr Mark Newton, CASA’s CASR Part 66 airworthiness regulation reform had resulted in it being difficult to find LAMEs to maintain aircraft. Mr Newton submitted that he needs to travel from Sydney to Adelaide every year for an annual inspection where there is an ‘appropriately qualified and experienced maintenance personnel who specialize’ in his type of aircraft.
Foreign licence conversion
McDermott Aviation argued that the Part 66 ratings system is even more ‘opaque’ than Part 61, with engineers licensed under the previous system struggling to add new ratings. He stated that ‘the process to convert foreign licenses is diabolical, the pathway via apprenticeship is tortured and lengthy, and is turning people away from the industry’.
ALAEA also pointed out the discrepancies in the treatment between those who hold foreign and Australian licences:
CASR Part 66 contains provisions to allow CASA to assess the licences and aircraft ratings of both holders of current foreign licences and Australian Defence authorisations and those who no long hold those foreign licences or authorisations in order to determine whether or not they can be added to a new or current Australian Part 66 Licence. The CASR does not extend the same provisions for Australian’s who previously held a licence issued under CAR 31 who are seeking the issue of a Part 66 licence.
Pilot training in engineering
According to the South Australian RAPAC, regional and remote pilots can be trained by a LAME to perform a limited amount of maintenance on piston engine aircraft, such as changing a tyre, or changing oil or an oil filter and spark plugs. However, draft regulations will dictate that all maintenance must be carried out by a LAME. This will require aircraft to be removed from service, flown to the LAME for the 50 hourly service, then flown back to its base. Currently, aircraft must be re-located to a major regional centre or capital city for the scheduled maintenance every 100 hours of flight. The South Australian RAPAC recommended that pilot maintenance, as described in the 1988 CARs, be retained.
Mrs Susan Woods, Business Manager, Jabiru Aircraft Pty Ltd, reported that CASA documentation requirements to support production certificates took longer than the time to produce the aircraft and is not a saleable asset as it cannot be transferred without CASA’s approval. She thought that type certificates were worthless as they represent an outdated product and that it was ‘unthinkable to undertake certification of any new model aircrafts through CASA; it will only lead to financial ruin’.
Committee views and recommendations
The committee accepts the view from many submitters that over the years there has been excessive regulation for the GA industry, resulting in complex and difficult regulations that have financial and legal implications.
The committee also accepts that the process of continual review of regulations is an ongoing attempt by CASA to improve the regulatory burden on the sector. That said, the committee cannot ignore the substantial and extensive concerns submitted by stakeholders to this inquiry.
As discussed in Chapter 4, the perception of the lack of meaningful engagement, communication and consultation between CASA and the GA sector has caused and continues to cause significant issues. The committee has recommended a cultural review of CASA, and would expect that a tangible and demonstrable outcome of a review would be for CASA to examine the specific issues around regulations raised by submitters in this inquiry.
While the committee does not hold the expertise to recommend specific action on regulations, it draws CASA’s attention to the following issues highlighted by submitters, and urges CASA to examine each one in detail and assess whether the criticisms have merit:
Of particular concern to the committee is CASR Part 61, which in the committee’s view requires review and simplification;
The committee is concerned about the training organisation requirements under CASR Part 141 and 142 and recognise that they are causing many issues for regional flying schools;
The committee would like CASA to explore whether CAR 31 is a better fit for aircraft engineer licence and licence rating processes than Part 66, due to the logical progressive and modular licensing system it provides;
The committee is concerned about CASA’s interference in the medical findings from DAMEs and acknowledges the difficulties for rural and remote pilots having access to DAMEs;
For helicopters there are several areas identified that are of concern to the committee, including the implications of helicopter operator proficiency checks given few people are deemed suitable to carry these out in Australia. The need for planned destination landing sites for helicopters under Part 133 is not possible for many activities and the committee is of the view that this be addressed.
The committee recommends the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), through the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel and relevant Technical Working Groups, consider the following and report back to the committee with its findings:
Whether Civil Aviation Safety Regulation (CASR) Part 61 can be simplified;
Whether CASR Part 141 and 142 should be combined;
Compare CASR Part 66 and CAR 31 to determine the best option;
Consider the conduct of Aerial Application and Airwork Operations Proficiency Check and Training by a Chief Pilot from a third-party operator as an option;
How to best train regional and remote pilots in basic maintenance of aircraft and permit them to do so;
Examine the role of CASA officials when receiving findings of qualified medical practitioners under CASR Part 67 by general practitioners in regional and remote areas;
Review the requirement under CASR Part 138 aerial work and Part 133 for helicopter activities to have planned destination landing sites when this is not feasible; and
Review the Civil Aviation Order 48.1 Fatigue Management system for GA operators.
The committee recommends that where possible, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority streamline its licencing requirements to avoid duplication and the need for pilots and engineers to acquire multiple licences.
Alignment between international and Australian regulatory environments
The evidence to the committee was clear that aviation regulation in comparable jurisdictions was far more accessible and less onerous than that imposed by CASA in Australia. There were repeated calls for Australia to align its approach to aviation regulation with other countries, and for Australian accreditation to be recognised internationally.
The lack of international recognition for Australian aviation qualifications and certifications was considered a significant drawback to CASA’s regulatory approach.
According to Ken Cannane, Executive Director, AMROBA, there are no government-to-government agreements to recognise and accept CASA approved organisations or the government aviation certificates by other training nations, outside the limit of CASA, including the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) in the US, and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of New Zealand. Mr Cannane explained that:
Members holding multiple national aviation authority (NAA) approvals have put forward their support for adopting the FAA structures and systems to advance Australia’s general aviation operations, pilot training and engine‑room fields of design, manufacturing, maintenance and technical training in our Asia-Pacific regions, mainly with the USA.
AMROBA highlighted that Australian aviation businesses must obtain approvals from every foreign nation and their regulator at high cost to individuals, as Australian and CASA approvals of the industry are not recognised internationally.
AMROBA further commented that Australia was ‘out of international engineering alignment’, drawing specific attention to the CASA form used to enable a manufactured products or components/items to be released into the aviation market. AMROBA observed that the form needs to be acceptable to other governments, but currently has an Australian logo which makes it unacceptable, and CASA had not negotiated with other governments so that they accept the form.
AAAA likewise stated that:
Australian innovations struggle to achieve certification in a timely manner, Australian licences and certificates are not recognised by other jurisdictions, and the cost and complexity of achieving and maintaining Australian aviation licences and certificates of operation is an impediment to international competitiveness.
AAAA believed that CASA’s approach was having a detrimental impact of the perception of the Australian qualified workers, saying there was:
… evidence of pilots and LAMEs travelling overseas to attain a qualification (including to the US and NZ) and then returning to Australia to have their qualifications recognised – as it is cheaper, more certain and provides better international recognition. Australian qualifications are not valued internationally and the Australian system is seen as significantly inferior to other jurisdictions including the US, Canada and NZ.
McDermott Aviation claimed that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) does not recognise qualifications obtained in Australia, and further observed that CASA did not attend a meeting when FAA asked to meet with authorities in various countries to work on cross-recognition. In his submission Mr McDermott stated cross‑recognition with other markets, such as the US and the EU, has not been a priority for CASA:
Given pretty much all the aircraft used in Australia come from the US or Europe, it should be relatively straightforward to align fundamental industry functions – especially in engineering and maintenance with those jurisdictions.
Expanding these to the benefit of the industry…has unfortunately not been a CASA priority
McDermott Aviation’s position was supported by other submitters. According to AMROBA:
Until foreign countries accept Australian aviation products and services in their own right without Australian businesses obtaining foreign countries approvals, we remain a third world aviation industry restricted to performing business within Australia.
Mr Shane Carmody, then CEO of CASA, responded to some of the claims made by McDermott Aviation, saying that:
Mr McDermott primarily operates foreign registered aircraft … and brings them into Australia. The oversight requirement for the foreign aircraft is by the foreign operator, so it’s kind of handy. He has a business model that operates globally with N registered aircraft, and it’s a good business model and it makes him a lot of money, but it’s very different to lots of other business models here. We have to jump through hoops to accommodate that, and we’ve done our best.
A better approach
There was strong support in evidence for alignment between international and Australian regulatory environments—in particular, alignment with the FAA in the US, and the CAA in NZ. Submitters outlined the benefits of these international frameworks and how they could apply in Australia.
According to AMROBA, the FAA framework is an example of a system that is flexible and responsive; the GA industry would therefore prefer to base Australia’s aviation regulatory requirements ‘on the USA aviation requirements, as has NZ, PNG [Papua New Guinea] and other Pacific Island states’.
According to Mr McDermott, PNG modified the NZ model, and both are straightforward, ‘extremely workable and extremely good’. Mr McDermott pointed to his preferred framework for aviation regulation in Australia:
If we had a choice, the FAA system is still complex but it's workable. It's clear. It's concise. It's not as open to individual interpretation as our CASA regs are. In fact, many years ago we were asked as an industry what rules we thought would work for general aviation in Australia. The New Zealand model was put forward and we find the New Zealand model—although we don’t actually operate under it—to be a very straightforward operation.
Mr Mark Newton similarly suggested that for Australian operators it actually makes more sense to adhere to FAA, or other foreign regulators, than it does to liaise with CASA:
Generally speaking, the FAA provides more informative and actionable safety guidance, and it’s more productive and satisfying for Australian pilots to pay attention to foreign regulators than it is to get involved in what CASA is doing here. If our ability to influence a foreign regulator is no worse than our ability to influence CASA, on balance it’s better to pay attention to the agency that produces the least frustration.
Mr Newton continued with a specific example of how the FAA approach tends to be less bureaucratic than CASA:
FAA regulations have, for many years, provided a system called “BasicMed” which enables private pilots to manage their own medical fitness in consultation with their GP without involving FAA administrators. While CASA has paid lip service to similar principles, its “Class 2 Basic” medical certification carries enough operational limitations to make it impractical to use, so the lion’s share of medical certification for Part 61 RPL and PPL holders requires mandatory oversight from a burgeoning (and, ofttimes, interfering) CASA AVMED [aviation medical] bureaucracy.
Mr Robert Cassidy likewise provided an example of the difference in terms of regulatory burden between the FAA system and the Australian model:
In Australia, the egregious costs under C.A.S.A., discourages a Pilot from earning an Instrument Rating, in the first instance, and then, once he gets an Instrument Rating … he would not be able to afford to renew his Instrument Rating. My previous employer, paid $9,000 to renew my Instrument Rating, for me to fly a two engine aeroplane, just to give you an idea of costs of a renewal. I have never once had to pay for an Instrument Rating renewal, anywhere else.
Under the F.A.A., I would not have to rent a much more expensive two engine Aeroplane and Helicopter, as I would according to C.A.S.A. Regulations.
As part of the Australian Government’s Aviation Recovery Framework, Flying to Recovery report, a key feature of the roadmap is to ‘encourage innovation and exploring the barriers to export opportunities for Australian GA-related goods and services, including through the pursuit of potential mutual recognition arrangements’.
The evidence suggested support for this approach. For example, AMROBA recommended amending the main objects of the CA Act (at section 3A) to include fostering aviation development as well as safety—being the approach taken in NZ. The Association suggested amending section 3A and section 9 of the CA Act to say:
The main object of this Act is to establish a safe, efficient and sustainable regulatory framework with an emphasis on safety, by enhancing and maintaining the ability of individuals and businesses to participate both domestically and globally.
AMROBA also stated that cross‑recognition must extend to those working in the sector:
It is important that the regulator be staffed by personnel with equitable qualifications as their peers in industry as they are Australia’s front line representatives in obtaining international technical agreements so their approved manufacturing and maintenance organisation(s) can participate in the global aviation markets.
AMROBA highlighted how GA has ‘been the home of ideas, where knowledge, experience and innovation has helped drive the future of flying forward’ and pointed out that, in Europe, small airports are ‘used to develop new environmentally and economically efficient aviation technologies.’ AMROBA continued that:
Industry’s ability to participate in global aviation markets depends on CASA agreements with foreign Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) for technical acceptance of each other’s regulatory system.
Committee views and recommendations
The committee is concerned that Australia seems not to be fully integrated into the global aviation network, at least on a regulatory basis. While the committee understands that each jurisdiction has its own distinct regulatory framework, with accompanying complexity, there appears to be specific areas where synergies with other jurisdictions could be explored.
Evidence received throughout the inquiry on how CASA compares with other similar jurisdictions was informative, and at times disappointing. Aviation by its very nature is not limited to national borders. Those employed in the sector are increasingly mobile and depend on and expect portability in many aspects of their roles.
Given the apparent positive perspective on how the FAA in the US, and CAA in NZ regulate all aspects of aviation, the committee would be keen for CASA to explore how its regulatory framework could align with those jurisdictions.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the Civil Aviation Act 1988 to include an obligation to support the Australian aviation sector to develop and compete nationally and internationally.
The committee recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority audit its regulatory framework to ensure that where possible, it aligns and complements the regulatory framework of other jurisdictions, specifically the US Federal Aviation Administration and New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority.
The committee is particularly interested in CASA exploring whether progress could be made on mutual recognition of licences and qualifications, especially where these pertain to specific aircraft types and technologies used both in Australia and overseas.
The committee recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority explore opportunities for mutual recognition of Australian and overseas certification, licences and maintenance qualifications.