CASA may be incapable of the safety oversight of airlines as small as Transair (which killed 15 people near Lockhart River in 2005) but it is getting big on secrecy.

It is sending out Form 1141 (see it here) to remind the experts it consults on safety matters that it owns the official information they will see and create in the course of performing their delegated duties.

The form warns of criminal offences for sharing ‘CASA information’ and specifically refers, under the section headed ‘Misuse’, to any disclosures in the public interest as ‘improper’.

Some of those experts say it renders their participation in delegated safety functions useless, because they will not be able to criticise or even critique CASA without its prior approval.

“This means that I can’t share with the public any concerns I have about the way CASA performs its duties if I’m engaged in a project to improve safety,” one insider said. “It can be turned into a life-time ban on open technical discussion, yet the foundations of air safety are based on open and fearless consultation.”

The scope clauses of the secrecy agreement even extend to the intellectual property of any advisors who sign it in that it “includes information obtained or created as a result of the performance of any official activity by or on behalf of CASA”.

CASA chief executive officer Bruce Byron has won respect in the aviation sector for removing some of the change resistant elements in the safety regulator, but run into criticism in Senate hearings for his reluctance to share its concerns about Transair with the public in a timely manner.

If form 1141 was enforced in relation to any delegated authority holder with knowledge about CASA incompetence in its oversight of small regional or charter carriers, like Transair, they would have been muzzled.

And if the public can’t hear from experts about failings at the small end of the aviation scale, how much more are people at risk of not getting timely insights into air safety issues affecting large airliners?

CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson said: “We rely on delegates to perform some very important safety functions on our behalf. If there are unhappy delegates in relation to this we need to look into their concerns, and we will take this on board.”