Only today will a full dossier on the latest Jetstar incident be delivered to the independent accident and incident investigator, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

It will contain everything Jetstar has discovered as part of its own internal review about how one of its jets came to within 20 feet of the ground at Melbourne Airport in fog during an aborted landing.

The dossier lands at the ATSB in a near dead heat with a statement from Transport Minister, Mark Vaile, who said through a spokesperson that he “has been advised that both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the ATSB are seeking further information from Jetstar.”

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This sees the responsible minister, and the separate aviation investigation and regulatory arms, both focused on the same alarming incident on the same day nearly two months after it happened.

By world standards this makes the governance of air safety regulation in Australia a joke.

Jetstar did the right thing by Australian rules. It reported the original incident the day it occurred and said it would conduct an investigation.

After a second look at the incident, it found out things about last minute decisions taken too close to the ground, and set about retraining the captain concerned as well as alerting its flight crews on the standard procedure for dealing with minimal landing conditions.

But airlines in Europe or North America don’t even expect to be allowed to keep serious matters involving flight standards in-house. Jetstar would have been swarmed over by Federal Aviation Authority inspectors on experiencing and reporting such an incident at, say, San Francisco.

And US carriers have come to expect and pro-actively work with the FAA, because it names and shames for things that go wrong or depart from the rules.

Mr Vaile seems happy for CASA to have a close relationship with the carriers that keeps the public out of the loop when it comes to safety deficiencies, and appears to work more on trust than oversight.

This was strikingly illustrated by the Lockhart River crash, where CASA couldn’t even effectively regulate the safety of the tiny carrier Transair, and failed to communicate what it did know about its dangerous operations to the public in a timely manner.

Why wasn’t the Jetstar incident promptly investigated by the ATSB, and is CASA properly funded and equipped to fulfil its safety regulation obligations?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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