If CASA thought that belatedly grounding Torres Strait carrier Aero Tropics on Friday night might deflect attention from its botched oversight of killer carrier Transair in advance of this week’s Senate inquiry it appears to be wrong.

On Wednesday, following the closing of written submissions last Friday, the Senate will conduct hearings into the safety regulator’s entrenched incompetence among other things prior to the 7 May 2005 crash of the small turbo prop that killed all 15 people on board on approach to the Lockhart River strip.

That Metroliner was branded Aerotropical but flown by Transair, which CASA chief executive officer Bruce Byron subsequently admitted was known to be in breach of the air safety rules.

Lip Air subsequently filled the gap left by Transair, trading as Aero Tropics across a similar network of remote indigenous communities in far northern Queensland as Aerotropical.

CASA served a “show cause” notice on Lip Air in relation to its fitness to continue to hold an air operator certificate a year ago, yet again failed, to promptly act against an operation it now admits is a threat to public safety less than a week before it has to explain its Transair actions to the Senate inquiry.

The whole rotten culture of cover up and lack of administrative action and failure to inform the public of the risks associated with flying on an airline which CASA says is unsafe is underlined by starkly by the Lip Air situation.

If CASA can’t manage pathetic little rule breaking regional operators how, it should be asked, can it discharge its legal responsibilities in relation to Tiger, Jetstar, Virgin Blue and the headline maker du jour, Qantas?

What will Bruce Byron say in his no doubt carefully considered submission and testimony? He has been abroad in recent weeks, possibly being interviewed as a candidate for a regulatory vacancy in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey