If it wasn’t a trade mark infringement the Federal Government might be tempted to compare its administration of air safety with Lotto.

“Go on, take a chance. Fly the Lotto skies. The chances of no air traffic control or incompetent oversight of flight safety rules killing you are the same as winning lotto. Trust us.”

Now that the general media has switched on after a year of Crikey highlighting the failure of AirServices Australia to adequately man the radar consoles that keep jets apart, the trust element is obvious in every pious assertion by bureaucrats that safety isn’t being compromised.

It is a similar story with the engineering dispute at Qantas. Safety has not been compromised we are told, repeatedly, by CASA. But CASA has received a detailed list from the licensed engineers and mechanics association of serious errors, oversights and acts of stupidity by inadequately skilled or schedule focused Qantas managers in relation to its efforts to keep its fleet safely in the air.

It cannot fail to be aware of a string of troubling in-flight mechanical issues with Qantas flights requiring diversions to other airports or jets flying with what might be record breaking catalogues of time limited faults. The passengers have been yelling about the consequences for months, well before the engineering pay row.

But again, the same responses keep coming, to “trust us”.

CASA was totally ineffective in dealing with the multiple known failings of Transair to obey the rules and standards. 15 people were killed at Lockhart River in 2005.

And it is run to this day by a CEO, Bruce Byron who couldn’t even admit any blame or concede any responsibility to inform the public of the dangers they faced when grilled about the crash in the Senate, not in the most recent inquiry, but more than a year ago.

Byron believes CASA is there to “encourage safety outcomes.” The law actually says he, and his minister, and the department, are there to ensure and enforce safety outcomes, not dish up dribble loads of waffle.

Trust when it comes to CASA’s response yesterday to the chronic failure of air traffic control between major Australian cities means trusting that in those dark skies every airliner’s pilots know exactly where everyone else is, that they do not confuse one jet for another, and that they do not at lower levels run into a private aircraft or small freighter.

It is a total joke that a country that preaches to Indonesia about air safety has an aviation infrastructure that is seriously under resourced and administered by bureaucrats who see inquisitive journalism as the biggest threat to their relationship with the minister.

The biggest threat by far to the public, the minister, and the bureaucrats, is when trust is broken by a collision or a crash that can be nailed firmly to the non-provision of services required by Australian law, or the non-enforcement or oversight of regulations that have the force of Australian law.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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