In a long overdue breakthrough CASA is moving to end such dangerous and discriminatory practices as air services to Indigenous and Torres Strait Island communities where no life jackets are provided to passengers on flights that can be as long as 55 kilometres over the sea or open waters.
The scandal was formally brought to CASA’s attention on 10 April in an anonymous and very detailed complaint published in Crikey blog Plane Talking on 1 May, and again in the Crikey Daily Mail on 12 May.
Air safety and its regulation in FNQ have been in disgrace for years.
The Lockhart River disaster on which claimed the lives of all 15 people on board a Transair turbo-prop in May 2005 lead to an accident investigation report from the ATSB in April 2007 that was critical of CASA as well as critical review of CASA by a Senate Inquiry in 2008.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
It also lead to the public spectacle of the former CEO of CASA Bruce Byron defending the regulators unwillingness to reveal to the travel public that it knew Transair was deficient in compliance with its obligations well in advance of the crash.
This Senate inquiry coincided with a CASA special audit of Qantas, which in turn discovered that neither CASA nor Qantas had actually known where the airline was failing to uphold its own air safety standards.
All of which makes the move to clean up FNQ an example of the much larger task Byron’s successor, John McCormick, has embarked on since early this year.
One of the first things McCormick did was reverse his predecessor’s decision to close the Townsville CASA office, which is in the process of being upgraded.
McCormick is headline averse but has embarked on a comprehensive reform of the regulator, which also has until the end of this year to enact promised remedial action on the deficient air safety oversight in Australia identified in a recent unfavourable audit by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The anonymous Townsville complainant received the following email:
YOUR COMPLAINT RE KIMAIR PTY LTD TRADING AS BLUEWATER AIR CHARTERS
I refer to your e-mails to CASA’s Industry Complaints Commissioner and to other CASA managers. Your latest email has been referred to me.
I have recently been appointed to the position of Executive Manager Air Transport Operations Group and Group General Manager for the General Aviation Operations Group. CASA is aware of the operations conducted by Kimair between Townsville and Palm Island and the safety issues to which you refer involving piston-engined/single engine aircraft conducting fixed scheduled passenger carrying operations over water.
There are some challenges faced by CASA and operators involved in classifying “closed charter” operations as defined in Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) 206(i)(b)(ii).
CASA is addressing these challenges through a proposal to amend CAR 206. Pending the introduction of these legislative changes as may be necessary and appropriate, CASA is about to introduce and implement a policy to address more effectively the issues to which your refer, in the overarching interests of aviation safety. In the application of this policy, it is CASA’s intent to meet with several operators throughout Australia to discuss their current operation in relation to the CASA policy and proposed legislation changes.
CASA is appreciative of your correspondence which raises these safety concerns.
Executive Manager Air Transport Operations Group and Group General Manager – General Aviation Operations Group
Civil Aviation Safety Authority
In plain English, confirmed by a person in CASA, the message is that the disgraceful situations of the past are being remedied. The decent and simple thing will be done and all remote communities in Australia will have the same standards of optimal air safety applied to them, black or white, richer or poorer.
Is anything less acceptable?
The festering sore of inadequate air safety regulation and oversight in far northern Queensland and remote indigenous communities is at last being dealt with by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Ten weeks after an anonymous but detailed and specific complaint about the operation.