The management mindset that risks the lives of hundreds of Australian air travellers in a crash in the next 10 years is abundantly on display in carrier and regulator submissions to the Senate inquiry into pilot training and airline safety.

Qantas/Jetstar, Tiger, Boeing Flight Training and CASA feature prominently in the roll up, all calling for nothing significant to be done.

Not one of them calls for higher standards or the pursuit of exceptional excellence in airline safety and pilot training in Australia. They say Australia doesn’t really need to change anything. And especially not follow the US lead in demanding higher standards of real piloting experience in those recruited to mainline airline service.

Virgin Blue agrees, somewhat briefly. It has tended a two-page letter that may as well have been two words, and very rude ones at that.

The documents submitted to the inquiry can be read as defining world’s best practice (America excluded) as conformity with the legal or regulatory minimums, which is management speak for bringing Australia down to the level of the rest of the world.

This also means in an air transport market the size of ours, taking the risk of a major airline disaster once every decade or so as the flip side of diminished or outsourced investments in pilot skills.

The submissions also show some notable congruity in terminology and content, suggesting the possibility of a concerted effort to roll the Senate into an endorsement of the pursuit of the lowest possible costs in pilot training, and the lowest legal levels of pilot experience.

The Qantas submission attempts to evade scrutiny of serious failings in Jetstar in relation to the botched missed approach to Melbourne Airport on July 21, 2007, of one of its A320s arriving from Christchurch.

The pilots failed to correctly configure the flight “mode” of the descending jet when fog obscured their view of the runway. The Qantas submission blames the pilots for not telling the truth about their error to the airline, but omits this critical finding by the ATSB investigation of the incident:

changed procedures

The truth that Qantas has ignored is that Jetstar changed the foolproof Airbus procedure to one in which its pilots could not have picked up the error almost instantly, and failed it ins legal obligations to  keep documentation of the changes or perform a safety risk analysis. These failings reflect very poorly on the airline, and on the oversight CASA is supposed to maintain of Australian carriers.

Qantas subsidiary Jetstar  then kept the truth of the nature of the incident from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau for 40 days, in breach of its legal obligations, until ordered to do because of a story in Crikey and Aviation Business.

On the day Jetstar was hauled before the ATSB with the full file, Crikey was called by the office of the Minister for Transport, Mark Vaile, and the safety investigator, and told that its story had caused the inquiry to be launched.

The CEO of Jetstar at this time was Alan Joyce, the presnet CEO of Qantas.  Joyce is understood to be planning to be questioned by the Senate inquiry this Wednesday by telephone rather than in person.

The Senate inquiry is a chance to turn the lights on when it comes to the ineffective state of aviation safety administration in Australia.  Qantas and Joyce need to explain the serious training deficiencies raised in the ATSB report. The airlines and the regulators and the third-party training providers need to explain how and why more of the same is all that is required in this country, or more bluntly, why profits are being put before excellence and experience in piloting.