Pip Spence, the newly appointed CEO of CASA, talks to the rotary sector on why she’s determined not to disrupt safety as new regulations come into play this December
THE ROTARY wing sector of Australian aviation has been recording steady growth over recent years, with CASA data showing the number of helicopter pilots and airframes increasing modestly. This compares positively with most aviation sectors and is obviously good news as it reflects the importance of rotary operations to the Australian community.
But, of course, past success is no guarantee of a bright future, so everyone in the rotary sector needs to keeping working hard to deliver the services required. This mantra applies equally to CASA, which is a professional organisation that under my leadership will always work to find ways to improve. If we don’t get things right, we will acknowledge the issue and correct our course.
Central to this approach is engaging, listening and understanding. In addition, we must be open and transparent in our decision making. This means we must have a culture of genuine collaboration between CASA and the aviation community. A key to success is recognising aviation safety expertise is not just in CASA – it lives and breathes right across aviation in Australia. We need to work well together by respecting our different roles and looking jointly at what is important.
There has been collaboration between CASA and the aviation community for a long time, and many people have been very generous with their time and expertise. People from the rotary sector play an important role as members of the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel and associated working groups, as well as taskforces and other groups. This work is greatly valued as it supports CASA during a time of change for safety regulation.
Two of the key changes are the transition to the flight operations suite of rules in the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations and the new fatigue rules. Other regulatory changes made in recent years are being fine-tuned and improved and a few parts of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations remain to be finalised. The new flight operations regulations have been in the pipeline for some years and in December they will take effect.
I know that change creates a challenge, but unlike previous rule changes we are focusing on what we can do to make sure day-today aviation operations and the focus on safety is not disrupted. For example, CASA will not be asking for people or organisations to apply for authorisations they already hold. Anyone who holds an Air Operator’s Certificate now for helicopter charter or transport will be authorised under the new Part 133 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations – as long as some key requirements are met. Over time, the rules will introduce many significant safety benefits, but the bigger changes are being phased in to ensure the aviation community has time to adapt.
For the rotary sector, some of the benefits that the new rules will bring include:
- A dedicated rule set for rotary operations – rather than aeroplane rules that have been adapted and adjusted;
- Anticipation of some of the new powered lift technologies that are being developed to set us up for the future; and
- Operators that only conduct aerial work and no air transport will not need an Air Operator’s Certificate under the new Part 138 regulations – instead using a simpler authorisation certificate.
During the transition to the new rules, we will be supporting the aviation community with guidance and advice, with our aim being to make the process as simple as possible. Another way we are offering support and guidance is through the delivery of new plain English guides to the regulations. There are now three guides available – covering the general operating and flight rules, fatigue and small commercial drone rules.
Being able to access and understand the regulations in a straightforward way is something the aviation community has been telling CASA was needed for years. Anyone who carefully follows one of the guides will normally be able to comply with the relevant regulations without needing to dig through the detailed legislation.
What these guides signal is a determination by CASA to make things easier for the aviation community. Mostly importantly, we want everyone to focus on the things that affect safety. CASA will slowly build a library of plain English guides, which are available in print through the CASA online store or can be downloaded from the CASA website.