Proposed changes to the way the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulates not-for-profit community service flights have angered charity groups such as Angel Flight.
A CASA discussion paper released in August outlined a number of options that would change the way community service flights – which are offered on a voluntary basis – were regulated.
Among the options presented in the paper, CASA advocated giving these charity groups the responsibility to “ensure that the pilots and aircraft meet specified standards when conducting such activities under the organisation’s auspices”. This would mean they would have to, among other things, assess pilots, monitor pilot currency, assess and approve aircraft for their operations and conduct regular pilot proficiency checking as an Approved Self-administering Aviation Organisation (ASAAO).
“The ASAAO would be required to produce an exposition detailing how it would perform the specified operations for which it sought approval,” the CASA discussion paper said.
“CASA would assess and if satisfied, approve the exposition and any associated manuals; these would then constitute the guiding document(s) for the activities of the organisation, and provide a set of benchmarks by which CASA would monitor the organisation’s record in meeting its safety obligations.”
CASA said the costs of setting up an ASAAO would be similar to that of establishing an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), which was listed as about $14,600 in the discussion paper.
This preferred option met safety management goals within reasonable regulatory constraints, CASA said, allowing those who run community service flights to address safety appropriately.
CASA said it believed there was a need to “ensure appropriate boundaries around activities of this kind, with a view to ensuring the safety of passengers, pilots, other airspace users, people and property on the ground”.
Angel Flight chief executive and founder Bill Bristow said CASA’s preferred option would create a “huge, demanding and complex bureaucracy” that would be extremely costly and threaten the viability of the service.
Bristow said its pilots were already regulated by CASA and had “higher entry-level credentials than CASA requires”.
“We are not an aviation organisation. We’re like a dating agency – we find people in need and introduce them to the resources they need,” Bristow told Queensland Country Life.
“What we do is like driving your friend to hospital.”
Angel Flight, established in 2003, has facililated about 14,500 flights helping more than 2,400 patients, carers and family members entirely funded by private donations.
In a separate interview with Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper, Bristow urged Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss to intervene.
However, the Minister said CASA was a statutory body and he as the responsible minister could not direct it on safety regulations.
Truss did offer his support to Angel Flight and its role in the community, describing it as a “well-respected and admired community organisation”.
“It does outstanding work across Australia, which is greatly appreciated by country communities,” Truss wrote in a letter to the Courier-Mail published on September 22.
“The government is anxious to ensure that this work can continue without interruption.”
In his first CASA Briefing note, acting director of aviation safety Terry Farquarson reminded interested parties that the comment period on the discussion paper closed on October 10.
“The discussion paper seeks the views of the public and the aviation community on how CASA should approach the safety regulation of community service flights,” he said.
“In particular CASA is looking for comment on how to balance the need for appropriate safety standards for flights that carry passengers against the public benefit of the services.
“The discussion paper recognises if safety compliance costs are high the service flights may no longer be available.”