The Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA) has established a special task force to address the safety regulation of general aviation (GA) in the country, with the aerial agriculture sector being the initial focus for the group.
The Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia (AAAA) has welcomed the move, believing it is a real opportunity to match safety regulations to what the industry needs. The task force will look at issues including GA pilot licensing, air operator's certificates (AOCs) and safety requirements.
The task force, which is headed up by Peter John, CASA's eastern region operations manager, is expected to start work in mid-August and will operate for more than two years, according to the authority.
"It is vital that regulations deliver the intended safety outcomes to the highest possible level, without imposing unnecessary burdens on the aviation industry," says CASA director of aviation safety John McCormick.
He added: "In GA, CASA believes it is time to look at the requirements for pilot licensing and the need for AOCs for a range of operations."
The new task force will feed issues and information into a GA forum to be established next year, to discuss regulatory issues. McCormick says the aerial agriculture sector was selected as the initial focus as it is "a vibrant sector of GA, with a wide range of safety issues that need to be considered". CASA will work with the AAAA.
Phil Hurst, CEO of the AAAA, says he is not surprised CASA chose the aerial agriculture sector to start off the initiative, as he wrote to CASA late last year highlighting the system improvements the AAAA had successfully implemented which could benefit the wider GA sector. He points, for example, to the AAAA's standard operations manual, which includes a schedule of differences for individual operators, which simplifies and speeds up the review process for CASA, the safety training programmes it has implemented, the safety alerts it issues and its chief pilot courses.
Hurst also hopes the task force will address the existing drug and alcohol management regulations which have "little relevant structure for GA", and involve a lot of red tape and huge costs for the sector. Hurst said the task force is a very welcome move and has great potential for the aerial agriculture sector and others, but the underlying issue is the outcome and whether it will make the sector safer and simplify business.