September 22, 2010

Outsourced jet pilot training and endorsement has been flagged as a potential black hole in the aviation safety regulation system. All aviation organisations like flight schools, airlines, charter operators and maintenance organisations are subject to constant oversight for air safety compliance by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

All except third-party flight crew training and endorsement organizations that are assuming an ever increasing role in vouching for the qualifications and skills of airline pilots. Such schools are not required to have an Air Operators’ Certificate with operational requirements that CASA can police.

The safety concern has been raised in two investigation reports by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATS): one into an attempted landing by an Airbus  A320 aircraft at Melbourne in 2007 and the other into a Qantaslink B717 hard landing at night in Darwin in 2008.

The ATSB’s conclusion: unregulated third-party flight crew training blurred the training outcomes for the airlines that relied on them.

As a result, CASA has proposed a change to regulations so that these bodies are bought under its control. In September CASA publicly stated CASR 142 would be ready by the end of 2010. In February this year they said by end of 2011 however, given delay in CASA and other government agencies, any new regulations may not be assented to until well into 2012.  

After any transition period, they may not actually come into force until the end of next year. Low Cost Carriers (“LCC”s) like Australia’s Virgin Blue, Jetstar, Tiger Airways and also Qantaslink frequently outsource their pilot endorsements to uncertified third-party training providers ie non-AOC holder profit centres. The pilots generally pay for these services personally.

Legacy airlines such as Qantas generally provide all training and endorsements “in-house” at their expense under a training bond system. Industry insiders are concerned a default practice is emerging where some training providers may “just pass” pilots on the expectation that the prospective employer airline will provide in-house checking and training to compensate for its own training deficiencies.

They are concerned that endorsement providers are potentially motivated as much by profit as they are by safety as they must keep trainees coming through the door and paying fees.

Despite CASA claiming “oversight” of 3rd party airline trainers without AOC’s or Civil Aviation Act regulations, there can be no enforcement.

These concerns can be satisfied if the relevant regulations to bring the endorsement providers under CASA’s enforceable safety surveillance net are commenced without further delay.

Send an email protest to Infastructure & Transport Minister Anthony Albanese calling on a moratorium on non-AOC holding airline pilot endorsement organizations.

Categories: Litigation & Law Practice , Aviation Law

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