The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is in breach of its legal and safety responsibilities, according to the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) which represents the vast majority of Qantas pilots.
In considering Qantas’s proposed fatigue risk management system, CASA has refused to consult, as they are obliged to by law, with those who have the most practical experience of aviation fatigue – our pilots.
CASA is expected to make a decision soon on permanent changes to Qantas’s fatigue risk management system (FRMS), which includes proposed changes to rosters and maximum planned flying durations allowed for crews.
AIPA maintains that CASA has failed to meet the standards imposed on it by its governing Australian legislation and has also failed to meet guidelines set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
AIPA President Mark Sedgwick said: “It is disappointing that our aviation safety regulator has not adequately consulted with our pilots in regards to the management of pilot and crew fatigue.”
AIPA Vice President and Safety and Technical Director, Shane Loney, said: “CASA refuses to meaningfully engage with us in regards to the FRMS and has provided only heavily redacted documents in response to our Freedom of Information requests relating to it. Their sense of secrecy is becoming disturbing.”
“It is vitally important that CASA fully assess all aspects of pilot fatigue, including consultation with pilots, before approving a full FRMS for Qantas. To do otherwise will put aviation safety at risk.”
Nick Xenophon of Xenophon Davis, acting as legal advisor to AIPA, said: “This is a troubling process for Australian travellers. It appears that CASA is protecting the commercial interests of airlines at the cost of genuine health and safety considerations.
“We need to have faith in the decision making process – that it is based on independent science and that it properly involves the men and women who will be tasked with flying these planes. It is totally unacceptable and in breach of international flying conventions for CASA not to be consulting them.”
“CASA is not there to serve commercial interests. They are a safety authority. The recent Hayne Royal Commission into the financial services industry demonstrates the inherent dangers of having conflicted or timid regulators.”
AIPA maintains that CASA is obliged under the Civil Aviation Act to properly consult with industrial bodies such as theirs in setting or changing safety guidelines.
The Australian government is also a signatory to conventions binding it to the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization. ICAO guidelines are there to ensure that crew member representatives are included in the development of any fatigue risk management system.
“We have requested CASA reconsider their decision to approve the trial Qantas FRMS and withhold approving a permanent system until the concerns of AIPA, and our Qantas pilot members, have been properly considered,” said Mr Sedgwick.
“To ensure the safety of the traveling public the regulator, the airlines and pilots need to be in agreement that all reasonable risks are being properly managed.”