Weekly wrap 19-26 Jan ’15

24 Jan

This week around the traps was surprisingly busy considering most of Canberra is still in a slumber…

The 1st cab off the rank was Oz Flying with – believe it or not – an article titled – ATSB to feel PAIN over Pel-Air Investigation. That’s right PAIN actually made the news…

Quote:

19 Jan 2015

A confidential group known as the Professional Aviators Investigative Network (PAIN) has raised concerns over the ATSB review of the Pel-Air ditching report.

Late last year, the ATSB agreed to review the report into the 2009 ditching of a Pel-Air aeromedical flight at Norfolk Island, after a Canadian review highlighted anomalies with the investigation report.

In a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) written in December, the group has criticised the ATSB’s decision to use one of their own people to lead the review.

“… the ATSB [has] elected to utilise Dr Michael Walker of the ATSB to lead the investigation,” the PAIN submission points out. “We believe that to be effective, any investigation should be conducted independently and not involve ATSB, the commissioners or staff if only to preclude any suspicion of ‘internal’ influence or external bias being raised.”

PAIN is also concerned that the terms of reference announced by General Manager Aviation Safety Investigations IanSangston do not go far enough.

“The terms of reference cited by Mr Sangston are narrow and only mention the ‘report’ itself. Whilst the industry acknowledges that the report was substandard, there is little doubt that the investigators conducted their work with integrity and within the prescribed guidelines. Indeed, the early stages of the ATSB report were exemplary and clearly directed toward serious safety recommendations being made.
“We believe little will gained by utilising scarce resources re-investigating the original ATSB investigative ‘reports’.”

Instead, PAIN points the finger of blame for the original Pel-Air investigation report squarely at the both CASA and the ATSB and hints at deeper issues.

“Our greatest concern is that a deliberate, calculated manipulation of the national aviation safety system was attempted. It is not a ‘one off’ aberration. We firmly believe that the subsequent actions of both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the ATSB were proven, by the AAI [RRAT inquiry] committee, to grossly pervert the conclusions of the ATSB investigation to suit a clearly predetermined outcome, thus denying industry valuable, safety related knowledge and information.
“It is the process by which these subsequent events occurred which demands an independent investigation conducted transparently in public. We believe the Senate Committee is the right reporting and oversight platform for that investigation. The committee Senators are well briefed, informed and have a firm, current understanding of what transpired during the events subsequent to the Pel-Air aircraft ditching off Norfolk Island.

“Further, the Estimates committee is very clearly ‘awake’ to the machinations of the various aviation oversight bodies and will not easily be misled or confounded by ‘technical’ issues.

“We submit that any other form of investigation will not withstand the scrutiny of industry experts; as the initial premise is fatally flawed.”

PAIN describes itself as “a loosely organised, informal, confidential network which has formed and expanded over a number of years. There are approximately 1000 associates of the network; many participants, in one form or another may be properly considered expert witnesses.”

Its stated aims are to conduct independent investigations to provide aviatiors with a defence against “unfair, unreasonable or incorrect” made by CASA and its flight and airworthiness inspectors.

The members of PAIN remain largely anonymous to the general public, although it is known the group gave evidence to the original RRAT inquiry into the Pel-Air ditching.

Hitch also followed this up in his weekly wrap – The Last Minute Hitch: 23 January 2015

One day the dust will settle on the Pel-Air Norfolk Island ditching fiasco, but it seems it will be a while yet. This week a coalition of aviation professionals called the Professional Aviators Investigative Network (PAIN) questioned the impartiality of the ATSB in conducting their own review. They are also worried that the review limits iself to the original investigation report and doesn’t include the relationship between CASA and the ATSB that has been in question almost since the day the report was issued. PAIN’s contention has some merit here. Exactly what went on inCanberra over the Pel-Air report needs to be aired or it threatens to become aFisher King wound in the side of the aviation community. Until the wound heals, the issue will continue to dominate general aviation in Australia.

 

Also on Monday we had a story that seemingly leaked out of MMSM (Murdoch mainstream media) from journo Anthony Klan who sometimes fills in for Steve the regurgitator…Airline Rex ‘can’t explain’ its massive donations to political parties:

Quote:
LISTED airline Rex has been unable to explain why it made unprecedented, massive donations to political parties two years ago, at the same time as an investigation into the crash of one of its aircraft was being conducted. Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss called for the reopening of an investigation into the ditching of a Pel-Air plane carrying six passengers into the ocean near Norfolk Island in 2009, after systemic “errors” were found in the initial report. Pel-Air is a fully owned subsidiary of Regional Express, or Rex.The investigation into the crash, which involved one serious injury, took the Australian Transport Safety Board almost three years to complete but did not mention 57 breaches or “serious deficiencies” at Pel Air found by regulator the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority.

Until 2012, the only political donation Rex had made was $3486 to the ALP in the year to June 2004. Then between July and November 2012, the company donated $250,000 of shareholder funds to the federal ALP, $95,700 to federal Nationals and $40,000 to the Liberal Party, marking it as one of the biggest political donors in the nation.

Rex spokeswoman Alicia Chapple refused to comment yesterday when asked why the airline had made the donations, whether they were related to the Pel Air investigation, or whether Rex welcomed the reopening of that investigation.

The donations have raised additional question marks because Rex has repeatedly described the airline industry as being in crisis, stating it was “beyond crisis”, and highlighting the “graveyard” of collapsed rivals in its last annual report.

It was unclear why it had donated $250,000 to the federal ALP when shortly afterwards, ahead of the 2013 federal election, the group warned the aviation industry would struggle if the ALP were re-elected.

Ben – of Planetalking fame – picked up on this short piece from AK surprisingly quickly....but like many had problems tracking whether it was fact or fiction…Pel-Air, party donations, and air safety. An inexplicable coincidence?

Too intriguing & controversial to leave alone Ben managed to get top-cover from Crikey for a more comprehensive follow-up…bucket of Choccy frogs for Ben…Sketchy Pel-Air crash investigation raises uncomfortable questions for deputy PMalso see here

In the interest of Crikey subscribers terms & conditions here is the summary version off the PT page…:

Quote:
Vague minister, generous airline, Pel-Air issues mount upAmazing and inexplicable coincidences have come to light involving party political donations from REX, the owner of Pel-Air, in 2012, after a fierce internal disagreement had broken out in that year in the ATSB over the conduct of its investigation of the ditching of a Pel-Air jet in 2009.It’s a complex story, involving as it does the persistence of Karen Casey, the nurse who was seriously injured in the crash, in uncovering the donations, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, in discovering the bitter disagreements that occurred in its Australian counterpart, the ATSB, in the course of arriving at a disgraceful and discredited accident report.

It is told today in the Crikery Insider subscriber bulletin. The story coincides with continued speculation about the future of Warren Truss, the deputy PM and Nationals leader who is also responsible, but at times it seems in absentia, for aviation safety in this country.

Will Mr Truss deal with matters that involve his National Party and ministerial predecessor, John Sharp, who is on the board of REX and chairman of Pel-Air, and would therefore have knowledge of the donations? The story sets the scene for some critical questions for the Coalition, which in this case, appears to have no appetite for correcting the neglect of the Pel-Air issues which was a hallmark of Anthony Albanese’s time as Labor’s aviation minister.

Going back to Oz Flying – Hitch was indeed in full flight this week covering the story on the controversial NFRM life-limit on control cables released this week – CASA puts Life Limit on Stainless Control Cables

Related to this I also caught a US AOPA article that outlines the FAA’s stance on this – No cable mandate coming:

Quote:

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has issued an airworthiness directivemandating a 15-year replacement cycle for control cable assemblies made from certain types of stainless steel. The assemblies are installed in a range of aircraft, both helicopters and fixed-wing.

The FAA, however, will not follow suit. An agency spokesman said the FAA studied the issue in the past, and determined that a special airworthiness information bulletin issued in 2004 will be sufficient to maintain safety. That bulletin advises of potential corrosion and cracking with a particular alloy (known as SAE-AISI 303 Se), and broadly advised inspection of control cables and fittings during 100-hour and/or annual inspections.

The FAA noted that foreign regulators have jurisdiction over their own aircraft, and made no comment on the AD issued by CASA that requires replacement of applicable cables and fittings with 15 years of service. The CASA notice does not include an estimate of how many aircraft and operators are affected, but anticipates that the AD “may lead to a spares and/or maintenance personnel availability shortage.”

Operators in Australia were given until Jan. 1, 2018 to comply.

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