P2 – “Although one flight was an international operation and the other was domestic, it is passing strange how VH-NGA and VH-PGW were both air ambulance operations, operated under the same regulatory ‘Aerial Work’ classification, with both AOCs oversighted by the former CASA Bankstown regional office…”
If ever anyone wanted to seriously investigate the abomination that is CASA; the details of the two cases mentioned by P2, would ‘rock ’em and shock ’em’. I (and many others) have always believed that a Royal Commission or Judicial inquiry (despite the difficulty in raising one) into both events would be in the national interest. The actions taken by CASA officers were (IMO) highly improper, legally unsafe, criminally negligent and detrimental to air safety. That, is not ‘hot-air’ – the proof is all there, albeit neatly buried. It is also germane to remember that Hood was the CASA decision maker and his signature is on almost every document used by CASA to enforce their actions, is now running our safety investigation bureau.
The serious examiner would need some of the ‘detail’ elaborated before beginning. Should ICAO ever take an interest the layers of deception would need to be peeled away. P2’s brief introduction (above) is one breadcrumb along a path which ICAO could follow; but even that simple paragraph is deceptive.
“[one] flight was an international operation and the other was domestic”. True.
“[passing] strange how VH-NGA and VH-PGW were both air ambulance operations”. False. Both were operating a commercial ‘patient transfer’ service on behalf of medical insurance companies.
“[operated] under the same regulatory ‘Aerial Work’ classification”. True. This, stand alone, is worthy of investigation. The Australian rules allow what is clearly a ‘commercial’ operation to be operated in the ‘Aerial Work’ category – it is almost legally unique. The FAA would not allow it.
“[with] both AOCs oversighted by the former CASA Bankstown regional office.” True.
And, this where it gets ‘weird’. A short explanation, to clarify is required here, so bear with me. VH-PGW was operating under the ‘Skymaster’ Air Operators Certificate (AOC). The company was part of a ‘group’ of companies sharing an administrative, executive and operational management system and shared an operating base facility with a sister company Airtex Aviation. Each company had an independent Chief pilot and separate operations manual suite. From here, the paths diverged – radically. Airtex conducted ‘patient transport’ under the rules governing ‘Charter’ (commercial) operations; Skymaster did not. Airtex insisted that essential crew members (flight nurses) held certification under CAO 2.011 (emergency, evacuation, ditching etc.): Skymaster did not. Airtex was a leading participant in the group ‘Safety Management System’ (SMS) being developed; Skymaster simply refused to participate. I won’t go on, but you can see the pattern developing there. This culminated in two separate advisories to the CASA and company management, from senior Airtex pilots warning that unless the training and operational standards were improved, immediately, then a serious accident was inevitable. Management took what action they could on notification. CASA brought the report back to the senior pilots; told them to mind their own business and remove the report from the SMS data base.
The parallels between the Skymaster operation and Pel-Air are strikingly similar; the results almost identical. The response from CASA beggars belief; although the empirical of it is freely available. In short: the Pel-Air audit was quick, easy and ‘helpful’ as was the Skymaster mini audit. The only company penalised, to the maximum extent was Airtex. The actions of the Bankstown FOI, ordered by Chambers, backed by McCormack, supported by Hood defied the law, the constitution, logic and honesty – even under oath. All there, matter of AAT record; the Pel-Air debacle supported by Hansard.
No apology offered for the introduction; if we are to examine the breadcrumb trail laid by P2; then it is vital we understand the ‘deeper’ background. Many believe, as do I, that not only was the Senate inquiry into the Pel-Air accident deceived, but so was ICAO, the minister and Australian people.
Manning has drafted a concise report which covers in some detail the ‘technicalities’ of the Pel-Air event; a model which should have been provided many years and millions of dollars ago. Whilst the report may cover off the detail and provide a guide to managing future accident reports it, quite rightly, steps around the machinations surrounding the event.
It is not within Capt. Manning’s remit to examine, in depth, the vast differences between the CASA actions during the time period; nor is it for him to point out to ICAO why there are reporting anomalies. The soft ride and tender care Pel-Air received in comparison to the crucifixion doled out to Airtex is not within his ambit. He has simply done ‘the right thing’ and analysed ‘the accident’. Thank you Sir; that’s the accident explained at least.
Which leaves us with what: ICAO, Senate committee, minister and the public deceived, the government out of pocket a sizeable sum, the Senate committee frustrated, industry still suffering under the same regime and those responsible still employed.
I say this: until the abominations, aberrations and atrocities committed during the McCormack era are addressed – in full – then any and all money spent in pursuit of aviation regulatory reform is wasted; any chance of true reconciliation is lost; no future minister can hope for credibility and a fine industry will be left floundering, terrified in the full knowledge of just what CASA can and regularly do get away with, under cover – in the name of air safety.
Wish list: David Fawcett Junior Minister; a real reform director; the NZ rules (FAA if you like) and an open ICAO inquiry into CASA actions over the last seven years; then legislation made to ensure that any future antics, of the type displayed during that period can never, not ever, be inflicted on a honest industry, trying to make ends meet.
Sorry for the drift P2 – but if we are to follow the breadcrumbs into the dark woods, then we need a little candle light, just for clarity, so we may find our way.