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Aviation Industry Conference - Gosche Speech

Hon Mark Gosche

Speech Notes

Aviation Industry Association Annual Conference

Kia ora koutou, talofa lava and good morning to you all.

I would like to acknowledge your Association’s President, John McCall, and Vice Presidents, John Funnell and Michael Young. And I also acknowledge the immediate Past President - and soon to be Director of Civil Aviation - John Jones.

Let me take this opportunity to publicly welcome John to his new position. As you well know John is a well-respected leader of the aviation community. The AIA has welcomed his appointment as signalling the beginning of a new era. I agree. As John McCall has said it is time to put the recent negativity behind us and work together to rebuild industry relationships. With his skills as a moderator and a negotiator I am confident that John Jones is the person to lead that work.

I’d also like to recognise current CAA Director, Kevin Ward. Kevin has been at the helm of nine years, including through some very turbulent times. It is not easy to set up and establish a regulatory entity, with new systems and new regulations. I’m sure you will join with me in thanking Kevin for his work and wishing him every success for the future.

John is not the only recent recruit to the CAA. Since I spoke to you last year we have had three new appointments to the Authority's board, including two aviation veterans - John Gabriel and Gordon Vette. John brings a strong operational background to the board, having trained in the Air Force and captained heavy jets around the world. Gordon Vette, who will be well known to many of you for his work on the Erebus disaster, is a retired pilot who has spent a long career training others in flight safety.

The most recent addition to the CAA board is Hazel Armstrong, a Wellington barrister, who was appointed last month as deputy chair. She brings to the board extensive legal experience in employment law, accident compensation, health and safety issues and public law.

These three new directors, under the very capable leadership of the recently reappointed chair Rodger Fisher, have an important role to play in play in helping the CAA and the industry bed down the tremendous changes that have occurred over the last eight years.

Two other new faces warrant a mention. One is the new principal medical officer, Dr Dougal Watson, who joins us from the Australian Air Force. While he is a newcomer to this country he is well aware of the sensitivities surrounding his new position. I am particularly pleased to hear that he spent two weeks in New Zealand consulting with aviation stakeholders before agreeing to take up his position. That attitude bodes well for the future.

Joining him as senior medical officer is Pooshan Navathe who brings 22 years experience in the Indian Air Force to his new role, including 13 years as an aviation medical specialist.

No 2 Bill

Everyone here knows that feelings have run high during the debate over the CAA (No 2) Bill. While it initially looked like neither the government nor the industry could understand each other’s position on the issues, we have bridged that divide. Open lines of communication, consultation and discussion have worked their magic. Both the industry and the government have made concessions in working through the legislation with the select committee. And, as a result of this willingness to recognise other positions, we now have had a good, effective and workable Bill reported back to Parliament.

Let me just refresh your memories on what this Bill means for your industry.

- First, the draft legislation gives the CAA Director the means to ensure New Zealand has a sound aviation medical certification system;

- Second, members of the aviation community have sound measures of redress within that system;

- And third, doctors have more certainty regarding their important role in the system.

In the majority of cases, pilots and air traffic controllers will notice few changes in the process of getting their medical certificate, except that “medical examiners” will replace the present DME/AMA system. A substantial difference, but one that will take place behind-the-scenes, is that all assessments will be audited by the CAA.

There is provision for a new process called a joint referral. This process is to be conducted under an independent “Convener”, appointed by the Minister. It is a collaborative, non-adversarial process to determine fitness-to-fly, using medical specialists. The applicant is one of the participants, and it is expected that all parties will cooperate to produce a timely outcome.

After a decision has been made (except one made under a joint referral) there is a mechanism for review, also under the independent Convenor. A statutory right of appeal to the District Court has been introduced.

One Percent Rule

Some of you here today are more concerned about the medical standards and the so-called “one per cent rule’. I appointed Wellington barrister Bruce Corkill, who was nominated by the AIA, and Dr Simon Janvrin from the United Kingdom CAA, to conduct the examination of medical standards and the one per cent rule. The examination will provide the background and evidence for any new standards and methodologies.

The review team has now received 38 submissions and has had discussions with a number of groups and individuals. They are now drafting an interim report which will be circulated for comment, with a month or so to respond. They will then finalise the report and present it to me. More detail on the review team's work, including submissions from the AIA and others, can be found on the Ministry of Transport's website.

CAA - AIA relationship

Your Association has played an important role in ensuring that the views of the industry, and the wider aviation community, have been taken into account on aviation medical certification matters.

The AIA has shown professionalism and good will in working constructively with officials from the Ministry of Transport and the CAA to reach points of understanding, if not always agreement, on sections of the legislation. Thank you for that. I am confident that the growing trust and working relationships we have formed during discussions over medical certification matters will provide a good foundation for tackling other important aviation safety issues.

Aviation safety

We must, all of us, turn our attention to safety. We need to be united by the over-arching goal of improving New Zealand’s aviation safety performance.

The theme of your conference -- lifting performance in aviation safety - raises excellent questions. Does the performance need to be lifted? And how high?

I believe aspects of New Zealand’s aviation safety performance must be lifted. In 1988 Swedavia-McGregor made the comment that New Zealand had no reason to be complacent about safety levels in civil aviation. Their comment is as relevant today as it was 13 years ago. New Zealand accident rates generally have always exceeded those of Australia, the UK and the USA. We’ve made some improvements in the past but accident rates in several sectors - particularly in general aviation -- are starting to trend upwards. Our safety levels across many categories do not compare favourably with other developed aviation states.

There are some in the aviation community who blame New Zealand’s climate and topography for our higher accident rates. These claims have been refuted by two well-respected aviation experts - from Canada and Australia - who undertook the CAA review at the end of last year. Climate and topography do not excuse our poor performance. We need to manage the risk factors better to restore the margins of safety.

We must work together to set future safety targets. We will lower our accident rates only when both sides understand and are committed to those targets.

We also need to find a workable balance between a hands-off, less regulated approach and what public safety demands. Similarly, we need to remember that accountability for bringing down New Zealand’s accident rate rests with both the CAA and the aviation industry, in partnership.

As regulator, the CAA sets out the framework within which members of the aviation community participate. The recent independent performance review of the CAA focused attention on areas where the CAA’s management and strategic direction need to improve. In particular, the CAA has a lot of work to do with the general aviation sector to help this group improve its safety performance. The CAA has acknowledged this and will be taking steps to address this matter.

Having said that, the review also recognised that the CAA can not be solely responsible for New Zealand’s high accident rate in the general aviation sector. The aviation community must recognise its responsibility for fostering a culture of safety among its participants by self-regulating safe practices.

The whole aviation community must accept that unless the safety culture and practices change, accident rates will stay unacceptably high.

We’ve got to change some attitudes. I noticed in a recent edition of your Association’s monthly newsletter that accident figures for the helicopter sector are, I quote, “very much lower” than those mentioned in the CAA review report. However, the review team clearly stated that the revised rates - that 1 in 15 and 1 in 17 helicopters can be expected to have an accident each year - are too high by international standards and that there is scope for considerable improvement.

International comparisons aside, I ask you: would the public find a 1 in 15 chance of a helicopter having an accident each year acceptable? Let us not be complacent about these accident odds.

Safety planning forums

On the other hand, I am heartened by recent moves to jointly tackle aviation safety problems. The CAA-led safety planning forums are an excellent idea. These forums will provide both the CAA and the industry with the opportunity to discuss views and share expertise on safety matters.

I understand there is a safety forum being held in Wellington in early September. I hope to be there to join in the discussions. The CAA and members of the industry will discuss drafting the CAA Safety Plan for the next five years. The more industry involvement, the more cohesive and effective the plan will be, and the greater the industry acceptance of remedies and involvement in joint programmes.

I urge all of you to support this initiative to ensure that the CAA’s and industry’s safety focus over the next few years is aimed in the right direction.

Upcoming Rule work

As you know there is a lot of work to be done this year on Civil Aviation Rules - amending existing ones and proposing new ones. We have a good number of safety concerns that need our consideration and action. I know that some people in the industry have expressed frustration at the slow progress on the rules pertaining to:

- wire marking, and

- enhanced ground proximity warning systems (to help combat controlled flight into terrain)

The aviation industry representatives on the wire-marking group have now compiled information that identifies the 20 most hazardous line spans nominated by the community. The completion and consideration of a cost-benefit analysis will determine how to proceed with a possible wire marking rule.

Two papers on enhanced ground proximity warning systems and airborne collision avoidance systems have just been distributed and posted on the CAA’s website. Your comments and feedback are of course welcome.

Over the next 12 months I intend making a number of new civil aviation rules which I’m confident will benefit everyone - pilots, passengers and the industry generally.

We want to amend current rules to simplify the flight planning requirements for flight under visual flight rules. This would enable a lower cost flight information service to be provided, and to provide more flexibility for operators of small air transport aircraft.

Some of the other rules to be drafted this year will require:

„X larger air transport aeroplanes to be equipped with airborne collision avoidance systems

„X current aerodrome certification rules to implement the international standards regarding the provision of runway end safety areas at aerodromes serving regular international air transport operations and

„X minimum controls for the provision of ground radio and information services to be standardised at those aerodromes where the level of air traffic does not justify a licensed air traffic control service or a licensed flight information service.

I have asked CAA chair Rodger Fisher to give greater priority to rules development this year. Kevin Ward is making sure that I am kept up to date on progress.

I am well aware that the new rule development process is not without its problems for organisations such as yours. While it allows much more industry consultation and involvement in the development process I also acknowledge the AIA's concerns about the cost and time implications for those involved. We need to find a balance.

CIRAG participation

Industry expertise adds considerable value to the rule development process. Civil Aviation Rules will always work better in practice if they are well understood by the industry. This is why the CAA - Industry Rules Advisory Group (CIRAG) process was established.

As some of you know, the team that reviewed the CAA at the end of last year raised concerns at the lack of what it termed “all inclusiveness” of participation of the aviation community in CIRAG.

I support the concept of CIRAG, and the technical study groups that are formed to consider rule work. It is important that affected and interested members of the aviation community are given the opportunity to provide their experiences and knowledge of aviation to the rule making process. But I am inclined to agree with the review team that we can try to undertake consultation in a more all-inclusive environment.

In recent times I have asked the CAA to be more inclusive of some of the less traditionally consulted groups on rules development, such as the pilot groups. I issue that same challenge now to the aviation community. Think about whether your Association's representation on discussions on aviation matters is a fair reflection of the views held by all the sectors that make up the AIA.

Conclusion

New Zealand’s aviation safety performance will improve only when we have a united and committed effort from the CAA and the aviation community.

Accident rates won’t drop over night. I quoted earlier from the 13 year old Swedavia - McGregor report about the scope for New Zealand aviation to improve its performance.

We must establish, without delay, the working relationships, the plans and the processes for lifting our aviation safety performance. With joint commitment from the CAA and the aviation community, I am confident we will see results.

Your Association has an instrumental role to play in uniting the industry, and perhaps even the wider aviation community, behind a partnership approach with the CAA so we can improve the safety culture.

For its part, the CAA has acknowledged the improvement it needs to make in its strategic direction and communication with the aviation community.

It is evident to me that both the CAA and the industry are starting to show good will in jointly tackling New Zealand’s aviation safety performance. I am confident that co-operation will continue.

We need to build bridges, to put the more negative aspects of the recent past behind us and re-establish working relationships between the CAA and the industry. I want to get that relationship right and I want to get the safety regulatory system right. Those are my two key priorities for the year ahead. I look forward to working with you to make both those things happen.


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