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Aviators call for a public inquiry into the CAA

A 2000-strong aviation group is calling for a public inquiry into the Civil Aviation Authority. The General Aviation Advocacy network has released a report detailing CAA failures and shortcomings, and another showing the results of a client satisfaction survey. They reveal serious unrest and distrust of the CAA among New Zealand’s general aviation community.

The GAA identifies major faults within the CAA. It claims to have evidence that the Authority is failing because:

• public confidence has been damaged by two serious lapses of integrity, at board and senior management levels

• the relationship between the CAA and its clients in general aviation is at an all-time low two suicides have been linked to CAA investigations

• the Authority cannot be trusted to maintain confidentiality. The names of whistle-blowers fell into the hands of defendants and the CAA failed to explain why

• the judgement of senior management has been found faulty in several legal cases

• the CAA does not deliver value for money. Charging $284 an hour, it compares badly with Australia’s aviation authority, where the highest hourly rate is $190 and the lowest is $100

• severe increases in CAA charges between 2012 and 2017 were not matched by service or efficiency improvements, and have harmed the general aviation industry

• New Zealand is alone among developed countries in lacking an independent, confidential, no- blame safety incident reporting system. The Authority refuses to follow this international best practice. It also stands accused of ignoring many incident reports

• regulations are being misunderstood or misinterpreted by CAA staff, resulting in unlawful or irregular demands and unjustified charges

• the CAA has made unlawful use of Advisory Circulars, contradicting its own regulations the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act are being misused to serve CAA interests and hinder the supply of information

• the CAA regularly fails to honour its own Service Charter

• it refuses to measure client satisfaction levels, and does not properly consult customers users do not trust the CAA’s internal investigations of complaints. New Zealand has no independent aviation complaints authority - unlike Australia, for example

The GAA’s report highlights a serious conflict of interest by former CAA board deputy chairman Peter Griffiths, who resigned when it was revealed he used inside information to prematurely inform a competitor company (in which he had a financial interest) of the CAA’s closure of provincial operator Sunair. Investigating QC Mary Scholtens found that Griffiths had committed a breach of trust involving a conflict of interest and that poor management played a role.

The GAA report also notes the case of Paul Mitchell Jones, a CAA flight operations inspector who claimed aviation qualifications he did not hold, in a sworn court affidavit.

The GAA says that the CAA Board and the CAA’s Director have failed to meet the required standards of governance.

“The Board has been shown incapable of controlling its members, but adept at protecting itself,” said GAA spokesman Brian Mackie. “The rules governing qualification for board directorship must be changed to exclude people with a financial interest in aviation companies or any associated commercial activity.

“We believe that the CAA itself has become dysfunctional as the regulator of general aviation. The results of our customer survey strongly support this.

“The issues can only be properly examined through an independent inquiry. New Zealand requires a national general aviation strategy and a regulatory authority that recognises GA’s position in the economy and works with the industry instead of appearing to obstruct it. We need a radical change of emphasis, from policeman to partner.”

About the GAA
The GAA is a voluntary social network for people involved in New Zealand General Aviation. It has more than 2000 registered supporters.
It has no constitution, no formal membership and no fees. It has no income and it seeks no profit. It exists to independently promote and defend GA in New Zealand by monitoring, analysing and publicising aviation issues, challenging authority when necessary, and often personally advocating on behalf of “the little people” in our aviation system – many of whom find it hard to confront seemingly powerful bureaucrats.
GAA supporters are concerned about the Civil Aviation Authority – its poorly controlled overheads, its inadequate service levels, its red tape and its escalating fees. Many are worried about CAA policies that threaten general aviation- related businesses and may damage the future of the next generation of amateur and professional aviators.

The GAA aims to encourage constructive dialogue among everyone involved in our nation’s aviation – including bureaucrats, politicians and established aviation organisations.

Supporters include:
• Airline pilots of all ranks, based in New Zealand, Australia and around the world
• Helicopter pilots based in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia • PPL and RPL holders, and microlight pilots
• Homebuilt aircraft pilots
• Instructors and student pilots
• Balloon pilots and operators
• Glider pilots
• Skydivers and skydive operators
• Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers
• Flight training schools
• Fixed base helicopter operators
• Maintenance organisations, and
• Small commercial aircraft operators

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