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Helicopter industry calls for review of aviation regulation

Press Release – Helicopter industry calls for review of aviation regulatory system

The New Zealand Helicopter Association (NZHA), a division of Aviation New Zealand, welcomes the TAIC report into the tragic Fox Glacier accident for the messages it gives to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the aviation industry.

'The aviation system is safe but we are reminded, from time to time, that it doesn’t work as effectively as it could' said Scott McKenzie, Chairman of the NZ Helicopter Association. 'These rare occasions reflect poorly on the majority of the helicopter industry who do an excellent job in a very safety conscious and competitive industry'.

'The TAIC report highlights recurring systemic failure of the aviation regulatory system, which is supported by Auditor-General reports going back to 1997' added Aviation NZ Chief Executive John Nicholson. 'The TAIC report confirms what Aviation New Zealand and the NZHA have been thinking for some time'.

Four successive Auditor-General reports identify ineffective governance and accountability of the CAA's certification and surveillance functions. We appreciate that CAA has made changes over the years but, as this latest accident report shows, they haven’t gone far enough.

If the industry and successive CAA leadership, CAA Boards and Ministry of Transport personnel have been unable to make the appropriate changes to prevent recurring mistakes, it is time for the Minister to look at the entire framework under which aviation is regulated in New Zealand.

A fundamental review of the aviation regulatory framework is required to ensure it enables global best practice and enhances aviation safety. The current Civil Aviation Act is over 30 years old and the review that is presently out for consultation is at best tinkering with an already broken system. It fails to address the root causes of the failures that TAIC have identified.

The CAA Board Chairman states in his opinion piece he “believe[s] that by November 2015, the CAA had already made significant improvements to how it conducted its oversight of the aviation industry.” He went on to say that “ultimately the responsibility for setting appropriate safety systems lies with the operator but [CAA] should have picked up on the deficiencies with this operator's systems.

The CAA’s role clearly includes monitoring compliance. The CAA did not reach its targets for surveillance and investigations after 2015 as evidenced in their own annual reports. CAA continue to report publicly that it is making good progress in strengthening its certification and surveillance functions but industry participants still report issues to Aviation New Zealand.

The NZHA will continue to work in a constructive and collaborative way with CAA, and all participants in the aviation system, to continue to reduce the helicopter accident rate. The NZHA are taking steps to increase safety awareness across the helicopter industry through:

· bringing international helicopter safety experts to New Zealand for workshops, safety seminars and flying instruction, and
· actively looking at 20 years of helicopter accident statistics to identify the leading causes of helicopter accidents, and
· promoting a helicopter Flight Examiner and Instructor seminar to standardise and disseminate information that will positively influence the safety actions and culture across helicopter operations.

There are safety initiatives from grass roots industry too, such as the development of affordable cockpit video data recorders. Eye in the Sky will aid in identifying causes for accidents to prevent re-occurrence and confirm the aircraft and pilots are safe, and working to industry best practices.

The NZHA and Aviation New Zealand want to see positive change as a result of this TAIC report. However we believe any changes made by CAA , as we've seen following earlier reports, will struggle to have any material effect whilst the aviation regulatory framework remains unchanged. A complete review of the aviation regulatory framework is required.


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