The issue of safety is paramount in aviation, and it is important to critically assess the situation related to aviation safety in a country and develop measures to address the issues which exist or may emerge in it (Stolzer & Goglia 2016). The current paper provides an analysis of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Corporate Plan 2015-16 – 2018-19. Such issues as the current strategic position described in the document, the adequacy of the plan to the existing Australian aviation safety performance, the plan’s strengths and weaknesses, are investigated; also, safety standards and guidelines of several nations and international organizations are discussed, and the Australian compliance with such guidelines is considered.
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The objectives of the current paper include analyzing the CASA safety plan and determining the main strategic objectives provided in it, as well as finding out whether the safety plan supplies a strategy that adequately addresses the issues outlined in the literature. Also, one of the objectives is to consider the safety standards and guidelines existing in several international aviation organizations, as well as in several foreign countries, and to analyze whether Australian practices correspond to these guidelines.
Strategic Position and Critical Analysis
The Current Strategic Position About Aviation Safety in Australia
CASA provides a plan which, among other content, outlines the strategic goals of CASA for the period lasting from 2015-2016 to 2018-2019 (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015). In particular, there exist three main goals which should be met as a result of the CASA’s activity over the named period, namely, 1) maintaining the safety regulation system for civil aviation, and improving it to make it fairer, more efficacious, and more economical; 2) engaging in communication with the wider community aimed at dealing with the issues of aviation safety to develop and popularize the positive safety culture; 3) constantly bettering the organizational performance of companies related to civil aviation (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015, p. 13).
The key areas of performance about these goals are: 1) a) the safety regulations in aviation, as well as service delivery, and b) the oversight of the industry, including taking actions about risk management, and the effective monitoring, for Goal 1; 2) the engagement of stakeholders in the aviation safety processes, including ensuring transparency and establishing effective communication, for Goal 2; 3) a) the alignment of governance and organizational efficaciousness with the best practices of the Commonwealth, and b) making sure that the personnel is competent and capable, for Goal 3 (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015).
CASA lists several challenges and/or tendencies in the field of civil aviation, and provides a summary of measures which are planned to be undertaken to address these issues (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015, pp. 14-15). These issues are briefly summarized in Table 1 below.
|Main challenges or tendencies||Actions to be taken|
|The rise in utilization of remotely piloted aircraft||Create efficacious regulations and improve safety management policies|
|The rise in rates of utilization of sport and recreational aircraft services||Propose updated regulations and further refine the existing policies; ensure that the representatives of CASA are present at recreational and sports events; provide support for RAAO (Recreational Aviation Administration Organization); ensure that there are adequate numbers of highly qualified personnel who oversee the events|
|Aging aircraft||Proceed with the development of regulations aimed at dealing with the problems related to aging aircraft|
|Rising numbers of offshore helicopter operations related to resources||Revise the existing oversight approach which is utilized for these operations; take into account the international research in this area|
|Problems related to the implementation of project OneSKY, which pertains to enhanced systems of air traffic management||Participate in regulating the implementation of the named project to help create an innovative system for air traffic management and surveillance, as well as for efficacious processing and displaying of data. CASA can only control the safety issues of the project to a very limited degree, but it is planned to oversee the process, for 4 years|
|Urges aimed at approaching CASA’s regulations and provisions to correspond to the needs of every area of aviation that is overseen by the institution, and the sector of General Aviation in particular||Proceed with the use of the policy of Classification of operation to create and modify regulations about safety issues and oversight procedures|
|Increased rivalry for staff that is crucial for safety||Consider what possible variants of recruiting workforce from other countries exist; review marketing strategies for attracting personnel|
|Changes in the aviation field about new safety regulations and their introduction||Engage the community in implementing the new regulations; supply learning materials; lower the costs needed for regulations implementation|
|A rise in demand for electronic transactions from those who utilize services and information offered by CASA||Make sure that efficacious and user-friendly online capabilities (e.g., websites) are supplied for such clients|
|The rise in the quantity of international low-cost carriers||Revise the existing provisions for managing such operations; investigate the resource needs and whether they are satisfied sufficiently well to implement the offered changes|
Table 1. The main challenges and tendencies which CASA plans to address (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015).
Australia’s Safety Performance in 2015-2016, Its Problems and Challenges, and the Adequateness of Coverage of These in CASA’s Strategic Plan
A review of the literature reveals that the situation about aviation safety in Australia is rather positive when it comes to the main-route passenger aircraft; however, several worrying issues and tendencies remain (Hampson et al. 2015). As for the positive aspects, it is stated that the accident rate approaches 2-3 accident for each million of aircraft departures, and the rates of accidents in the Australian main-route passenger fleet is nearly the same; in other words, the number of accidents which are registered yearly is very small, and, according to some estimates, one would probably have to take more than 5,000,000 times to become statistically likely to die as a result of a plane crash (Hampson et al. 2015, p. 6).
Nevertheless, several issues still should be addressed; for instance, it is suggested that the continued low rates of aircraft accidents might be capable of causing a certain degree of complacency, which may prove critical in some situations, for although modern aircraft heavily relies on technological redundancies to avoid severe accidents if a human error is considerable, these redundancies might still prove insufficient to avert a disaster, which is why it is pivotal for personnel working with aircraft to stay wary regardless of how safe the modern aircraft may be (Hampson et al. 2015; Stolzer & Goglia 2016). A problem related to that pertains to the newly emerged tendency to check the condition of aircraft and its compliance with regulations by inspecting documents rather than carrying out thorough scrutiny of the processes taking place in the cockpit, which is the most worrying trend (Hampson et al. 2015).
However, it is stressed that the high degree of safety discussed above only pertains to main-route passenger aircraft of high capacity, as well as to freight services; on the contrary, in other numerous fields of the Australian general aviation, including charter flights, the frequency of aircraft accidents is many times higher; furthermore, it is constantly going up (Hampson et al. 2015).
This can be explained by a variety of reasons; for instance, such aircraft considerably more often fly at altitudes where adverse weather conditions take place; they operate over difficult terrain, which increases the risk of accidents; and there are generally no complex air traffic control systems which are characteristic of large airports (Hampson et al. 2015). Also, the small planes utilized not for transporting large numbers of passengers are usually old, which not only means that they may require additional maintenance, but also that they do not use modern technological equipment, such as that which provides a high degree of aircraft control and safety on large planes (Hampson et al. 2015).
Another possible problem in Australian aviation is related to international safety regulation standards, and their application in Australian aircraft. In particular, it is stated that Australian air companies often tend to rely on offshore maintenance, repair, and overhaul services, whereas the current standards of ICAO do not guarantee that Australian aircraft will be provided with best-practice maintenance services; in particular, this results from gaps in regulations about these standards, and ICAO has very little ability to enforce them; because of this, these standards might also be interpreted somewhat differently in different countries (Hampson et al. 2016).
On the whole, it is recommended that in case Australian air companies have to utilize offshore maintenance services, it is needed to make the process as transparent as possible, so that when the regulations on their own do not result in best-practice maintenance, the informed choice might help solve this problem (Hampson et al. 2016). Other recommendations made concerning this problem is that more attention should be paid to concerns of Australian licensed aircraft maintenance engineers by airline managers (Gregson et al. 2015) and that Australia should organize campaigns aimed at increasing the prestige of aircraft maintenance engineer profession and at educating a greater number of such engineers in the nearest future because the need for these engineers is likely to keep increasing (Hampson et al. 2015).
Finally, it is advised that challenges related to aviation safety and security should be approached differently; while currently the reactive approach is utilized in the industry, the proactive approach ought to be implemented instead (Oster, Strong & Zorn 2013). In other words, because the number of aviation accidents is rather low, especially when it comes to the main-route passenger aircraft (Hampson et al. 2015), it is difficult to design measures using the analysis of aircraft accidents (Oster, Strong & Zorn 2013). Therefore, it is recommended that a more predictive approach which is grounded on system-based analysis is adopted (Oster, Strong & Zorn 2013).
Because the issues described above are often rather concrete, it might be difficult to precisely assess whether they are adequately covered in the CASA plan, which, as a strategic plan, only supplies a general description of provisions that are to be made. In particular, it is hard to tell whether the problem related to the analysis of official documents instead of analyzing the problems in the cockpit will be addressed; however, the strategic plan appears not to focus on controlling the compliance with all the regulations (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015). The same pertains to the problem of complacency in the rather safe flight environment; such a concrete problem is not clearly articulated in the plan, even though the plan pertains to safety issues.
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The problem of offshore maintenance is not covered in the plan; in fact, offshore operations are mentioned in several places in the plan (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015, pp. 14, 20m 38), but the issues about quality control and safety regulations in offshore maintenance which were described above appear not to be touched upon.
Finally, no changes in the paradigm of aviation safety, such as changing the reactive approach to safety to the proactive one, as offered by Oster, Strong, and Zorn (2013), is proposed in the CASA plan.
Still, some problems described above are covered in CASA’s plan. For instance, the issue related to aging aircraft, which is almost always used in aviation that is not main-route passenger aviation, is unequivocally mentioned in the plan; however, it is unclear what will be done, for it is only suggested that regulatory options will be created to deal with the problem (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015, p. 15).
The problem of the lacking workforce (which is related to the mentioned issues about the offshore maintenance) is touched upon in the plan; for instance, it is stated that there exist workforce gaps and that it is needed to address challenges related to e.g. retirement of the workforce (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015, p. 20); however, the analysis by Hampson et al. (2015) appears to imply that the problem of the dearth of the workforce (especially of aircraft maintenance engineers) is more serious than what is seemingly suggested by the strategic plan.
Strongest and Weakest Points of the CASA’s Strategic Plan
A strength of the CASA’s strategic and safety plan for 2015-16 to 2018-19 (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015) is that it not only articulates the goals which should be achieved during the named period but also outlines the general measures that ought to be taken to reach these goals, as well as the performance measures which may allow for assessing the effectiveness of the measures that were taken.
For instance, several key performance areas in which activities will take place to ensure the greater degree of safety in Australian aviation are named; corresponding key performance indicators are articulated, and respective key performance measures are described (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015). These should allow for both ongoing and concluding analyses of the implemented measures; of particular importance is the ongoing assessment, for it may permit for correcting the actions which are currently being taken if their results are significantly poorer than is needed. Thus, some problems which exist in the area of aviation safety in Australia are addressed by the CASA’s corporate plan, and strategies are offered which may allow for solving these problems and dealing with the related issues.
The weak sides of the CASA’s report are primarily related to the fact that a large share of aviation problems is not addressed. As the review of the literature has revealed, there exist numerous issues in this field. Some of these were described above: the inspection of documents about the quality of an aircraft instead of an examination of the actual situation in the cockpit; the possible complacency originating in the high degree of safety of main-route passenger aircraft; the issues with international aviation safety regulations, which may be interpreted differently in different countries of the world, and, as a result, the problems related to using offshore maintenance services; and, most importantly, the relatively low levels of safety of general aviation (Gregson et al. 2015; Hampson et al. 2015; Hampson et al. 2016). Even though the problem of aging aircraft is included in the plan, the ways to address it are not articulated clearly; it is only stated that regulatory options will be further developed and that an innovative risk estimation instrument will be created (Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015).
On the whole, it might be possible to assert that the plan does not meet at least some of the expectations which are reasonably wanted to be included in it. It may also be stated that such issues as the more thorough inspection of aircraft, additional safety instruction for the personnel, and education of future aviation maintenance engineers, should have been included in the plan to a greater degree.
Strategic Choices and Best Practices
Aircraft Security Standards and Provisions in ICAO, IATA, EASA, the U.S., and Ireland
ICAO (2013) supplies several Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which states have to meet to gain a good national aviation safety record. SARPs involve recommendations related to the implementation of safety management systems, and require that sufficient levels of safety are established by the state as a norm; these levels are to be defined according to safety performance aims and safety performance indicators. ICAO’s requirements also include the responsibility of a state to create an adequate state safety program, which is to meet the minimum safety requirement as defined by ICAO and is to be fulfilled by air companies operating in that state (ICAO 2013).
When it comes to IATA’s standards, the organization demands that in a country, the industry stakeholders ensure that a high degree of effectiveness is attained in several areas related to aviation. More specifically, such areas as the reduction of operational risk, improving the infrastructure of aviation, rapid identification of and response to any emerging safety issues, maintaining effective practices of employee recruitment and training, on-going improvement of quality of service, and the consistent implementation of safety management systems, need to be covered (IATA 2016).
As for EASA, this organization coordinates the creation of EU legal acts for regulating civil aviation safety (EASA 2015). The newest provisions of EASA include mechanisms for assessing the compliance of aviation industries with the ICAO standards and advised practices, as well as guidance materials aimed at assisting companies to comply with the safety regulations provided by ICAO and at helping them implement best practices in the field of aviation. The legal provisions developed under EASA demand that appropriate levels of aviation safety should be reached (EASA 2015).
When speaking about aviation leading nations, it is possible to mention the U.S. and the regulations about the industry in that country (Rodrigues & Cusick 2012). The regulations are often provided by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration 2017) and are aimed at ensuring that the companies operating aircraft achieve high levels of safety while doing so. Also, other agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, etc., supply provisions aimed at maintaining a high level of security and protection both for the aircraft operating inside the U.S. and the aircraft which provides transport connections with other countries (Aviation transportation system security plan 2007).
Finally, Ireland is stated to have an excellent safety record (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 2015). The best practices and recommendations include keeping safety the main priority in the field of aviation, promote reporting adverse situations related to aircraft, continuously monitor worldwide safety trends about aviation, ensure nationwide security solutions provision, adopt a risk-based approach to security threats, and so on (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 2015).
Is the Australian Strategic Approach to Safety Aligned with Safety Guidelines?
On the whole, it might be stated that the strategic approach to aviation safety, as well as the existing state of aviation affairs in Australia, are aligned with many of the guidelines for aviation safety (e.g., with those provided by ICAO), as well as with industry best practices, at least in some fields of the civil aviation. Hampson et al. (2015) state that the safety standards in the Australian main-route passenger aircraft are rather high, and report very low rates of accidents.
Also, several studies emphasize that Australian aircraft faces the risk of gaining offshore maintenance and repair services that would be of lower quality than those obtained in Australian airports, as well as that the current provisions of ICAO do not guarantee that best practices are applied to Australian aircraft when gaining offshore maintenance (Gregson et al. 2015; Hampson et al. 2015; Hampson et al. 2016; Sabatini 2015). This seemingly implies that the guidelines of organizations such as ICAO are met in Australian air organizations.
On the contrary, when it comes to aircraft that are not main-route passenger airplanes, relatively high rates of occurrences are reported; furthermore, the rates of the accidents are growing (Hampson et al. 2015). The Australian Transport Safety Bureau demonstrates that there still exist serious issues in safety in some areas of Australian aviation (ATSB 2017). In particular, Figures 1 and 2 below display the number of accidents (and fatal accidents) in which Australian aircraft were involved in 2006-2015; furthermore, Figures 3 and 4 below show the rates of accidents (and fatal accidents) where Australian aircraft were involved in 2006-2015.
It is easy to see that, while the rates of aircraft accidents tend to remain consistently low in many areas of Australian aviation, occurrences do happen, and it is paramount that the safety strategies allow for effectively addressing these occurrences, even if they already meet the international safety standards on many criteria.
All in all, the CASA corporate plan outlines a strategy for improving the Australian aviation safety performance. Whereas some of the issues in Australian aviation which were found in the literature are addressed, many of them are not. However, it should be remembered that the corporate plan only provides a general strategy, which does not permit specifically addressing each of the issues existing in the industry.
ATSB 2017, Aviation occurrence statistics 2006 to 2015, Web.
Aviation transportation system security plan: supporting plan to the national strategy for aviation security 2007, Web.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2015, Corporate plan 2015-16 to 1018-19, Web.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 2015, A national aviation policy for Ireland, Web.
EASA 2015, Annual activity report 2014, Web.
Federal Aviation Administration 2017, FAA Regulations, Web.
Gregson, S, Hampson, I, Junor, A, Fraser, D, Quinlan, M, & Williamson, A 2015, ‘Supply chains, maintenance and safety in the Australian airline industry’, Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 604-623.
Hampson, I, Fraser, D, Quinlan, M, & Junor, A 2016, ‘The uncertain oversight of offshore aircraft maintenance: the case of Australia’, Journal of Air Law And Commerce, vol. 81, pp. 225-250.
Hampson, I, Fraser, D, Quinlan, M, Junor, A & Gregson, S 2015, The future of aircraft maintenance in Australia: workforce capability, aviation safety and industry development, Web.
IATA 2016, Safety report 2015, Web.
ICAO 2013, Safety management manual (SMM), Web.
Oster, CV, Strong, JS, & Zorn, CK 2013, ‘Analyzing aviation safety: problems, challenges, opportunities’, Research in Transportation Economics, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 148-164.
Rodrigues, CC & Cusick, SK 2012, Commercial aviation safety, 5th edn, McGraw Hill, New York, NY.
Sabatini, R 2015, ‘A roadmap for future aviation research in Australia: improving aviation safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability’, First International Symposium on Sustainable Aviation, vol. 1/2015, pp. 1-7, Web.
Stolzer, AJ & Goglia, JJ 2016, Safety management systems in aviation, 2nd edn, Routledge, New York, NY.