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Review by the Director of Aviation Safety

During the 2018–19 reporting period CASA achieved three significant results, namely the achievement of key regulatory milestones, precautionary decision-making on key aviation issues, and the simplification and streamlining of some of our services.

The following is a summary of CASA’s noteworthy achievements for 2018–19.

Making regulations

A major achievement for 2018–19 was the making of the six operational Parts of the CASR. This work commenced in 1999 and has been subject to numerous changes in priority, direction and policy over many years.

A great deal of hard work and perseverance by our people, the aviation community and the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel went into achieving this important milestone. The new consultative processes that we implemented last year provided us with feedback from subject matter experts and people across all areas of aviation, which we were able to consider and incorporate as required.

The new rules will not only consolidate the existing flight operations rules but also deliver safety improvements and align with international best practice. Making the rules is the first step. There is considerable work to be done between now and commencement in March 2021 to support the regulation implementation of detailed explanatory and guidance material.

These new rules will have an impact on the majority of pilots and operators in Australia.

A precautionary approach to safe skies

As Director of Aviation Safety, I am responsible for doing everything in my power to prevent aviation accidents. Taking a precautionary approach in decision-making is a key obligation of my role and, in doing so, I need to ensure that CASA’s assessments are rational, evidence based and proportionate to risk. During the reporting period, two key decisions were made in the interests of safety.

Following two fatal accidents overseas involving the Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, over a six-month period, a number of issues came to light which made it clear to me that CASA needed to take decisive action. After the second fatal crash, in March 2019, regulators around the world were faced with serious and difficult questions. On 12 March 2019, after consideration of the available information and in consultation with some international regulatory colleagues, CASA temporarily suspended 737-8 MAX operations to or from Australia.

At approximately the same time or following our actions, other countries and authorities, including the United Kingdom, the European Aviation Safety Agency, Canada, the United States Federal Aviation Administration and New Zealand, also suspended or prohibited operations of the aircraft in their airspace. Similar actions by other National Aviation Authorities with the same information reinforced the appropriateness of our decision in the days following the tragic events. Given these actions, it was evident to me that the right decision was made at the right time to ensure the safety of the travelling public.

Another key decision for CASA was the introduction from March 2019 of minimum standards for pilots conducting community service flights. These flights are private flights conducted by volunteer pilots free of charge and coordinated by charitable or community service organisations. The changes include new minimum requirements for hours, recent landing requirements, minimum time on the aircraft type, limitations on the number of passengers that can be carried, limitations on night flying, logbook and identification requirements and certain maintenance-related obligations.

I made the decision to introduce these new standards based on two fatal accidents which resulted in six deaths (in 2011 and 2017) as well as analysis of data that indicated a much higher accident and incident rate for community service flights. It is a challenge to reduce the likelihood of future accidents, but it is irresponsible to not take action to protect those who make use of these important services and the Australian community more generally.

These decisions are difficult and sometimes deeply unpopular with some sections of our community, but they are at the heart of CASA being a responsible aviation regulator.

Simplifying services for industry

Much progress is being made to support those who undertake transactions with CASA. A key development has been the creation of the online myCASA portal, which allows people to create a portal account, enter identification details, and apply for an aviation reference number as a fully automated online process.

In the last quarter of 2018–19, the myCASA portal added remotely piloted aircraft systems functionality which allows specific flying schools to apply for remote pilot licences and allows applicants to apply and pay for their licence and have it issued on the spot. Remotely piloted aircraft operator certificate holders can now renew their certificates online, provided that there is no change from their previous application.

Numerous other services are being developed as part of CASA’s multi-phased Service Delivery Transformation project. This is important work for CASA which will make a real difference to how people interact with us.

Remotely piloted aircraft systems

The Government recognised the enormous growth in the number of drones being operated recreationally and commercially by providing CASA with additional funding of $2.9 million for financial year 2018–19. As a result, a number of drone-specific activities were undertaken during the reporting period.

Several new and innovative technologies were approved by CASA to operate in Australia, including the first commercial drone delivery service in the world, operated by Wing Aviation Pty Ltd, and the very-high-altitude, long-endurance operations by Airbus Defence and Space using the Zephyr platform. I am pleased that CASA continues to be considered a world leader in its assessment and proactive oversight of complex technologies. Also, on 12 June 2019, Uber Air announced that Australia has been selected as the only country other than the United States for the launch of the company’s urban air mobility platform.

In the first half of 2019, CASA conducted a trial of passive drone detection technology at several primary airports across Australia and in Sydney Harbour restricted airspace. The data gathered has given us a better understanding of how drones are being used near airports, as well as enabling us to see where drone activity is concentrated and observe trends in unlawful drone activity.

A registration system for drones is expected to be introduced in two phases, starting with commercial drones, in 2019–20. It is proposed that eventually all drone operators, with some exceptions, will be required to register their drones.

Financial results

CASA recorded an operating deficit of $3.5 million in 2018–19, compared to a $0.5 million surplus in 2017–18. The difference of $4.0 million reflects the overall result of an increase in income of $3.1 million and an increase in expenses of $7.1 million.

Further information on CASA’s financial results is on pages xx to xx.

Outcomes not achieved

Although our overall service delivery standards fell short of targets for the reporting period, a range of remedial actions were undertaken in an effort to improve service delivery throughout the year. The most effective was a licensing taskforce which led to a reduction of open jobs from over 13,000 to around 5,200. We will continue to strive to reach our targets and seek improvements where possible.

The remotely piloted aircraft systems roadmap was expected to be released in
2018–19; however, this was delayed due to a whole-of-government policy review being led by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. CASA expects to consider the review’s findings in early 2019–20 and will use them to help inform a more comprehensive roadmap during next year.

One activity in CASA’s capacity-building efforts with Indonesia, to deliver leadership training, was delayed in 2018–19 due to a lack of available support and the unavailability of expertise. CASA continues to make progress on activities in our international programs and remains committed to strengthening the regulatory and organisational capacity of our regional partners.

The year ahead

The year ahead will see CASA increasing its focus on cross-entity collaboration in some large whole-of-government initiatives.

Two significant projects in which CASA is involved are the OneSKY Australia program and the development of the new Western Sydney Airport.

We will also continue to work on government initiatives with other government entities, including the Australian Space Agency and Geoscience Australia, while continuing our work on drones and drone registration.

Other key areas of focus for 2019–20, across all divisions of CASA, include:

  • implementation of the flight operations regulations and finalisation of the last three CASR Parts, which cover sport and recreational aviation and manned free balloons
  • improvements to CASA’s aviation medicine
  • improvements to aircraft registration
  • a review of penalties
  • continuation of our Service Delivery Transformation program
  • simplification of our cost recovery arrangements.


I thank all of my colleagues for their commitment to aviation safety as we work through the many and varied challenges we face in the regulation of civil aviation. Achieving CASA’s vision of Safe skies for all is what drives every one of us through our daily decision-making, surveillance activities and engagement with industry.

Shane Carmody
Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety