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9 November 2012

First a big apology to those of you who have written to “the boots” in the last 36 hours.  Unfortunately my remote email access had been disabled but it is now back up and running.
In this week:
  • Pike River Inquiry – the implications for aviation
  • HIMS and the development of a code of Practice for drugs and alcohol
  •  CAA progress on charges
  • Gisborne airport pricing
The week has again been dominated by the Pike River inquiry and as an adjunct to that the news this morning that the helicopter community has suffered a tragic fatality. You might say how are the two linked? If it had been a commercial flight then both the Health and Safety in Employment and the Civil Aviation Act apply.

Seven years ago the Industry was fortunate to be able to persuade Officials from the Ministry of Transport that Civil Aviation should exercise jurisdiction over all aspects of safety in the air.  This jurisdictional question inevitably will be reviewed given that the recommendations of the Pike River Inquiry was for a standalone safety in employment regulator. We understand, although the government has not formally announced its acceptance of this recommendation that it will happen.

For aviation it means we will have to re-litigate the question of jurisdiction.  The boots has always taken the view that there is only one standard of safety and that the Civil Aviation Authority should be the regulator both in the air and on the ground.  I can tell you that the “boots” are in the minority on this issue.  Many, including our own regulator the CAA, do not wish to have comprehensive cover of all aspects of safety.  They argue that the competencies of regulating safety on the ground are the same irrespective of activity. The boots on the other hand thinks NO because:
  • There is only one ethos of safety in aviation – don’t injury or harm anyone
  • This is supported by a reasonably comprehensive and prescriptive system of safety underpinned by the concepts of “just culture”
  • The HSE system is one that leaves the decisions of best practice to the club of employers and unions.  The framework is one of “light” or “no hands” and the consequence of that underpinned by our ACC legislation is that New Zealand workers die four or five times more frequently at work than comparable jurisdictions around the world.
The general public view aviation as inherently unsafe and even those you think would be better informed such as a very senior person in CERA (the organisation overseeing the Christchurch earthquake rebuild) make public statements about the ag aviation being a “killer” occupation. Needless to say the “boots” did not let that comment stick in a gathering of two hundred people.

But the point is that the facts are one thing and emotion another. Aviation safety is an emotive issue in the public domain whereas we look at the cold hard facts every morning when we get up and deploy millions of dollars of assets and people safely into the air every day.

The Pike River inquiry click here has all the hallmarks of everything we have learnt from our very different approach to regulating aviation safety.  One of the calls has been to introduce the concept of corporate manslaughter – in this way the advocates claim managers and owners will be more responsible. But will they? In the “boots view” it’s about cultural change.  We don’t for one minute think managers and owners wake up in the morning and think it’s cool to fatally harm their employees. However, we do accept that safety practices can be compromised unless there is a free and frank understanding in the workplace of hazards and their mitigations. In an environment of “corporate manslaughter” will this encourage open disclosure or will there be a fear of speaking up?

The questions that we in aviation must confront as a consequence of the inquiry are more complex than many other sectors.  We are not one of the bad guys – the statistics tell us that. However, the public perception is that we are. We have a regulatory system very different to Health and Safety in Employment protected and championed by our Civil Aviation Authority but will they draw the line in the sand against an onslaught of external pressures?  All the information we have indicates that they will but we shouldn’t be complacent. The very same regulator was opposed seven years ago to exercising jurisdiction and it was only the collective efforts of industry that saw them become the regulator for “air” HSE activities. I would urge each one of you to submit on the review of HSE underway at the present time.

Yesterday the “boots” attended an all-day seminar for HIMS (aka Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programmes and Processes).  This is one of the more interesting safety initiatives underway and the best example of the industry, unions and regulator collaborating together. We think there is merit in extending the programme across the aviation sector but before doing so we’d like to talk to the programme managers as well as you about the benefits such a programme in conjunction with a voluntary code of practice on alcohol and drugs could trigger. It would appear that there is no appetite within Government to introduce a regulated framework akin to Australia.

We’ve also had a response this week on our push to reduce CAA charges click here.  The petition for exemption has been accepted and being evaluated by CAA.  They say they will charge us for the investigation which to “the boots’” way of thinking is a two edged sword. If we pay for the exemption then it would seem that the exemption would be available for AIA members and their pilots to access. If we don’t pay for the exemption and succeed, then the exemption is general and applies to all New Zealand license holders.

NZALPA advise us that they are progressing their challenge to the Regulations Review Committee.  We have indicated that our issue is not that we weren’t consulted, in fact, the consultation process was quite robust, but it’s just that we don’t agree with the medical charge or the escalation of audit charges to $208 per hour. MOT have responded to our Official Information Request indicating that the regulatory impact statement is now on the web click here and that they will respond to our specific request on what officials told the Minister in regards to AIA’s position on the matter.  We are doing this because we are aware that the Minister appears to be implying that the Industry agreed to the charges whereas the views of industry were quite diverse. 
 
MOT also advised that the matter of how much the Government contributes was outside the scope of the review.  When the “boots“pointed out a fairly hefty element of cross subsidisation existed we were told that CAA had incorrectly coded work to the “Government” account.  Our response was that this was inconsistent with the recently published Statement of Corporate Intent that showed a subsidy of around $1m. Irrespective of this, why didn’t they discuss the coding with us? Clearly a question for CAA and MOT to answer. To be fair to CAA we do believe that there is a genuine willingness to tackle some of the more ridiculous charge rates but just not at the pace we would want to see.

“The boots” has had an approach to become involved in Gisborne airport charges which we understand are increasing by over 100% for some operators.  If you’re up that way and are using the airport can you let us know whether you would like us to engage?  We’re not active in the airport pricing space, merely because the debate has been around the bend and BARNZ are very competent in that area as they are in a number of the larger regional airports.
Next week we have the Governance Board meeting on Wednesday.  The board is considering the “One Industry” growth strategy in detail and we hope to have a lot more information out on where we are going and why after then. Thursday has a briefing meeting of the incoming AIA Executive and AIRCARE management committee, while on Friday morning the Flight Training Executive meet to further refine a presentation to MOT, the Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission on the state of pilot training and supply of qualified pilots and instructors.
   
On one last note we want to acknowledge Wanaka Helicopters – our first AIRCARE Flight Training accredited operator and Heliventures and Aurum Helicopters who were successful in their renewal of their AIRCARE accreditation.
             
 
Until we speak again take care and stay risk aware

Red boots
red boots




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