Safety Advisory Notice SAN19980078

Safety Advisory Notice issued to: Operators of regional airlines

Recommendation details
Output No: SAN19980078
Date issued: 04 September 1998
Safety action status: Closed



Between October 1995 and July 1997, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation undertook a study of the safety of Australian regional airlines. The objectives of this study were to:

(a) identify safety deficiencies affecting regional airline operations in Australia; and
(b) identify means of reducing the impact on safety of these deficiencies.

For the purpose of the survey, regional airlines were grouped according to the number of passenger seats fitted to the largest aircraft by that airline in January 1997. The groups are defined as follows:

(a) Group 1: 1 - 9 seats;
(b) Group 2: 10 - 19 seats; and
(c) Group 3: more than 20 seats.

The study involved analysing data obtained from:

(a) responses to a survey of Australian regional airline employees;
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and managers; and
(c) air safety occurrence reports involving regional airlines over a 10-year period (1986-1995) from the BASI database.

This Safety Advisory Notice addresses one of the safety deficiencies identified as a result of this study.


Some maintenance engineers do not have ready access to all the tools, equipment and parts needed to perform their duties.


Survey results

When respondents were asked to nominate the greatest safety problem they faced, a lack of spare parts was mentioned more frequently than any other maintenance issue. Twenty-three respondents (or 40%) of the maintenance personnel who replied, considered that the tools and equipment needed to perform their job were not readily available. The majority of respondents (17 out of 19) who worked for Group 1 or Group 2 airlines, were satisfied with the availability of tools and equipment. However, approximately one-half of those (24 out of 45) who worked for Group 3 airlines, were dissatisfied with the availability of tools and equipment.

Examples of survey responses

"The increasing maintenance costs, availability of spares, etc., creates scheduling difficulties and puts pressure on crews to fly aircraft with unserviceable items."
-Pilot, respondent 552

"The unserviceable aircraft being put back on line due to lack of parts."
-Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, respondent 409

"One of them is lack of or insufficient maintenance done on an aircraft. Lack of engineering manpower often causes delays to rectify faults prior to departure. Accumulation of defects which eventually grounds the aircraft. Lack of support by management head office to supply urgently needed equipment for aircraft maintenance."
-Flight attendant, respondent 109

"Commercial pressures to fly with engineering problems. The lack of spare parts or aircraft mean management puts extreme pressure to continue operating and also to maintain schedule even though aircrew may well want time to analyse problems."
-Pilot, respondent 509

"The haste with which a job is expected to be done in. Lack of spare parts and poor tooling."
-Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, respondent 147

"Workload lack of parts, tooling."
-LAME respondent 300


The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR) Commercial Air Service Standards, 726 - Air Operator Maintenance, addresses the responsibility of the operator for spare parts availability, and specifically requires sufficient supplies of spare parts to ensure the timely rectification of defects in regard to Minimum Equipment List (MEL) provisions.

The British Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 360, Part Two, deals with Air Operator Certificates - Maintenance Support. Paragraph 15 enumerates substantial requirements of the operator regarding the provision and storage of spares.
Two of these requirements are:

(1) CAP 360 15.1, which refers to sufficient spares being available to ensure defects can be promptly rectified; and

(2) CAP 360 15.2, which refers to the numbers and placement of essential spares to support the rectification of defects in systems required for operation, taking account of the operators' Minimum Equipment Lists, to ensure successive defects will be promptly addressed.

The Australian Civil Aviation Regulations do not address the responsibility of an operator with regard to spare parts.

Related occurrence

A fatal accident involving a regional airline aircraft that crashed at Young, NSW on 11 June 1993, highlighted the safety implications of a lack of serviceable spares.

One of the findings of this report stated that "the autopilot was inoperative, and had been for an extended period prior to the flight "(73 days). The autopilot was a MEL item that required rectification within a period not exceeding 10 days. It was issued with Permissible Unserviceability (PUS) approvals for the extended period. During this period, another aircraft operated by the airline experienced an unserviceable autopilot. The airline manager requested approval of a PUS for the second autopilot unserviceability.

The airline operator had not provided adequate serviceable components to rectify the autopilots within the MEL period.


The results of the regional airlines safety study, together with the safety issue highlighted by the occurrence referred to in this document, suggest that some operators may be compromising the safety of fare-paying passengers by not ensuring that adequate spare parts are available to meet the routine maintenance requirements of their fleets. The lack of appropriate domestic regulation may be a contributing factor to this safety issue. The reported lack of tools and equipment, particularly in Group 3 airlines, is also of concern.

Output text

Operators of regional airlines should note the safety deficiency identified in this document and take appropriate action.

The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation simultaneously issues Safety Advisory Notice SAN980077 to alert the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to this safety deficiency.

Initial response
Date issued:
Response from: Regional Airlines
Action status: Not Required
Response text:
Last update 01 April 2011