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Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201500094
Date reported 14 November 2015
Concern title Changing safety culture within the organisation
Concern summary

The concern related to the changing safety culture within the organisation.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: General aviation
Concern subject type Aviation: Other

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern relating to the safety culture within the organisation.

The reporter advised that up until recently, the organisation had a very proactive safety culture, where staff members were encouraged to take an active role in ensuring everyone played a role in safety and they took that role very seriously.

Recently the role of the safety manager has been degraded to a point where the safety manager is unable to perform that role effectively. This has allowed a systematic dismantling of the effective safety management system that has been operating effectively for some years.

Reporter comment:

This is unacceptable. Staff here are being bullied, coerced, and are too frightened to report safety matters. In the past, our safety system operated in a very professional manner but recently it has degraded immensely.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

We have a proud heritage of being one of Australia’s oldest and most respected flying clubs with its roots at [location 1] over 40 years ago, and having organised the first major air show in [location 1] in [year].

In recent years, the flying club has moved into purpose built state of the art premises at [location 2] and operates a fleet of relatively young single and multi-piston engine aircraft.

In the last few years, the flying club has experienced significant growth due to a concentrated effort by management and staff to expand the flying training division of the club. Flying training is now conducted by [operator 2], a wholly owned and operated division of [operator 1].

Due to a strategic partnership with [location 1 TAFE], [operator 2] offers cadet pilots a number of non-integrated and integrated training pathways from ab initio to commercial pilot licence, instrument rating and instructor rating.

As a Registered Training Organisation, our training courses are approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australian Skills Quality Authority and [location 1] College of Technical and Further Education.

[Operator 2] is acutely aware of the risks associated with rapid growth within the aviation training sector and is one of the reasons several new roles have been created, such as CASA Compliance Manager, to mitigate any such growth risk.

Additionally the [operator 2] operations manual has been rewritten, not only to be Part 142 compliant, but also take into account the growth of the flying training operations. A fatigue management manual, for employees and customers, was also included at this time.

Of particular interest, the [operator 2] safety management systems (SMS) manual, with associated emergency response plan, was re-written in mid-2014 to meet the requirements of CASR 142.265 and ICAO Safety management manual Doc 9859. This rewrite was a significant improvement over the previous system, which was deficient in several areas.

The [operator 2] SMS manual explicitly describes the company ‘just culture’ safety policy and objectives, risk management policy including hazard identification and anonymous reporting, safety assurance and safety promotion.

Additionally, the company operations manual details the responsibilities and accountabilities of the safety manager in accordance with CASR 142.195, 142.100(1)(f)(g), 142.195(a)(b)(c), 142.340 (1)(e)(i)(ii), 142.085 (1)(e)(iii) (v), 142.200(2)(a)(b)(c), 142.215(3).

[Operator 2] have appointed a grade one flying instructor to the position of safety manager. [Operator 2] have provided, industry endorsed, safety management professional development to the safety manager.

Several safety audits and a safety survey have been undertaken in accordance with the SMS. As expected, the safety audits have uncovered several minor safety issues that have been rectified immediately, which supports the SMS is working satisfactorily.

[Operator 2] have recently installed an aviation industry flying training electronic training management system. The system allows for constant surveillance against Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 61 (flying training operations). This allows the safety manager to conduct surveillance on all company flying training operations with relative ease and as it is a self-auditing system, prevents flight and duty time extensions and aircraft maintenance extensions, which again supports the SMS.

[Operator 2] understand that the safety system underpins the future growth of the business. As a consequence, the safety manager has the full support of the [operator 1] board of directors and the management of [operator 2].

Regarding staff bullying, I can’t comment because I haven’t been privy to this kind of behaviour however, I will note that as a result of the growth several of the casual trainers have been asked to apply for full time positions and this may be the cause of some angst.

The chief executive officer takes these allegations very seriously and has committed to conduct a full investigation.

[Operator 2] is acutely aware of the need to be a safety centric organisation. The ramifications of a serious incident or accident are intolerable to the long-term viability of [Operator 2]. We take the notion of a SMS as a fundamental cornerstone of the business extremely serious and will take every step required, and provide every financial resource required, at every opportunity, to provide the support that the SMS requires.

We are confident that [operator 1] and [operator 2] are meeting, and more often than not exceeding, the requirements of CASR 142.265 and its own SMS Manual.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

CASA is reviewing the matters raised in the REPCON with the operator and will be monitoring the outcome of this investigation. CASA is also reviewing related matters in regards to key personnel, and will work with the operator on remedial activity.

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Last update 12 September 2016