Aviation safety issues and actions

Operator consolidation processes for flight crew

Issue number: AO-2018-026-SI-01
Issue owner: Whitsunday Air Services
Transport function: Aviation: Air transport
Background: Investigation Report AO-2018-026
Issue release date: 16 June 2021
Current issue status: Closed – Adequately addressed
Issue status justification:

The ATSB is satisfied that the action introduced by the operator, particularly the requirement to undertake 20 hours on type prior to conducting crosswind landings at pontoons, will reduce the risk of this safety issue. 

Safety issue description

Although the operator complied with the regulatory requirements for training and experience of pilots, it had limited processes in place to ensure pilots with minimal time and experience on a new and technically different helicopter type had the opportunity to effectively consolidate their skills on the type required for conducting the operator's normal operations to pontoons.

Proactive action

Action number: AO-2018-026-NSA-065
Action organisation: Whitsunday Air Services
Date: 16 June 2021
Action status: Closed

In February 2021, Whitsunday Air Services (WAS) advised the ATSB that it believed that the safety issue should be considered a regulatory standards matter rather than one applicable to the operator.

The operator also advised it had introduced a safety management system (SMS) and also implemented several additional processes for pilots on new type helicopters since the accident. These included:

1.ICUS [in command under supervision] reporting system

2.ICUS Supervising pilot is approved by the Chief Pilot for ICUS operations

3.The supervising pilot must have formal training … conducting flight operations and emergencies from the Co-pilot seat.

4.Into wind operations only on Pontoons allowed for a minimum of 20 hours on type. Crosswind landings approved by the CP after 20 hours at the CPs discretion.

5.WAS Operation Manual, Pontoon operation guide section expanded (3A3.5.4)

6.Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each type helicopter

Proactive action

Action number: AO-2018-026-NSA-070
Action organisation: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Date: 16 June 2021
Action status: Closed

In December 2018, CASA issued Civil Aviation Safety Regulation (CASR) Part 119 (Australian air transport operators—certification and management) and CASR Part 133 (Australian air transport operations—rotorcraft).

CASR Part 119 outlined safety management system requirements for air transport operators (including operators of charter flights in single-engine helicopters). CASR Part 133 outlined flight crew training and checking requirements for air transport operators of helicopters.

More explicitly, CASR 133.415 (Assignment of flight crew to different multi-engine rotorcraft):

A rotorcraft operator’s exposition must include the following:

(a) a description of the circumstances in which the operator may assign a flight crew member to duty on 2 or more different multi-engine rotorcraft;

(b) the combinations of different rotorcraft that a single flight crew member may be assigned to duty on by the operator;

(c) the flying experience, checks and training that a flight crew member must gain or complete, while the flight crew member is employed by the operator, before being assigned to duty on 2 or more different multi-engine rotorcraft…

There were no similar requirements introduced for single-engine helicopters, other than in command under supervision (ICUS) requirements, which were effectively the same as those previously in place. However, the acceptable means of compliance (AMC) for the requirement to ensure flight crew were competent (CASR 133.375) stated:

The training and checking regulations require a minimum level of competence for flight crew operating under this Part. Part 61 of CASR and its MOS stipulate minimum competence standards for holders of pilot licences and ratings. An operator is required to ensure that the competence of their flight crew is at least at this level.

Regulation 133.375 provides that an operator must have assessed the crew member as being competent to perform the duties assigned to them. These regulations are not meant to be a one-size-fits-all set of regulations and it is imperative that operators formulate their own specific set of equal or better standards after thorough assessment of their operational characteristics. Appropriate use of training needs analysis with input from the SMS will be crucial in this development. Operations identified by the SMS as having a higher degree of difficulty may require higher training or checking standards than set out in these regulations.

Last update 16 June 2021