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Safety concern regarding deadline of 2 December 2021 for implementation of new Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) for flight operations

Reporter's deidentified concern

The reporter has raised a safety concern regarding the rollout of the new Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) for flight operations, which come into effect on 2 Dec 2021.

For organisations that will operate under multiple parts, such as EMS and SAR providers, the implementation of the CASR's for flight operations requires key personnel within the organisation to map approximately 1,500 pages of regulations to apply to parts 91, 119, 133, 135, and 138. As the entire structure of the regulations have changed, an operator cannot assume anything is the same. Subtle differences in the new rules, some that are only applicable to 133 or 138, mean each and every CASR part, associated guidance material, associated Manual of Standards (MOS), and associated Advisory Circulars (ACs), must be read, understood, compared to current procedures, and then implemented into the operator’s procedures.

While the regulations were published in 2018 with the MOS released in December 2020, most of the guidance material (GM) was only made available in January 2021 with ACs published throughout 2021. Further, there have been multiple amendments to guidance material and ACs throughout 2021. In addition, the sample operations manual has not yet been made available, and some relevant advisory circulars are still yet to be released.

Had CASA completed a management of change activity for the new CASRs for flight operations (as is required by Part 119), a lead time of 18-24 months would have been established for all relevant documents to be published (CASR, MOS, GM, ACs, mapping documents, etc). However, a hard deadline of 2 December 2021 has been given to operators.

While 11 months may seem to be adequate time to write an exposition and revise operations manuals, it just isn't, when there are only a few key personnel, or even just one person in an organisation (chief pilot, head of flight operations etc.) that can apply the new legislation to the complexities of an EMS/SAR/charter operation. Procedures need to be written to not only comply with the CASRs but also be relevant to the specific operations the organisation conducts. Outsourcing the work would create new risks to the organisation. Even if an operator were to pursue this path, it is nearly impossible to move staff/contractors around the country in the current COVID environment.

The reporter states that much of the work the Chief Pilot completed in 2019/2020 on the CASR for flight operations had to be redone due to changes to the draft MOS and new requirements identified from the GM/AC. To date this year, the Chief Pilot has dedicated roughly 320 hours to this task, requiring at least another 240 hours to complete the mapping and writing, then another 80 hours in consultation with relevant stakeholders on revised procedures (aircrew, engineering, clients), followed by another 160 hours to create training programs for all impacted stakeholders. The task is achievable, but with the Chief Pilot being buried in legislation for months on end, their attention is being diverted from other safety critical tasks.

While the required documentation may be completed by the 2 December deadline, the implementation of those procedures into the organisation will be rushed. Consultation and feedback from staff will be rushed; there is insufficient time for all staff to be fully cognisant of new and amended procedures; and delivery of training around new procedures will be inadequate. Given an organisation’s training cycles may be quarterly or bi-annually, training would have had to have already taken place, or commence in the next month to ensure that technical crew are trained in some aspects of the new procedures prior to 2 December. Adding to the tight deadline set by CASA, it is nearly impossible to move staff/contractors around the country for training and other organisation requirements in the current COVID environment.

The reporter states that in the current environment, an additional 6 months is required to ensure the implementation of the new CASRs for flight operations are completed correctly and safely.

Regulator's response
  1. The requirements of the Flight Operation Regulations (FORs) are set out in the regulations and manuals of standards that have been respectively available since 2018 and 2020 and were extensively consulted.
  2. CASA is not obliged to publish guidance materials, and they are not necessary for industry to achieve compliance, although CASA has chosen to publish materials to assist industry to understand compliance under the new rules.
  3. There are no ‘requirements’ in advisory materials (such as ACs and AMC/GM documents), although again these materials may assist industry to understand compliance under the new rules
  4. In early 2021 CASA published ‘mapping documents’ that assist operators to track existing requirements to the new rules – it is not clear if the reporter’s operator has used these resources to support its transition work.
  5. CASA is providing relief to operators from the administrative burden of updating manuals in respect of rules that are not substantially changing (consulted with industry in Q2 2020), and is taking a approach to operator transition that focuses on continued safe operations that will be reflected in its communications and the ‘compliance statement’ that all operators must sign to transition to the new rules.
  6. CASA is monitoring the state of readiness of the industry, and engaging with a range of stakeholders including those appointed independently by the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel. Although CASA is aware of potential risks associated with the transition workload, the overwhelming message from the stakeholders CASA hears from is that industry wants the commencement to go ahead in 2021.
  7. CASA is undertaking a number of additional implementation-related activities to support industry to transition and to manage residual risks, including the following:

i. preparing additional guidance that supports a period of transition to the new rules, including to support operators to update their documentation

ii. the ongoing release of template procedures for key changes

iii. in lieu of face to face roadshows that are impractical to pursue due to COVID disruption, the production of pre-recorded videos on select topics and the conduct of interactive ‘webinar’ style events for industry at which questions about transition can be asked – production of these is progressing following the recent decision not to progress roadshows

iv. the conduct of phone call around of all AOC holders to engage with them on the new rules, CASA’s expectations from 2 December, and the other transition requirements – this is due to start in late August

v. the creation, from next week, of a taskforce to respond to specific operator enquires about the transition process and requirements

vi. preparation of full ‘sample manuals’ that may be appropriate for some operators, although they are not yet completed.