Welcome to the General Aviation Advocacy Group of New Zealand

Archives for May 2013

A rickety Rule is admitted by the CAA. But why did it take so long?

Rules, when expertly drafted, do not require interpretation. A major problem in New Zealand – and not confined to aviation – is the unseemly haste in which rules are often written by the inexpert, and the unintended consequences of flawed interpretations.

What’s frequently worse is the delay, expense and confusion that results while trying to fix such blunders.

We have a classic example.

After the Fox Glacier skydiving and Wairarapa balloon tragedies, urgent measures were taken to tighten up the existing Rules with the introduction of Part 115. Perhaps a little too urgent, because inconsistencies were quickly identified in Part 115 Adventure Aviation and other related Rules, which were raised with the CAA. One can only surmise that the undue haste with which this rule was framed was as a direct result of ministerial pressure from the ‘Beehive’.

One such inconsistency concerns the medical validity period for pilots aged 40 years and over.

The point was originally raised with the Manager Special Flight Operations & Recreational Aviation when Part 115 was first circulated for discussion. It was again raised at the Part 115 operators’ meeting in March. On both occasions, the response was to simply point to the rules (namely Part 67 – Medical requirements) under the assumption that Adventure Aviation had the same requirements as that for Air Operations: a six-month medical validity period for pilots aged 40 and over.

Here are the relevant parts relating to Air Operations. There are no references to Part 115 Adventure Aviation in Parts 67 & 61, except in Part 1 – Definitions, which clearly states that Adventure Aviation is not an Air Operation.

So if is not an Air Operation, the following must apply:

From the reading of Part 67 and Part 1, the duration of the medical certificate for commercial pilots aged 40 years or more, for Adventure Aviation Operations, is 12 months (67.61 (a) (ii)).

(It was also noted that the Part 61 NPRM contains no mention of Adventure Aviation.)

From Part 115:

115.559 Pilot Qualifications

(1) Holds an appropriate current commercial pilot licence issued by the Director under the Act and Part 61.

From Part 67 – Medical requirements:

67.61 Effective date and duration of medical certificates

(a) Subject to paragraphs (c) and (e), the Director may issue —

(1) a class 1 medical certificate for a period of up to —

(i) 6 months, for single-pilot air operations carrying passengers if the applicant is 40 years of age or more on the date that the medical certificate is issued; or

(ii) 12 months, in all other cases

From Part 61:

61.207 Currency requirements

A holder of a commercial or senior commercial pilot licence is required to comply with the requirements of rules 61.35 (Medical requirements), 61.37 (Recent flight experience) and 61.39 (Biennial flight review) before exercising the privileges of the holder’s commercial or senior commercial pilot licence.

61.35 Medical requirement

(a) Except as required in paragraph (b), a person who holds a pilot licence issued in accordance with this Part must not exercise the privileges of the licence, unless —

(1) the person —

(i) in the case of a private pilot licence, holds at least a current class 2 medical certificate issued under the Act;

and

(ii) in the case of a commercial or senior commercial pilot licence and an airline transport pilot licence, holds a current class 1 medical certificate issued under the Act;

and

From Part 1 – Definitions:

Air operation means an air transport operation or a commercial transport operation:

Air transport operation means an operation for the carriage of passengers or goods by air for hire or reward except

(1) a commercial transport operation

(2) an adventure aviation operation

(3) a helicopter external load operation under Part 133

(4) an agricultural aircraft operation under Part 137

(5) a trial flight.

A further attempt was made to get a definitive ruling, but there was no acknowledgement of the email. Yet another was sent, with the same result.

Then it was discovered that the Manager Special Flight Operations & Recreational Aviation was overseas. The CAA was advised that this employee should have had someone monitoring emails in his absence or, as a minimum, an automatic “out of office” reply to incoming emails. It would have provided an interim response, as required by the 10-working day CAA Service Charter.

Eventually, on April 16, an email from the Team Leader, Flight Operations, Adventure Aviation, gave an assurance that there would be “a reply by the weekend”. But another month passed, with no communication from the CAA.

After further prodding on Friday May 17, a reply was eventually received on Monday May 20.

This simply stated:

Clarification of rules:

Parachute drop rating:

All pilots doing Parachute Tandem or Sports jumps flights for hire or reward must hold a CPL.

Medicals:

A rules issue has been raised today to cover Adventure Aviation for medicals over 40 years of age every 6 months. Where it mentions Air Transport and Commercial operations, Adventure Aviation will be added. At the moment it is still 12 months, until the rules issue becomes affective [sic].

In short, the CAA’s interpretation of the rules pertaining to Adventure Aviation had been wrong all along.

This case again illustrates the persistent failure of CAA personnel to observe their own service charter by not responding in a timely way, and it is by no means the first instance of a poor approach to rule interpretation.

For CAA customers, a major difficulty (and injustice) is that the CAA can make its own interpretations at no cost to itself – and stick to them even until someone is prepared to mount a legal challenge. In doing so, the cost must be borne by the individual.

Perhaps the CAA should be reminded that the Rule which states that Time is Money also applies to its customers.

The CAA Medical Unit is terminally ill. But we can offer a range of cures

When an aviation medical application fee costs $100 in Australia but $313 in New Zealand, you know that something must be seriously unwell in the bowels of Wellington bureaucracy.

There’s a sickness of inefficiency within the sclerotic New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, and the Medical Unit lies close to the heart of it.

The staggering costs of running our CAA now far outweigh its usefulness in a country with only 4755 aircraft of all types including balloons, only one significant New Zealand-based carrier and a mere eight million airline passengers per year.

The CAA’s 2011/12 annual report depicts a scene of utter financial disaster:

♦ Its income was $86,885,000

♦ Its expenditure was $112,782,000

♦ Its loss was $25,897,000

We are saddled with an organisation that has become too bloated, too expensive and too over-engineered to efficiently serve its tiny market. Worse, this is a market that can only shrink further – in large part because of rocketing CAA compliance costs.

In this chicken-and-egg situation, GA clients are the scrambled eggs and the CAA is the chicken. Such fowls cannot fly very far, and the only known aviation use for chickens is to test jet engines in simulated bird strikes. (Do remember to use fresh, not frozen.)

Something must be done about this crisis, or our long-dysfunctional Authority will probably crash and burn – taking out a large number of innocent bystanders.

The National-led Government has earned a great deal of stick by trying to sell State-owned assets to the people who already own them. It may now be time to regain some measure of popularity by getting shot of a few State-owned liabilities.

Why not make a start with the $2.2 million-a-year CAA Medical Unit? Des Lines explains how and why, here

Reader Warning from the Editor: This is a long and detailed treatise. Allow yourself plenty of time and drink copious amounts of water.

At the last available count (June 2012), the CAA Medical Unit had on its books just 4021 active Class 1 medical holders, 6355 active Class 2 medical holders and 586 active Class 3 medical holders. We cannot wait to see the figures for 2013-14, and confidently predict much-reduced numbers.

It may turn out that running our very own Civil Aviation Authority – another shining example of New Zealand proudly yet wildly punching above its weight – will this time result in an irrecoverable knock-out.

Perhaps we don’t have the critical mass to sustain a New Zealand CAA. Perhaps we should think about joining forces with Australia to run commercial aviation in both countries, and pass control of lower-level fliers to non-governmental organisations that know their territories better – and are more positively focused on their customers.

An open letter to the Minister of Transport

Dear Mr Brownlee

I note with interest your intention to increase the tax on petrol by 3 cents per litre per year for the next three years. I note also your intention to spend all this extra income on improving our road infrastructure.

This is welcome news. Let joy be unconfined.

However, my aeroplane runs on mogas, and is only likely to come into contact with a road under the most tragic circumstances.

I notice that quite a large portion of the taxation I already lose on mogas goes into a slush fund, from which it is spent on God knows what. It certainly isn’t going towards promoting aviation.

Like you, I loathe the idea of cross-subsidisation.

Would you therefore please advise me on the best method of recovering this taxation? I would prefer to donate it to the Civil Aviation Authority, which as you know is seriously short of cash.

Yours sincerely
SIG

CFZs and a new KISSASS concept: Keep It Safe, Simple And Sensible, Sir

In the continuing and lively debate about Common Frequency Zones, comparisons with other countries are – as the saying goes – odious. The CAA would have us believe that when it comes to aviation regulations, New Zealand must strive for international consistency and that no CFZs exist anywhere else.

Both statements are incorrect. International aviation is rich in inconsistency, and ground-based bureaucrats constantly interpret, make and bend the rules to suit their local conditions and whims.

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority is no exception. Its Mandatory Broadcasting Zone is unknown elsewhere, apart from Australia.

Canada has introduced what we would call CFZs, but they call them CFAs and they have done this purely based on increased traffic and safety considerations, around Toronto’s Golden Horseshoe.

In Australia, there is a national common frequency that looks a lot like our informal and NZ CAA-disapproved 119.1. It works in Australia because the concentrations of lower-level air activity are well separated in a vast territory, so there are few complaints about radio clutter. It could not work in our much smaller and completely different country. This is another reason why those in our CAA who claim to seek international consistency sometimes apparently ignore what is evident, all around them.

It has been pointed out by one commentator on the GAA website that he flew for four hours in the UK without talking much on the radio, and was almost always in sight of another aircraft. He is hoist with his own petard. UK airspace is busy-busy-busy, and lookout is more highly developed than in lonely, low-level New Zealand. There is also a far greater amount of controlled airspace in the United Kingdom – and a more sophisticated use of the radio by pilots operating in a country where the highest point is Ben Nevis, at 1344 metres.

In the apparently wide open skies of New Zealand – a long, thin country dissected by a great deal of uncompromising rock (the highest piece of which reaches 3754 metres) and subject to dramatic weather variations – there are uncontrolled airspaces where aircraft flying low tend to create corridors where they congregate, and sometimes conflict. This is why it makes no sense to blindly adopt international conventions that might work well in flat France, where it is possible to fly from the English Channel to the Mediterranean with nary a word to anyone. (Not that French FIS personnel are inclined to answer anyone speaking English, as the writer can testify…)

The air is almost the same everywhere on Earth, but the topography and climates are not.

The National CFZ Network argument is not about becoming a world leader – or, as the CAA would have you believe, instead going along with what is allegedly done elsewhere, lest we “confuse visiting pilots”.

The CAA’s FISCOM proposal does not meet international practice, because such practice does not exist. It cannot, because even the NZ CAA cannot explain what it proposes. Those who seek a sensible solution to a local issue do not seek to be global ground-breakers, in any sense of the term, especially when their own guardian authority admits that it cannot specify, cost or indicate the outcomes of its counter-proposal.

The argument is simply about recognising the true nature of how we fly and where we operate – a place that is unique – and further protecting those who fly in Class G airspace.

We can neither afford nor justify an Airways-monitored GA aircraft-to-aircraft service for the small volume of traffic operating low-level in an incomparable geographic and climatic environment. What is required here is simply a set of discrete frequencies in clearly defined areas where pilots flying in naturally confined airspace can contact one another on a local level. In our environment, aircraft-to-aircraft position reporting is valuable. This is particularly relevant in current hotspots. These are well known areas, and it is worrying that the CAA prefers to suggest an untested, unquantified, uncosted and far more complicated alternative, rather than explore a pragmatic, real-world solution to a genuine and present hazard.

The National CFZ proposal is merely an extension of what the CAA has already accepted and implemented for reasons of safety, which makes its counter-proposal even more baffling. A gradual extension of CFZs would spread the cost, deal with the most immediate issues, and would almost certainly be less expensive than the FISCOM Mystery Project.

Outright rejection of Massey’s plan – which according to the Massey timeline has widespread support among aviation organisations, Airways, the military and civilian users – is inexplicable (unless some individuals within the organisation fear that acceptance might indicate the CAA had somehow “lost the initiative” and thereby lost face by accepting an idea Not Made in Asteron).

The further development of CFZs, even if not on a national level, cannot be precluded simply because, as the CAA argues (in opposing the Massey idea), “there is no rule”. This just admits of a need to create a rule for the existing zones and any new ones. Otherwise, logic dictates that the CAA would have to abolish all CFZs.

In the absence of detailed information about its FISCOM proposal, a CAA rejection of the Massey idea would be unwise and premature. To say no now would be irresponsible, and merely perpetuate what everyone recognises as the irritating – if not downright dangerous – unofficial adoption of 119.1 as the common frequency outside controlled airspace.

The CAA has been recruiting for a top Policy Adviser. Among the candidates’ required talents, described in a somewhat dizzy advert, we quote:

♦ “not fearful of acting with a minimum of planning”

♦ “isn’t upset when things are up in the air”

♦ “relates well to all kinds of people – up, down, and sideways”

Let’s hope that the successful applicant introduces an element of lateral thinking.

Compromise might be the key to resolving this issue. If the CAA could engage in further dialogue with its clientele about CFZs, who knows? It might turn out to be a global ground-breaker.