Welcome to the General Aviation Advocacy Group of New Zealand

Archives for July 2013

You lose some, you WINZ some: Chuckle at this hearth-warming Winter’s Tale

The medical money-go-round - a novel case of state-funded auto-rotation

The medical money-go-round, a novel case of state-funded auto-rotation of taxation

Pity the poverty-stricken New Zealand helicopter pilot. Jobs are very hard to find these days, unless you flee the country for Canada’s Arctic North – or other hostile territory.

The only upside to New Zealand’s short winter days and even shorter wages is the onset of the frost-protection season, with the prospect of lucrative pre-dawn work to keep a few logs on the wood-burning stove.

But as one badly cash-strapped pilot was reminded, the Class 1 Medical must be renewed, and you can buy a couple of cords of firewood and a month’s supply of Bluff oysters, Beluga caviar and Watties baked beans for what the doctor and the CAA now charge – in this particular case, around $675.

The hero of our story relates: “That’s a lot of money to come up with if you only have part time work, or any income for that matter.

“So I had one government agency imposing a ridiculous fee, making it impossible for me to even be eligible for work.

“My solution was to use another government agency to pay for it so I could get a job, and – to my surprise – they agreed.”

You may well ask: Who is this mysterious government department? It is none other than Work and Income New Zealand, which is giving our pilot a grant (“so I don’t have to pay it back”) to not only pay the CAA ransom but the medical examination as well.

“And just when you think it can’t get any better, they agreed to pay for a currency flight too. I can’t believe it!”

Pilot X has not deceived WINZ in any way and he is not doing anything illegal. “I simply told them that, in order for me to work, I had to pay these costs – which I could not afford.”

When we had stopped falling about with laughter, we had a serious think about this splendid piece of lateral thinking. WINZ would no doubt pay for a truck driver to renew his licence and medical in order to be eligible for work, so why should a pilot be treated any differently?

All the distressed aviator needs is to be registered as unemployed. This hitherto hidden crock of gold could help a lot of pilots involved in seasonal or part time temporary work, as well as those who come back from a tough season in Canada.

It’s a fine example of one Kiwi pilot “sharing the knowledge” to help his fellow pilots, and one about which we can spread the word through GAA’s extensive and rapidly expanding email database of supporters.

Our urgent SMS to the CAA: In this case, Safety manages a poor second

A "specially designed" SMS logo, made just for you by the CAA

A “specially designed” SMS logo, made just for you by the CAA

The CAA is rolling out SMS seminars around the country. No, this is not about the Short Message Service so beloved of cellphone texters.

In this instance, SMS means Safety Management Systems.

They have fallen out of an ICAO effort which resulted in a new Annex with the number 19. In the May/June Vector magazine on page 8, there are four options on which the CAA wants to hear your views. They are:

♦ Continuation of the status quo

♦ Increased inspections, audits and enforcement

♦ Voluntary implementation of risk management systems

♦ Mandatory implementation of risk management systems.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, the CAA favours the mandatory implementation of a risk management regime, such as a Safety Management System (SMS).

This, in its view, would have the greatest effect on increasing safety, with “associated business benefits”.

However, some strong other views are emerging. They oppose the CAA’s preference for mandatory implementation.

Here’s one from Pat Scotter, BA FRAeS, retired Boeing 747 Captain and Flight Instructor, well-qualified LAME, Authorised Inspector and Aviation engineering examiner. He’s sent it as an open letter to The Director.

Safety doesn’t come first in aviation!

Before you arrange to have my “Fit and Proper Person” status revoked, let me explain.

Safety can’t come first in any activity. If it did, we wouldn’t do anything.

The need for sound economic performance and the need to remain competitive must come first. This is particularly so in international dealings.

In aviation, we have layer upon layer of procedures and requirements which purportedly reduce risk and hence improve flight safety.

♦ We have CAA Rules

♦ We have Expositions and Procedures Manuals

♦ We have Quality Assurance Systems

♦ We have internal and external auditing of activities

♦ We have OSH Regulations

♦ We have Mandatory Incident reporting

♦ We have the “Fit and Proper Person” nonsense

♦ We have Dangerous Goods Regulations

and so on.

Every few years, some new safety paradigm surfaces. The flavour of the month is SMS (Safety Management Systems).

The test of any new safety system is simple. Accidents and incidents from the past must be re-examined and these questions asked:

♦ How many of these incidents and accidents would not have occurred had the new system been in place?


♦ Will the new system make any real difference in future, and at what cost?

I believe it imperative that these tests be applied to any new proposal intended to enhance flight safety.

I tire of the absurd “If you think safety is expensive, try having an accident” rhetoric. This comes from the “Safety comes first” brigade. These people have difficulty accepting that accidents and incidents will not be eliminated, no matter how much is spent on safety programmes.

We are in the age of immaculate paperwork, where managers are afraid of challenging anything which is claimed to improve flight safety.

Risk identification and risk management skills are the basis for flight safety.

Serious flying accidents are almost always a result of some sort of inappropriate pilot behaviour, some of which doesn’t respond to education. In my view, we need to work harder in addressing this area, not in introducing yet another layer of paperwork.

We must remember that life is a hell of a risk, and we are lucky if we get out of it alive!

Pat Scotter

The first problem: data security and protection

Any SMS or risk-based system has at its heart data and data collection – or reporting. ICAO Annex 19 champions this and the CAA advocates this too.

More data for safety will find little unreasonable opposition; however, the CAA uses safety data for enforcement. This element is not only recognised by ICAO in Annex 19; ICAO has set the balance. But under New Zealand law, there is no balance. Data is discoverable through process such as the OIA (Official Information Act). The security of data is another matter and the recent performance of government departments has been scandalous.

More data for safety analysis is, in the ICAO view, a good move; but the CAA stating “trust us with your data” is, under present circumstances, unacceptable. For example, call to mind the publishing of personal details on the CAA Aircraft Register despite complaints from the Privacy Commissioner and others that the practice breaches the Privacy Act.

We need an iron-clad system of data protection before we need the implementation of the rest of Annex 19 and SMS and risk management.

There are anomalies in the way the CAA currently captures safety data. One is in the use of the CAA Form 605b Operations Statistics. The data collected in this form applies only to certified and special category aircraft. The data for microlight aircraft is not captured. This makes a nonsense of any conclusions the Authority seeks to draw from the data.

The microlight fleet, operating under Part 149, now comprises a very significant percentage of light aircraft flying within New Zealand. They are currently flying an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 hours per year.

Although the CAA’s stated intent is to not require non-commercial organisations to establish an SMS, the CAA has said it “would still adopt a risk management approach to safety regulation for them”. What this risk management approach will be has not been disclosed.

The CAA Act is up for review next year as well, but now is the time for an industry voice to say “keep it voluntary” – and “let’s first witness that the data protection system is secure” before taking the proposed implementation of SMS any further.

One sure step at a time, please.

Dear Air New Zealand, I’m 19, I’m a Kiwi, and I want to fly for you…

As a trainee commercial pilot at the International Aviation Academy, when I finish my course (Diploma in Aviation – Airline Preparation) I will have PPL, CPL, MEIR (around 200hrs), ATPL subjects, a CPL night rating – and a $100,000 student loan.

But in order to get into the airlines, I need ATPL subjects (frozen ATPL), 100hrs Air Ops, 25 night hours and 500hrs total at the bare minimum, and it seems to me that there is a huge gap in the training process.

I want nothing more than to be a pilot for Air New Zealand; it is my dream and the reason why I decided to train as a pilot. It’s going to be difficult for me to try to get all the requirements for an interview with Air New Zealand without heading offshore.

With this new proposal to hire pilots from overseas, the job I hoped would someday be reachable is now something I will have to compete for with all nationalities to work as a pilot in my own country’s airline.

I understand the reason behind this change, but disagree that there are not enough pilots available in New Zealand for hire. There are hundreds of pilots like me who want nothing more than to fly for their national airline, Air New Zealand, one of the best and most highly regarded airlines in the world, but are unable to even get an interview because we are struggling to meet the requirements.

This gap in the training of pilots between a training organisation and the first air operations job is the reason behind your claimed shortage of available pilots.

I believe that rather than just give up on us and go for the easier option of hiring pilots from overseas, Air New Zealand needs to take the first step in fixing a problem that has been around for many years and is the main obstacle in pilot training. I believe that cadetship programmes and further introduction and integration into an airline job should be encouraged by airlines and I’m sure the required pilots will follow.

Katherine Abbott

katherineabbott1994 [at] gmail [dot] com

From the Dominion Post: Katherine is not alone

From the Dominion Post: Katherine is not alone. Double-click the image to read the fine print

Katherine shows a commendable degree of loyalty to her country. That commitment, regrettably, does not appear to be matched by New Zealand’s national carrier. What’s more, she is prepared to stick her young head up where others are reluctant to rattle the cages of powerful people who might affect their futures in a malign way. So please send Katherine a message of support.

The good news for Katherine’s generation: it will soon be a seller’s market. The Boeing 2012 Technical Report predicts that during the next 20 years, the global airline industry will need 460,000 new pilots, 186,000 of them in the Asia Pacific region.

The bad news is that, unless our State-controlled monopoly carrier (which also controls recruitment to its three regional airlines) changes course, Katherine and much of her talented cohort will be taking off to greener pastures – as so many of her predecessors have done.

Like Katherine, and a host of GAA supporters, we do not believe that there is a shortage of suitably qualified Kiwis to fill pilot roles at Air New Zealand. However, it is a fact that Air New Zealand’s failure to establish a secure path for the best New Zealand graduates from CPL to an airline career – instead casting them adrift to either work in New Zealand building hours for a pittance or take their talent overseas – is creating a rod for the airline’s back.

There most certainly is a shortage of New Zealanders who are prepared to accept serious pay cuts to return home, and recent Government and CAA blunders are very likely to result in a drop in our nation’s flight training productivity.

In the face of well-publicised predictions of a global aircrew shortage, the Government reduced the allocation of student loans for pilot trainees. It claimed, with scant evidence, that people were rorting the system.

Then, last year, the Civil Aviation Authority and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee introduced astonishing increases in compliance costs – ignoring all the warnings that they would damage general aviation, and flight training in particular. No surprise, then, that within months of the increases, two flight training schools closed their doors, citing compliance costs as the last straw.

If the application to add Aeroplane Pilot to the list of skills shortages (interestingly fronted by a high-gloss, pricy presentation from PricewaterhouseCoopers) succeeds, the endemic problems will remain.

New Zealand will continue to haemorrhage valuable and promising young people. It will also miss a golden opportunity to develop a world-class training industry that could help to meet the projected global demand.

Running ads on international recruitment websites is far cheaper than grasping the nettle and genuinely investing, long term, in local talent. Air New Zealand may find that if it is allowed access to the international job market, the law of supply and demand will truly kick in (and painfully).

Footnote 1: Readers are invited to Radio New Zealand’s Afternoons with Jim Mora. You can skip the introductory banter: Discussion of the issue begins 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the podcast.

Footnote 2: When it comes to fighting for the jobs of our people, Air New Zealand’s opponents are in good company. John Key’s National-led Government is asleep on the watch, but the British Government is not. Read what a UK Minister had to say to say about this problem, on July 25, in The Daily Telegraph

Pilot ‘shortage’: Air New Zealand replies (and the mystery deepens)

Air New Zealand has responded to GAA, following the uproar about its proposal to have Aeroplane Pilot added to the list of skills it alleges to be in short supply.

Captain David Morgan, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Pilot, told GAA today (July 25):

Your correspondence to [CEO] Christopher Luxon regarding the skills shortage list refers.

Can I advise you that Air New Zealand’s key focus is to employ high quality New Zealand candidates to work as pilots for the Group.

As part of our strategy to ensure we have sufficient pilots to meet the significant growth plans of our business in the medium-to-long-term we have applied to have pilots added to the Skills Shortage List. This is a precautionary measure and just one of many Air New Zealand initiatives in the pilot recruitment space.

Any changes to immigration policy relating to the pilot profession would not disadvantage any sufficiently qualified and capable New Zealand pilot.

Also for your information in 2010 Air New Zealand engaged with the flight training industry in New Zealand as part of an overall strategy to create a sustainable supply of quality pilots for the Air New Zealand Group, and as part of this process we elected to partner directly with five flight training organisations throughout the country. This relationship remains in place and in fact our submission is supported by our partner organisations and the wider aviation community as represented by the Aviation Industry Association.

Any further correspondence on this matter should be referred to myself given I have overall responsibility regarding pilot recruitment and training for the Group and I’m happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Yours faithfully

Capt David Morgan

Chief Flight Operations Officer/Chief Pilot

We asked Captain Morgan to confirm that the AIA had backed the application. He did, supporting this with an accompanying letter from Irene King of the AIA, dated May 4, which we reproduce, unedited:

Clare Montgomerie
Private Bag 921162

Dear Clare

Essential Skills in Demand Lists 2012 Review: Call for input to review proposals

You requested a letter of support from this Association in respect of an application to place pilots on the Essential skills in Demand List.

You further advised that you had been commissioned by an airline to make an application and therefore we are presuming the application you are making is for airline pilots only.

The Association fully supports such an application as it is very clear that there are critical shortages emerging in New Zealand of suitably qualified pilots for roles at all levels in airlines. This is manifests itself in very high turnover rates in the “pool” of skills that support entry into the airlines namely the RNZAF and Flight Schools.

While we firmly believe that it is preferable to engage New Zealanders in such roles as airline pilots we fully accept that there is insufficient supply through a combination of down turn in training at flight schools in New Zealand and an upswing in global demand for airline pilots. Both these factors are well documented.

Yours sincerely

Irene King
Chief Executive

There are two big problems for Air New Zealand and the AIA here (quite apart from the public relations disaster that Air New Zealand has brought upon itself).

First, Air New Zealand, its agent Pricewaterhousecoopers, the AIA and possibly others have failed to adequately promulgate the proposal to the wider aviation community. This may have something to do with the instant extension of the deadline for submissions (from July 26 to August 9) that resulted on Tuesday July 24 after ALPA’s involvement and GAA’s exposure of what was going on.

Second, we understand that such an application cannot be admitted or accepted unless an existing shortage – not an anticipated one – can be proved. An application by way of precaution appears to be prohibited, and cannot be employer-specific (which could cause Air New Zealand some difficulty, as an effective monopoly):

From the Immigration website:

Criteria for adding an occupation to the ESID Lists

The review process places an emphasis on ensuring that there is sound evidence to support changes to the lists.

Before a new occupation is added to one of the lists, the following must be confirmed.

• Industry is committed to training New Zealanders in these occupations.

• Industry is committed to fully utilising the domestic labour market before considering employing overseas workers.

• The shortage is not due to recruitment and retention issues arising as a result of terms and conditions of employment.

• Industry is committed to the provisions in New Zealand employment legislation that is available to workers.

• There is evidence of employers having difficulty employing staff.

• The numbers of apprentice or graduate trainees, and workers leaving or retiring from the industry have been estimated.

• Details of the qualification and skills required for the occupation have been confirmed.

• The shortage is not employer specific.

• There is a significant shortage for the occupation that may reasonably be met by migrants.

In addition to the above criteria, there are specific requirements related to each list.

Long-term Skill Shortage List Criteria

For an occupation to be added to the Long-term Skill Shortage List:

• There must be an ongoing and sustained (absolute) shortage, both globally and in New Zealand. [Note “must be”, not “will be” – Editor]

• The shortage must be across all geographic regions in New Zealand.

• The occupation must have a base salary of at least NZ$45,000 based on a 40-hour working week.

• The occupation must be highly skilled, meet the Skilled Migrant Category definition of skilled employment, and applicants must meet any registration requirements.

Industry interests are creating a deep hole for themselves. Now is a good time to stop digging.

We also raised the issue of UE in relation to pilot applicants. In writing to David Morgan, we stated:

A recurring theme among protestors is the claim that many who far exceed Air New Zealand’s requirements in terms of experience and qualifications have been rejected simply because they lack UE. While it is appreciated that such a condition is worthwhile because it indicates newly-qualified CPLs have the necessary academic ability to pass the type ratings and training required, it seems less relevant to considering someone who already has those ratings, training and practical experience – sometimes in spades.

Could you please clarify Air New Zealand’s current position on this aspect?

In response, Mr Morgan did not answer the question, and instead directed us to the Air New Zealand careers website

Attention all NZ CPL holders – this concerns You!

Pilots are like garlic: We grow the best in New Zealand, but imports are cheaper

Pilots are like garlic: We grow some of the best, but imports are cheaper

How could anyone think of hiring airline pilots from offshore when our training system provides more pilots than our shrinking GA industry can find jobs for?

That’s precisely what Air New Zealand is planning. And probably not only planning but already actively recruiting, because we have discovered advertising that can only have come from Air NZ, on Pilot Hiring, an international recruitment website. The advertising seeks a second officer for Boeing 747, based in Auckland, and first officers for three New Zealand regional airlines.

A submission has been made by Price Waterhouse Coopers on behalf of Air New Zealand to add “Aeroplane Pilot” as a group which has skill shortages and which cannot be filled by NZ pilots. If it is accepted that there is a deficit of skilled pilots within New Zealand, this will give the Air New Zealand Group the option to hire foreigners. Astonishingly, The Price Waterhouse Coopers submission states:

“National data on people available to work or train suggests that there are 8 (eight) suitable job seekers available to fill vacancies within this occupation”.

This extraordinary claim is based on “Ministry of Social Development data as at 26 April 2013”.

Early feedback from GAA supporters strongly indicates that:

♦ the claim is untrue and

♦ hardly any interested party – including the President of the NZ Aviation Federation, and a member of Air New Zealand’s own pilot selection panel – was aware of the Air New Zealand proposal (which had a closing date for submissions of July 26, now extended to Friday August 9) until GAA exposed it.

GAA’s Des Lines was shocked to hear of the plan, and said: “CPLs pop out of our training schools with a basic commercial and multi engine instrument rating and a student loan of around $100K. But they are usually unemployable by the likes of our Link carriers until they get about 1000 PIC hours. If possible, they head offshore to find jobs in Third World countries to gain further experience.

“Those who are married or are tied to New Zealand for one reason or another have to accept jobs as instructors, for example, on a per flying hour basis or a retainer of the minimum per hour wage. It usually amounts to not more than $30K – $40K per year.

“Being tied to NZ during those critical years as a new CPL is an enormous handicap, and I advise all my young students of this and the necessity not to form attachments that are going to hobble them. Helicopter pilots are in a much worse position than fixed wing and only a relatively small number of them manage to get fixed base jobs here in New Zealand. A large number are involved in seasonal work in places like northern Canada and the places they work in don’t cater for wives and children – nor would you want them exposed to the risks in PNG, Indonesia and the like.

“Until GA can provide jobs for our Kiwi pilots, I would be very much against the importation of foreigners.”

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is carrying out a Preliminary Indicator Evidence Report (PIER). You would be excused for not knowing anything about this or what it means.

The purpose of the PIER is to collate relevant statistical data about each occupation selected to be part of the review of the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) lists; and to provide a preliminary view on the status of the occupation based on that data.

A PIER report is based on an assessment of the occupation against three key indicators:

♦ skill level – does the occupation meet skill level requirements?

♦ scale – is the occupation of sufficient scale, in terms of employment or work visa application numbers, to warrant a listing?

♦ shortage – how strong is the evidence that there is a shortage?

The summary of evidence in the Price Waterhouse Coopers submission discloses:

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill level classification and salary information are used as indicators of skill level.

In general terms, only occupations assessed by ANZSCO as levels 1 – 3 are considered “highly” skilled. In addition, a base salary of at least $45,000 is used as a proxy indicator for skill level.

ANZSCO skill level classification 1

Average annual base salary: $84,900
Salary range: $47,600 to $100,000

Qualification and experience requirements

A NZCAA Commercial Pilots Licence

Multi Engine Instrument Rating

A basic gas turbine endorsement

In accordance with Part 121.557 Air Operations – Large Aeroplanes

500 hours total flying time, including:

100 hours in Air Operations

25 hours of night flying.

The Air NZ Group also has a requirement for UE or ATPL subjects. This not a new requirement, but has been in place since the 1970s when the forerunner of Air NZ (NAC) operated domestically – a fair and reasonable way for the employer to ascertain that a pilot has the necessary academic ability to pass the type ratings and training required.

The ESID lists are designed to facilitate the entry of skilled workers to New Zealand to fill shortages, and to reduce costs and time delays for employers seeking staff. At the same time, it is important to ensure that appropriately skilled New Zealanders who are available to work are not displaced.

The bottom line

The time has come for young CPL holders (and those in training to become CPLs) to make a stand and protect your employment opportunities by making a submission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

For many who are not all that long out of school, this will be a new experience and a daunting introduction into an adult world, where there comes a time to safeguard your future. Doing nothing and remaining silent is not an option.

The preferred option would be to flood the MoBIE with a large number of individual submissions, but time is tight.

GAA is here to help those who don’t feel sufficiently confident to put in their own individual submission. We will put in a submission and attach your names as co-submitters.

If you wish to support this, you need to email Des Lines at airfabrico [at] xtra [dot] co [dot] nz and request that your name be added as a co-submitter. It would be helpful if your email also contains your personal views and experiences in trying to get a flying job within NZ and if you have had to go offshore to find employment.

An indication of whether you currently meet the Air NZ Group requirements, or if you are currently working to gain them, would also be helpful information. These comments will be attached as an Appendix to the submission.

Initial feedback

Air New Zealand: It seems more interested in Rugby than in supporting other local talent

Air New Zealand: It seems more interested in Rugby than in supporting other local talent

GAA supporters’ reaction to the proposal was instant – and entirely negative. Here are a few of the comments:

“I find it disturbing that most can’t get a look in at Air NZ, yet they are prepared to open the borders to what will certainly be cheap labour from Asia looking to escape from that part of the world. I personally have been forced offshore four times in the search of flying work and believe it is a little rich to say there is now a shortage of pilots when the training scheme (student loan) has also largely been done away with. Government/industry can’t have it both ways… We are already working for free or less than the minimum wage in GA.”

“The Government recently stopped providing student loans for flight training as there are a significant number of people completing the training and then being unable to find any employment in the industry, or cannot afford to – for example, flight instructors at some schools are paid $20 per flight hour yet are expected to be on the premises for a full working week but do not earn 40 hours worth of pay.

I personally exceed the requirements being mentioned. I have 3000 total hours, 2600 gained on multi engine turbo prop aircraft on air operations, with 100 night hours. I am a New Zealand Citizen, hold a New Zealand Commercial licence with some written ATPL examinations completed, and a Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating.

I went overseas to gain employment as there were no opportunities in New Zealand upon completion of my training. I tried for years to return to New Zealand but was unable to gain meaningful employment. Some smaller companies such as Sun Air require you to pay for your training and aircraft type rating and then do not even pay a salary that would suffice to live on. I am also led to believe the starting pay at Eagle Airways is less than the advertised $45,000 in the submission.

There are many people overseas who would gladly return to New Zealand to work for Air New Zealand, should they be given the opportunity.”

“Please add my name as a co-submitter – my son had to move overseas after completing his pilot training as companies in NZ were not taking on inexperienced pilots and as a result he doesn’t meet the listed requirements to gain employment in New Zealand now – he has had to stop flying and retrain in another career in an attempt to repay his very large student loan, which was taken out to train as a pilot. Also, the Government is no longer giving student loans to fund the whole of the pilot training, which will prevent the majority of people who wish to train doing so.”

“It’s devastating that my son hasn’t been able to continue flying as it is his passion and lifelong dream and having flown overseas means he doesn’t have the requirements to fly here and financially can’t afford to fly for a small company with such a huge student loan. I’d much prefer him to be here in NZ, instead of overseas doing something else.”

“I’m a 1500-hr B cat with MEIR and I can’t find work at the moment. There is no need for overseas pilots.”

“I am working in Papua New Guinea on a Twin Otter as a co-pilot. I currently meet most of the Air NZ requirements, missing a couple of night hours – that’s pretty much it. So many pilots I know have applied and failed the group tests in the interviews. I applied two months ago and have heard nothing back from Air NZ. I have close to 400 hours on the Otter and 330 hours in NZ doing various things, and am working on my night hours and ATPLs. My current company looks to upgrade me to Dash 8 where several pilots from Air Nelson and Eagle have joined our company due to high wages and only working six months a year.

I had to go offshore to Oz to find work and managed to find better in PNG.

I personally wanted to come back to a relatively First World country, even with the pay drop, but it is a hefty one. I don’t think they are willing to pay for training etc since they still have not created a cadetship-type scheme – which is why I’m still in PNG paying my student loan off.”

“Can current NZ ATPL pilots make a submission to keep the status quo? And can current budding CPL pilots simply submit to keep the status quo and then state they would like to be heard?

Keep NZ pilot jobs for Kiwis. I don’t believe there are only eight pilots available.”

“I find it outrageous that Air New Zealand will be potentially looking for overseas pilots to fly for them. I am currently at university but am looking to finish at the end of next year and pursue aviation as a career. I only went to Uni because at the time the aviation industry was stagnant (and to gain a qualification to help me gain an aviation job).

Having gained my PPL, I looked at finishing my training and heading to Australia for work experience but decided not to and stay loyal to New Zealand and our national carrier. I feel Air New Zealand could better implement plans to train pilots such as Virgin Australia’s pilot cadet scheme, as opposed to its ‘Airline Integration Course’ and simply recruiting cheaper overseas pilots and undercutting New Zealanders like me.”

“We can perhaps get some from Asiana?”

“In regards to the pay bracket, Eagle Air does not qualify for the minimums of $45,000 a year for the skilled labour application, although Mount Cook and Air Nelson currently do. Eagle pays the FO $44k if they have ATPLs or $42k if they don’t have a frozen ATPL, as the starting wage.”

“If there are only eight pilots left in NZ to fill the vacancies, where did the rest of them go? That’s a rhetorical question, folks. Why fly, when an educated man or woman can become a teacher in the UK and earn up to $90,000 a year?”

“This makes incredible reading – especially given I’m active with pilot recruitment. I have heard no talk of this amongst the assessors and agree with your comments.The wonders of the Internet and communications are rapidly now working to our advantage.”

“From my own experience attempting to gain overseas employment as a pilot, I know that every national, flag-carrying airline is fiercely supported by its own government’s policies to protect their own locally born and trained progeny. There is almost nothing more sacred than nationals flying as pilots in a national airline. It is normally not possible to even receive a reply as a foreigner to an employment application. I cannot understand the logic of this new idea.

NZ would surely be globally alone in allowing the hiring of foreign-trained crew members. Are we as New Zealanders not proud of our nationally trained product?

Do the flight training schools who train these NZ pilots not support regional economies with their requirements? Do these schools not involve other New Zealanders by using fuels, by having maintenance and avionic work done, by using local builders and other tradesmen, and do those student pilots not eat and sleep in New Zealand? They are all people who will vote in NZ elections, and pay taxes to the NZ Government, which owns the majority equity stake in Air New Zealand. That same government-owned airline would repay those loyal folk by NOT offering them well-paid jobs in a prestigious position.

It is an outrageous idea to open the Essential Skills in Demand List to include ‘Aeroplane Pilots’. As a New Zealand voter and pilot, I strongly oppose the move.”

What is happening here is outrageous with regard to New Zealand aviation employment. I have a daughter and future son-in-law who have invested a heck of a lot of money into being qualified as New Zealand pilots, only to be faced with what is looking like a bleak future. They, like many of their generation, are considering going overseas.

Air New Zealand is owned by New Zealanders (since it got bailed out to close on a billion dollars when it hit the wall over the Ansett debacle) and New Zealanders have spent a small fortune loaning to prospective pilots through the student loan scheme, only to be now told that the kids they loaned the money to are no good and the airline that they own (and like to call their own) is going to hire foreigners, with foreign licences and foreign certificates.

We all know that this is really just a lot of sabre-rattling towards the likes of ALPA to lower their pilot costs. No one would deny them that, but they could do it in a less destructive manner to an innocent party, which is New Zealand’s struggling General Aviation community.

♦ Air New Zealand has also recently amended its requirements for regional service roles. The details are here

The Battle of the RPL Medical is over

The meddling by CAA with the NZTA medical for recreational pilot licence holders is effectively at an end. It has taken since February, but pilots now have an excellent result. This wasn’t a single-handed GAA effort and we acknowledge the considerable work put in by other interested parties such as John Pheasant, and the negotiations of Flying NZ and the NZ Aviation Federation – and the welcome new approach by the Authority – to achieve this.

It is expected that the administration of RPL medicals will be handed over to Flying NZ.

Some background…

NZ CAA Rule Parts 61.35(b) and 61.355(a) (2) prescribe that the holder of a Recreational Pilot Licence must hold an appropriate driver’s licence medical certificate with a passenger endorsement.

The original intention was that pilots who were unable (or chose not) to meet the requirements for the higher Class 2 and Class 1 licence grades could continue to fly, subject to heavily restricted operational conditions.

We expressed concern that the CAA was sometimes placing further restrictions on top of the medical requirement to hold the driver licence certificate as described in the above Rule Parts. This appeared to be at odds with an article that appeared in the CAA Vector magazine Sept/Oct 2007, which stated:

Land Transport Medical Certificate

The proposed amendments to CAR Part 61 require a person wanting an RPL to hold a Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ) Medical Certificate, valid for a Class 2, 3, 4, or 5 driver licence, with passenger endorsement. This will be issued by a General Practitioner (GP) in accordance with the Land Transport medical requirements. The cost of obtaining an LTNZ Medical Certificate will be about a quarter of the cost of the Class 2 aviation medical certificate. The CAA will not be involved in decision-making for the issuing of the medical certificate. The GP will issue it. If a pilot is not satisfied with a GP’s decision to decline to issue the LTNZ Medical Certificate, they will have to utilise the appeal process under the LTNZ legislation, not the Civil Aviation Act. RPL holders who are aged over 40 and hold an LTNZ Medical Certificate will be required to renew their Medical Certificate every two years. RPL holders who are under the age of 40 will be required to renew their medical certificate every five years. For more information on LTNZ Medical Certificates, see the LTNZ web site…

The doc's comments page in the DL9 medical form (version 02/12). CAA claimed "some versions" of the form had no space for GP's comments or conditions. NZTA said otherwise, and we have seen no examples

The doc’s comment page in the DL9 medical form (version 02/12). CAA claimed “some versions” of the form had no space for GP’s comments or conditions. NZTA said otherwise, and we have seen no examples

Contrary to the previously stated “hands off” approach by the CAA to medical certification of the RPL, we discovered that the NZTA DL9 medical form had to be sent in with the forms for an initial RPL licence issue or a renewal application. It transpired that in some instances, the CAA medical unit had been adding further restrictions to the licence, based on previous medical history.

GAA submitted that if a pilot is certified fit to drive a public transport vehicle by having a valid NZTA medical to fitness standards that are applicable for a Class 2, 3, 4 or 5 driver licence with a passenger endorsement, that should be the end of the matter. The pilot is properly and legally licensed in accordance with AC 61-20.

The result…

The CAA said that it had been adding conditions to certain RPL licences based on medical information it already held on holders of other licences but, with the passing of time, this information was becoming out of date and was no longer relevant. It admitted that “correspondence RPL holders have received in the past has been potentially misleading in that the conditions have been phrased as if they were conditions on the DL9 medical certificate, rather than on the licence itself.”

On July 4, Chris Ford, General Manager Aviation Infrastructure and Personnel, responding to another letter from Des Lines on June 11 2013, stated:

The matters you have raised are ones that the CAA was already considering as a result of discussions with the Royal New Zealand Aero Club (Flying New Zealand) over the potential for it to issue RPLs to the aviation community under delegation from the Director. This is the result of the CAA, Flying New Zealand, and the New Zealand Aviation Federation, collectively considering whether there are more efficient means by which the RPL regime can be administered – while ensuring necessary safety controls.

The CAA will be taking steps to amend its Advisory Circular AC61- 20 to reflect this approach and to promulgate the process changes to all holders of a RPL.

In practice, this will mean that existing RPL holders with a licence that refers to complying with medical related conditions and/or medical expiry date who wish to have these removed, may apply to the CAA at any time for an amended licence that will not contain any such reference.

No fee will be required for this amended licence.

All RPL holders will receive a letter from the CAA Manager Personnel and Flight Training, Mr John McKinlay, advising them of this and providing instruction on how to apply for an amended licence.

In summary, and for the reasons outlined above, the CAA will be:

1. Discontinuing the requirement for the expiry date of the current DL9 medical certificate to be included on a RPL.

2. Discontinuing the endorsement of medical conditions on RPLs.

3. Amending Advisory Circular AC61- 20 to reflect this approach.

4. Promulgating the process changes to all RPL holders.

It’s worth noting that Mr Ford makes frequent reference to section 7(3) of the Civil Aviation Act, which says: “Subject to any rules made under this Act, an aviation document [such as a pilot’s licence] may be issued by the Director for such specified period and subject to such conditions as the Director considers appropriate in each particular case”.

As supporters of the Plain English Campaign, we call this “The Director Can Do As He Damn Well Likes Clause”. The Civil Aviation Act 1990 is up for review this year, and GAA supporters may well have something to say about section 7(3) of an Act which currently gives the Director more power than the Prime Minister.

The foggy court case that could turn any pilot into dog tucker

Dodgy headline and dubious case

A very dodgy headline in Hawke’s Bay Today – and an even more dubious conviction

The curious case of The CAA versus John Tucker has serious implications for any pilot faced with fog. In June, Mr Tucker was fined $2000 in the Napier District Court after pleading guilty to flying in conditions below the minimum required.

He had also been accused of the much graver charge of careless flying, during a take-off at Hawke’s Bay Airport on September 24 2011. After “expert evidence” was called by the CAA, and on the advice of his lawyer, Mr Tucker pleaded guilty to the lesser offence.

The allegedly careless take-off was reported by the captain of an Air New Zealand (Air Nelson) Link service, which was on the apron and – the court was told – delayed its departure because of the weather. The incident occurred before the tower opened for business, and Mr Tucker’s flight was completed successfully.

Mr Tucker’s defence, in a 70-page interview with the CAA, was that he had clear visibility to an accepted point on the runway that equated to about 1500m. However, a CAA expert later placed the 1500m mark at a feature beyond which others flying out of Napier believed it to be. The minima are what in law is known as a strict liability requirement, meaning that a wrong impression is not a sufficient defence.

The prosecution’s weather expert would not allow that his gauges and instruments did not accurately reflect the fog on the actual runway, despite their distance more than 200m from it.

Mr Tucker was represented by Russell Fairbrother QC, who told GAA:

“My reading of the Judge was that he had been influenced by the Air Nelson pilots to a greater degree than I think was warranted in the circumstances and that is what led me to advise [John] on damage control.

In cross examination, I failed to get any traction from the Met Service weather expert that the conditions on the actual runway may have been as John saw them, rather than as guessed from a terminal about 500 metres away and indicated from instruments sited 200 metres in the opposite direction – i.e. 740 metres from the terminal.

In evidence, there was also a two-minute iPhone video taken by one Air Nelson pilot as he was driven by an emergency rescue person doing his routine morning check along the runway about 15 minutes after John took off.

The prosecution case boiled down to an allowance that fog is often variable except on this particular day when people not in John’s seat and at a different time could draw conclusions contradicting his observations and judgement.

The CAA correctly argued that the law requires all regulatory minima to be treated as binding and with effectively no allowance for error. However, this approach ignores the absence of objective measures to assist a pilot to make any accurate assessment on both the ground and in the air.

A concern I have is why the CAA chose to prosecute an experienced pilot, with an exemplary record over his 5000-plus hours flying, who uses this airfield on an almost daily basis, rather than work through the problems with him or, at the worst, give him a warning. The impression I was left with is that they expect the costs of defending a charge to be so horrendous that people will roll over with a guilty plea to save money.

To me, that is the approach of a bully.”

The CAA will have poured well over five figures of other people’s money into securing Mr Tucker’s conviction – and placing a damaging blot on his record.

The prosecution and the conviction are perfectly lawful, but (apart from enforcing the principle of “general deterrence”) what was the point?

The case also begs another question, vital to every pilot:

Did it advance the CAA’s righteous cause of Aviation Safety?

No, it did not, unless John Tucker’s bad experience leads to a far more accurate method for pilots to judge the visibility. Otherwise, any pilot could end up in the dock, facing a prosecuting Authority with apparently limitless resources and a Judge who may largely rely on the subjective evidence of observers.

Russell Fairbrother: To me, that is the approach of a bully

QC Russell Fairbrother’s impression of the CAA’s behaviour: “…the approach of a bully”

Fog and rain are often extremely localised. A ground-based observer may think an aircraft is flying in cloud when it is actually in clear air behind. Napier’s neighbouring Hastings Aerodrome, for example, is notorious for Autumn and Winter fog, and a resident living less than 200 metres from abeam the main runway has more than once been alarmed to hear an aircraft apparently taking off in fog, only to rush across and find the runway clear.

Steve Hall of NZ ALPA says: “The assessment of visibility, especially in fog, is both difficult and subjective. I am sure that if a random sample of pilots were tasked to assess what they considered to be 1500m vis, the responses would vary widely.

Ironically, it is probably easier to assess visibility using reduced take-off minima, as it would be possible to look at lights or taxiway signs as an aid.

It wouldn’t be the first time that I have been sat in an aircraft thinking the airfield is below minima only to find the departure area of the runway is clear, or that the control tower is shrouded in fog and nothing else is.”

Mr Tucker’s case highlights the fact that there are no promulgated “landmarks” at regional airports to define 1500m visibility from the take-off point at either end of the runways. Without these being promulgated and agreed to as an acceptable means of compliance in determining visibility, the judgement becomes subjective. This is why the prosecution, the plea and the conviction may be flawed.

Should an unmistakable marker be placed 1500m from an airport’s runway thresholds, so that pilots can more accurately judge the visibility? It would help to avoid the needless grief and expense of a subsequent court action.

Mr Tucker has learned a costly lesson, but will the CAA learn from this as well?

Only time – and probably a great deal of it – will tell.

In the meantime, any pilot facing the potential problem that landed John Tucker in trouble would be well advised to take a photograph (date and time-stamped) from the cockpit immediately before commencing the take-off.