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Archives for November 2013

Why has the NZ CAA made Kiwi pilots fly less safely?

The ICAO-inspired change to SIGMET information that came into effect on November 14 removed all but latitude and longitude references to the information provided by MetFlight (on paid subscription) to non-commercial, domestic aviation in New Zealand.

Responsible for this were Peter Lechner, the CAA Chief Meteorological Officer and Mike Haines, the CAA Manager, Aeronautical Services.

This change has made MetFlight’s arcane aviation forecasts even more difficult to interpret. Pilots planning a flight must now refer to a map to check the location of a possible weather hazard. Unless, of course, you are already in the air, when ATC or Flight Information personnel will happily translate the SIGMET into plain English.

Some readers may be wondering why the change was necessary. It was imposed only to meet the requirements of international OPMET databases. Put simply, the SIGMET format must meet the requirements of a computer system and software primarily designed to assist international, commercial air traffic.

It has nothing to do with New Zealand general aviators or their passengers’ safety and it does nothing to improve it.

Mr Lechner must know that this change makes no sense to anyone in NZ GA, but he appears to have done nothing to oppose its imposition or mitigate the harm it might cause. Instead, something on the CAA’s already hard-to-penetrate website that translates the lats and longs into a rough idea of where MetFlight is talking about. Remarkably, some of the identifiers are NDBs!

We might even look forward to an article in Vector. We could print it out as a cheat-sheet.

This is over-complicated, impractical and plain daft.

What Mr Lechner and his colleague Mr Haines have presided over, on behalf of The Director, will not encourage aviators to purchase or renew their $100-plus annual subscription to the MetFlight service. They appear to have forgotten the CAA mantra that Aviation Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility, including theirs, and the other more important rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Not all civil aviation administrations have obeyed ICAO instructions to the letter – and, for good reason, due to the possible degradation of local air safety.

Canada is one example. As long ago as 2009, a group set up there to study ICAO Annex 3 (the source of this problem) stated in a meeting agenda:

Table A6-1 of Amendment 74 to Annex 3 defines the content and order of elements for SIGMET and AIRMET messages. In addition, paragraphs 1.1.5 and 2.1.5 of Appendix 6 state that such messages shall not contain unnecessary descriptive material.

While it is important for SIGMET and AIRMET messages to follow this template, the limitation set on the description of the weather phenomenon should not preclude the possibility for States to convey additional information of National interest elsewhere in the SIGMET and AIRMET message.

At the present time, ICAO Annex 3 (Table A6-1) provisions do not allow additional information.

We have another reference to this debate in Canada:

…another approach is to describe a coordinate point using latitudes and longitudes at all times and specify its position relative to an aviation reference point (airport, radio navigation aid or intersection) whenever possible (or practical). Transport Canada has indicated that the sole use of latitude and longitude will have a negative impact on domestic and general aviation. NAV CANADA has acknowledged that the use of these reference points would make it easier for a pilot enroute to visualize the location of the affected area without having to plot the coordinates on a map or chart.

The Canadian authorities noted and exploited the key ICAO phrase “shall not contain unnecessary descriptive material” because they found that references to significant places such as aerodromes were necessary descriptive material for the locals.

This is why, on November 14, Canada introduced the ICAO change but provided a simple and elegant solution (what the ICAO calls a Difference) that meets the international requirement while protecting its local aviators from needlessly obscure data and the kind of absurd kludges offered by the New Zealand CAA.

It is called Parallel Forecasts.

One forecast meets ICAO requirements in all respects and is usable by international traffic and OPMET.

The other adds the traditional geographical information that helps domestic traffic.

It looks simple and it is – but this is apparently well beyond the range of Kiwi bureaucrats’ capabilities. Unlike the Canadians, who look after five FIRs and control an area that makes New Zealand look like an unoccupied ant-hill.

The terms of the MetFlight GA service clearly state: MetFlight GA is designed and produced only for use by recreational pilots conducting VFR or IFR recreational flights, at or below 10,000ft in New Zealand. The use of the MetFlight GA service for commercial operations (including scheduled or unscheduled Air Transport Operations), is strictly prohibited.

All GA operators in New Zealand received by way of warning of the change was a pop-up message on the MetFlight website. In Canada, users of NAV CANADA’s free service were offered a detailed, plain-language explanation, along with audio.

There is no reason (apart from a small software change) why MetFlight GA forecasts should not include – or even solely consist of – a similar “parallel” forecast. (The easiest alternative would be to place the Plain English version at the front of the abbreviated forecast, and give the kind of Luddite purists who cherish relics such as Morse Code an option to read the ICAO-approved version.)

After all, aviation weather forecasts in their current painfully abbreviated and ICAO-compliant form may well suit computers and bureaucrats, but they were established before teleprinters were considered to be hi-tech. The rest of the world has rapidly moved on since then. Understanding the coded format might help you pass a Met exam (and therefore feel somehow superior to those who can’t) but it does not aid the cause of aviation safety when flying in the world’s lower levels, where the preference – and the better option – is to use simple English.

GAA would have liked to discuss this matter with Peter Lechner – but at the time of writing this article, he was in London.

O Canada! Where the skies are vast, the charges are fair and the Admin is sane…

How the Canadians view GA and what it can afford

How the Canadians view GA and what it can afford

Today, NAV CANADA – the Canadian equivalent of our Airways – published its 2013 Customer Guide to Charges, and GAA is quietly proud to be the first website in the world outside Canada to reveal some of the contents.

They will come as an unpleasant surprise to Kiwi general aviators, still hurting from Airways’ heavy increases earlier this year. We also hope that they will annoy those at Airways who were responsible for GA cost increases in our country. In the opinion of many, these people damaged general aviation in New Zealand and harmed our economy.

Canada appears to treat its general aviators with greater respect, particularly in the Wallet Department. This is not surprising, given that in North America, GA is recognised as an essential part of travel, communications and the prosperity of a nation – rather than a pastime enjoyed by the “privileged” affluent, to be screwed to death by myopic, ground-bound pen-pushers.

NAV CANADA operates under a very similar commercial philosophy to Airways in New Zealand. Like us, its services were once entirely State-controlled. It is now a non-share capital, private corporation. Its charging regime differs from the State-Owned-Enterprise Airways Corporation in a number of significant respects.

Here are a couple of extracts from the NAV CANADA Charging Principles:

♦ charges must not be structured in such a way that a user would be encouraged to engage in practices that diminish safety for the purpose of avoiding a charge

♦ charges in respect of recreational and private aircraft must not be unreasonable or undue

That sounds like an Airways or NZ CAA mission statement, but let’s take a look at how NAV CANADA differs from Airways and our CAA.

In New Zealand, low-level aviators must pay MetFlight more than $100 a year to access weather information that is vital to GA safety. It follows that some will choose to save money and thereby reduce the overall level of GA safety by not subscribing.

In Canada, there are no charges for aviation weather forecasts. They are covered in an annual fee paid per aircraft to NAV CANADA, which has an Aviation Weather Website, open to the general public to view without charge.

(On November 14, the Canadians began to provide free SIGMET information that meets ICAO requirements but also meets the needs of of local aviators. It is called parallel forecasts and their idea, which helps domestic aviators, was ignored by the four people who oversee NZ CAA meteorology policy. The result will be seen in your next SIGMET on Metflight.)

The NAV CANADA charge starts at C$68 (or NZ$78) a year for aircraft with a MTOW of 617kg and above.

Microlights are exempt, for reasons obvious to everyone except Airways in New Zealand and our CAA.

Remember, the annual fee is for what we in New Zealand understand as Airways services – with the exception of weather forecasts, which NAV CANADA includes as part of its package.

Now compare Canadian “Airways” annual fee for its services to light aircraft with the New Zealand CAA’s “participation fee” of more than NZ$100 which, according to the CAA website, offers you:

Safety investigation and analysis

Industry-wide accident and incident trends are developed. These trends steer the CAA’s safety initiatives.

Safety education and information

The safety and information publication, Vector, is provided free to aviation community participants, as are booklets, posters, safety videos, seminars and the CAA web site.
Four Aviation Safety Advisers provide face-to-face contact, advice and information.

Random surveillance and spot checks

This safety service is carried out as required.


Occasionally enforcement action is required to ensure safety compliance.

Other information and advice

The Annual Registration Fee and Participation Levy is charged in accordance with the schedule of the Civil Aviation (Safety) Levies Order 2012 and the Civil Aviation Charges Regulations (No 2) 1991 Amendment Regulations 2012.

Ignore the fact that it is not possible to develop a trend (it does that all by itself, quite naturally). That sentence was obviously written by a highly paid oxymoron at the CAA.

Do you get the feeling that you are compelled to pay CAA enforcers for checking you out, perhaps helping to finance them to prosecute you, maybe print a heap of “free” advisory bumpf that a self-respecting pilot already knows, plus a glossy calendar that few people receive? Do you wonder how the CAA can charge you $100 and then say, without blinking, that Vector is free?

Did you note the statement of the legal justification for its levy? In other jurisdictions, it has been realised that quoting legal justifications for such a so-called service does not improve public relationships, or help build trust with the customers. It merely delivers a “Don’t mess with us” warning and supports the impression that this organisation and its personnel serve no useful purposes other than their own.

But overlook all that CAA bullshit for a moment. In Canada, many light aviators are today paying their equivalent of Airways an annual fee of about 78 bucks for services they can see, use and value, while in New Zealand, the State-owned Airways works on the principle of charging for everything that moves within its sphere of control, right down to $1 for a microlight transiting controlled airspace under VFR.

The Canadians also understand the concept of Exemptions and they implement it with a high degree of common sense. This includes, but is not limited to, for example:

♦ gliders, ultralights and balloons (except in certain cases involving large airports)

♦ all aircraft weighing less than 617 kg (except in certain cases involving large airports)

♦ aircraft or flights dedicated to search and rescue operated under the direction of police or the Department of National Defence

♦ test flights performed exclusively for:

• testing aircraft following overhauls, modifications, repairs and inspections for which a certificate of compliance is to be given; or

• enabling aircraft to qualify for the issue or renewal of a certificate of airworthiness

Now, note the Canadian approach to training flights in controlled airspace and compare it to that of Airways:

“For a flight operation performed exclusively for the purpose of training or testing of a person or persons (e.g., flight crew) to obtain, upgrade or renew a licence, including pilot proficiency checks, a charge is applied only on the first departure at each airport involved in the flight operation. However, training flights that transit from a main airport to a smaller airport because training flights are not allowed at the main airport are exempt from the TSC (terminal service charge) at the main airport.”

Unlike their counterparts in New Zealand, the Canadians know that circuit training does not constitute an additional component of risk or cost to their controllers (and they, unlike Airways, have not yet detected any additional level of workload that should be charged for).

It’s obvious that in Canada, administrators encourage flight training – preferring to avoid hitting the trainers with costs that just harm their ability to do business. They know that flight training is part of every progressive airport’s activity, not something to be discouraged by charges that drive operators and students away.

Note also, the absence of a $1 fee for “transit” through controlled airspace. This imposition by Airways in New Zealand makes no sense unless you understand that Airways has created a precedent for even higher charges. (Remember the introduction of GST at 10% which then subsequently increased to 12.5% and again escalated to 15%?) No one in their right mind would impose a $1 charge for a single item to recover actual costs, because the administrative costs far outweigh the income.

Unless it is part of a longer and larger agenda.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of NAV CANADA’s approach to user charges (apart from a liberal use of common sense and fairness) is how it made such great efforts to explain to customers the whole thing in plain English (and, of course, French).

Bringing Airways down to earth? Scott Scrimgeour replies

Following our article on Airways by Skywalker (Steve Walker), we invited the corporation to comment.

This is the response, from Scott Scrimgeour, Manager Service and Pricing, in full and unchanged:

Thank you for the invitation to reply to the article titled “It’s time to bring Airways down to Earth” published on your website. I have only responded to the key themes as the majority of the topics have been covered in our consultation documents published as part of the Pricing Framework consultation and the recent 2013-2016 pricing consultation. For those interested, these documents can be found at: http://www.airways.co.nz/airways_Services/pricing_consultation.asp. I hope your readers find the following responses useful.

The consultation process was a charade and the conclusion was foregone

Customer feedback was an essential part of the development of the Pricing Framework and in finalising the 2013-2016 prices and as a result significant changes were made. Specific details as to how customer submissions were considered in Airways final pricing decisions was provided in the consultation documents. They presented what was proposed, summarised customer submissions and provided Airways’ response and any changes to the proposed price.

It is important to note that Airways implemented two distinct consultation processes. The first was the Pricing Framework consultation process which set the pricing methodology and structure. The second was the pricing consultation process which set prices for the 2013 – 2016 period using the Pricing Framework. Customer submissions relating to aspects of the Pricing Framework received during the second consultation process (the 2013-2016 pricing consultation) were response to, but were not used in the final decision making process because they related to the pricing methodology which had already been finalised.

The size of controlled airspace

The current size of controlled airspace was one of the common themes of customer submissions in both consultations. Since then Airway has raised customer concerns on the size of controlled airspace with the CAA – the designation of airspace being the CAA responsibility.

Airways is committed to working with GA and the CAA to improve specific areas of concern. AOPA and the AIA have both asked to be involved with this process.

Airways has reviewed its internal policy for any new airspace designs. New design or reviews of current airspace will be implemented from a bottom up approach to ensure controlled airspace is only as large as it needs to be. This approach is being used for Airways’ performance-based navigation programme which includes a review of airspace design. To date, an airspace review at Queenstown has been completed. Airspace below 10,000 feet at Queenstown has been reduced as a result. Airspace reviews are currently taking place at Auckland and Whenuapai with public consultation for this starting in early December. A review of airspace around the regional aerodromes will be completed in the next three years.

Customer feedback to the consultation process

We received 48 submissions including submissions from most of the major GA associations on behalf of their members – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations (AOPA), Aviation Industry Association (AIA), Sports Aircraft Association (SAA) and Flying New Zealand, for both the Pricing Framework and 2013-2016 pricing consultation. We also received a number of individual submissions from the GAA for the 2013-2016 pricing consultation. A large number of GA aviators who use Airways services were represented by their associations.

How do Airways’ charges demonstrate social responsibility?

Airways considers it has fulfilled its social responsibilities by setting prices for its services that are fair, equitable and meet the requirements set out in the SOE Act and by the courts.

The Courts have ruled that Airways has statutory authority to charge for its services under section 4(1)(a) of the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 (Nicholls v Airways Corporation of New Zealand HC TAU CIV-2010-470-586 [15 August 2011] at para 19). The Courts have also found that both VFR and IFR traffic receive a material benefit from the provision of services in controlled airspace (Airways Corporation of New Zealand Ltd v Geyserland Airways Ltd; Airways Corporation of New Zealand Ltd v White Island Airways Ltd [1996] 1 NZLR 116 at page 127, at paras 37-38).

Airways has ensured prices are fair and equitable by setting prices using the methodologies in the Service and Pricing Frameworks. These Frameworks were constructed using a set of principles designed to ensure prices had the attributes our customers wanted. Customers had input into the development of the principles.

Examples of how the principles influenced GA prices include:

&#9830 Airways’ GA prices reflect the cost of providing those services. GA customers are not paying for services that they don’t use. Applying a price that reflects the underlying cost also helps ensure that sensible decisions are made about what services are needed and effort is not wasted on providing services that are not required or are only used occasionally.

&#9830 Airways takes into account the value that different customers receive from our services – some customers receive more value than other customers and so are charged more. This means that airline customers, who are able to collect more revenue from their own customers, are charged more than GA customers with lighter aircraft. This enables Airways to provide prices to GA customers that are more affordable. For example, an ATR landing at Dunedin is charged 40 times more than a three tonne GA aircraft, even though the resources to provide the services are similar.

Examples of how the principles influenced overall prices include:

♦ In accordance to its obligations as an SOE, Airways has set prices to provide a fair return to the shareholder (the government) for its investment in Airways. The annual dividend payments are used to invest back into the New Zealand economy.

♦ Airways has set prices for all its services to reflect the underlying cost of the resource needed to provide those services. This ensures that those using Airways services are paying for the cost of providing those services. This also ensures that the travelling public are not paying for services that they don’t use.

New circuit price – what is the charge for?

The provision of circuits at attended aerodromes requires an air traffic controller’s time and effort and creates complexity and risk. Airways bear additional risk due to the more complex operations which are reflected in higher training costs, additional equipment (in some instances) and higher insurance levels. Furthermore, at some locations this GA activity has meant more air traffic controllers. The new circuit fee reflects the workload associated to providing the service.

If GA don’t pay for the service they receive, costs for separation fall to the commercial airlines, and then to the travelling public. The new prices ensure that the costs of providing these services are recovered from those who are using the service.

Even with the new prices GA activity at an attended aerodrome still only contributes a small proportion of the cost of providing services. 50% of the activity at an aerodrome is due to GA operators while GA only contributes 5% of Airways’ aerodrome revenue. Of the aerodrome activity, 25% are circuits, vicinity landings and control zone transits which previously have not been included in the pricing. These figures are the national average calculated from volumes from all attended aerodromes. These figures have been updated with the latest airline figures, so they differ from those provided to Mr Walker.

I hope you find the points provided useful. We do understand that the changes have impacted on many of our customers and we have not taken the decision to make these changes lightly. The changes have been essential to ensure our prices are fair, equitable and reflect the services we provide.

If you have further questions around why Airways has made these changes to our prices, you can read our consultation documents at: http://www.airways.co.nz/airways_Services/pricing_consultation.asp. The Pricing Framework Discussion Document provides a good overview of the pricing issues we were trying to solve with the changes.

Scott Scrimgeour
Manager Service and Pricing
Airways New Zealand

More Yakkety Yak from the CAA – The forecast is TURB (MOD/SEV) for Asteron House

This message comes to you from 41 16 48.14S, 174 46 45.84E

This message comes to you from the people in Asteron House, grid ref 41 16 48.14S, 174 46 45.84E – click to enlarge

From November 14, by decree of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (and, as always, in the interests of safety), general aviators’ weather forecasts will be more difficult to decode. The use of actual place names (or their abbreviations) in SIGMETs is henceforth banned, to be replaced by latitude and longitude references.

Presiding over this latest imposition of potty rules created by aliens are the usual NZ CAA suspects, Peter Lechner and Mike Haines, to whom all complaints should be referred.

This is yet another example of CAA personnel slavishly following the ICAO Guide for Blind Dogs. A good deal of what ICAO emits seems to be based on the notion that “if it ain’t broke, fetch a bigger sledgehammer”.

But perhaps the regulation was originally intended to reduce the potential for confusion amongst aircrew on international flights.

For example, there is a clear and distinct risk that an Indian pilot visiting New Zealand could endanger himself or herself, the aircraft and its passengers by misinterpreting Hokitika as meaning Fish Curry.

And the recent schizophrenic, oh-so-politically-correct decision to give our main islands two Maori names in addition to the easily-understood-in-any-language North and South will not have helped navigators from foreign parts. Seasoned Kiwi aviators know very well that these two islands are differently shaped and are easily distinguishable.

The extension of an ICAO rule to cover all internal flights in a nation so far removed from the rest of the world is, to put it mildly, laughable.

♦ If you’d assumed that ICAO rules are written in concrete and are unchangeable, we’ve discovered a possible get-out for Messrs Lechner and Haines, should they (as we fervently hope and pray) suffer widespread scorn and ridicule:

Notification of Differences to Standards and Recommended Practices

Article 38 of the Convention requires, where a State finds it impracticable to comply in all respects with a standard, or to bring its own regulations or practices into full accord with a standard, that notification be given to ICAO.

Such notification is referred to as a “difference” and is published by ICAO in Supplements to each Annex.

Contracting States are also required by Annex 15 to publish their differences in their Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).

We say that this change makes it less practicable for New Zealand-based general aviators to clearly understand a SIGMET as published on MetFlight, where it is also stated:

NOTE: MetFlight GA is designed and produced only for use by recreational pilots conducting VFR or IFR recreational flights, at or below 10,000ft in New Zealand. The use of the MetFlight GA service for commercial operations (including scheduled or unscheduled Air Transport Operations), is strictly prohibited.

In this and other respects, New Zealand differs from ICAO’s global template.

How the Brits are taking an axe to needless GA red tape

The British Government and the CAA have announced plans to strip away unnecessary bureaucracy for the UK general aviation sector. One of the key changes will be the setting up by April 2014 of a new GA Unit within the CAA dedicated to more proportionate, effective regulation that supports and encourages a dynamic GA sector.

Following the General Aviation Red Tape Challenge, which found that the current regulatory regime is often too prescriptive, impractical and inappropriate, the Government and the CAA have announced plans to transform the way in which the UK’s General Aviation sector is regulated.

Grant Shapps: This shows the real need for change

Grant Shapps: This shows the real need for change

Minister without Portfolio Grant Shapps said: “The General Aviation Red Tape Challenge received a phenomenal amount of responses, receiving three times as many e-mail submissions as any other RTC theme to date. This shows the real need for change in a sector that is worth around £1.4 billion to the UK economy and supports up to 50,000 jobs. We have identified a number of areas where existing regulations are unduly onerous, or where the CAA could improve its approach.

“The measures we are announcing will ensure that the regulatory framework is proportionate – deregulating completely wherever possible, and minimising regulation where it is still necessary. This will ensure that we have effective safety regulation while supporting the sector to grow. This is in line with the government’s deregulation commitment and its wider drive for growth in the economy.”

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said: “General aviation is an extremely important sector of UK civil aviation and it is right that we do everything possible to enable it to thrive. That includes making sure that, where appropriate, we ease the burden on what are often smaller operators and businesses who find navigating a complex regulatory framework particularly challenging.”

The CAA’s new GA Unit will be in place by April 2014. The CAA has also launched a “right to reply” consultation on its detailed responses to the GA Red Tape Challenge which will run until December 6. By April, with the new GA Unit in place, the CAA will publish detailed delivery plans for its full programme of GA work.

Dame Deirdre Hutton: GA needs a different and less onerous regulatory regime

Dame Deirdre Hutton: GA needs a different and less onerous regulatory regime

Explaining the role of the new unit, CAA Chair Dame Deirdre Hutton said: “We are absolutely committed to improving the way we regulate GA. We have made a start, for instance deregulating in some areas and delegating responsibilities in others. But there is much more we can do.

“The new, dedicated GA Unit is a formal recognition that GA needs a different and less onerous regulatory regime to commercial air transport. It will ensure we understand better the impact of our regulation on the sector, that we are as transparent and efficient as possible in how we go about it, and that we identify opportunities to reduce burdens and costs wherever we can.”

The measures include:

♦ creating an independent Challenge Panel, including GA industry experts and professionals. This will report directly to ministers and will run until April 2014. It will provide a ‘critical friend’ function to the CAA. It will seek to identify opportunities to deregulate, promote growth of the sector and ensure focus on the development of an ambitious GA deregulatory programme

♦ seeking to identify projects which would support investment, jobs and the growth of the GA sector. Potential projects could include those which support vibrant GA training or maintenance sectors, business jets or the development of new technologies for general aviation operations. Government, CAA and the panel will work together to identify potential projects.

♦ a renewed commitment to work proactively with European bodies such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to look for ways in which unnecessary regulatory burdens on the GA sector can be reduced. Recent successes include securing EU agreement that the applicability of commercial safety standards to general aviation should be included in the EU REFIT review programme, and securing EU agreement to allow the UK to continue issuing the Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) rating for pilots until April 2019, with a commitment from the government and CAA to get this further extended if required

♦ a commitment from CAA to delivering a programme of culture change, deregulation and self-regulation; moving towards a model of supporting compliance rather than policing regulations, enhanced transparency, better value for money, and allowing the GA sector itself to take on more responsibilities for ensuring safety.

Some examples include:

  • a commitment to have all airworthiness forms online by the end of 2013 and an aim to have 70% of licensing application transactions online by Christmas
  • the consultation launched in September this year on the deregulation for airworthiness purposes of single-seat microlights
  • the creation of a ‘commercial experimental’ aircraft category to facilitate proof-of-concept flight testing
  • the development of policies for applying the principle of ‘informed consent’ to certain aerial activities (and this will interest New Zealand organisations which ceased “trial flights” because of our Part 115)
  • full support for the government’s commitment to implement civil sanctions as part of a range of proportionate interventions designed to encourage compliance
  • a series of CAA-led workshops with the sector which will identify further areas for either full deregulation or contestability including the delegation of responsibilities, for example to professional associations as appropriate
  • the GA Unit will operate with financial transparency, from a cost base better matched to the nature of its oversight, and with a constant eye on driving down its costs (and hence fees and charges) and the costs of compliance. It is likely that preliminary evidence of this financial transparency will be seen during the late 2014 review of fees and charges for 2015, with the subsequent years’ review being fully reflective of the GA Unit’s first full year of operation
  • improving communication with the GA sector, for example by providing targeted, relevant information in more accessible ways
  • a new initiative to help GA users challenge rules and procedures that they believe exceed EU requirements, and another to bust myths about GA regulation – for example, making clear that there is no regulatory requirement to log aircraft movements within the UK and that there is also nothing to prevent pilot/owner maintenance of defined tasks on their aircraft.

Wish you were there?

♦ More on this, and other issues to compare the UK CAA approach with ours, here

ADS-B: Does absolutely everyone need a $10,000 dose of the squitters?

No, we’re not talking about what you may get if you spend too much time in India, although if CAA proposals go through, everyone will be feeling extremely poorly.

We’re talking about ADS-B and the current $10,000-plus price tag.

In its National Airspace and Air Navigation plan currently up for consultation, the CAA says that the existing radar network will reach end-of-life by 2021. ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) technology will become New Zealand’s main surveillance system. It will replace conventional radar-based surveillance as the primary method for identifying and tracking aircraft in NZ airspace.

How ADS-B works. Note the absence of VFR traffic in this illustration...

How ADS-B works. Note the absence of VFR traffic in this illustration… Click on the pic for a better view

Using the ADS-B datalink, each aeroplane will automatically transmit its precise position, its velocity (vertically and horizontally), as well as its altitude and other information to controllers and other nearby aircraft. Each GA aeroplane will need a WAAS-capable certified GPS receiver to provide the high-integrity location and flight path data for ADS-B networking.

With a Mode S transponder, you “squit” instead of “squawk”.

So what is a “squitter”?

If you’ve ever flown with a Mode S transponder, you’ve already done your fair share of “squittering.” By definition, the word “squitter” refers to a burst (broadcast) of aircraft-tracking data that is transmitted periodically by a Mode S transponder without interrogation from a controller’s radar. Mode S (which stands for mode “select”) technology was first developed in the mid-1970s as a way of using existing ground-based secondary surveillance radar (or SSR) to track onboard transponders more precisely and more efficiently — while reducing the number of interrogations required to identify and follow aircraft on the controller’s radar scope.

To greatly oversimplify the terminology, a “squawk” is the response a transponder makes to an ATC interrogation, while a “squit” is a transmission format that routinely sends aircraft ID and positional information without being interrogated. By reducing the need for back-and-forth interrogation/response over the air, the Mode S squitter works to minimise transmitted “chatter” in the system — and, thus, increase its target-handling capacity.

GA pilots and owners will need to replace their Mode C transponders with a Mode S transponder and install a “Certified” compatible GPS. Under the current Mode S setup, a standard transponder squit only sends the most basic aircraft identification, system status and pressure altitude information — which ATC’s ground computers must correlate with radar tracking information to derive aircraft position, direction of flight, airborne velocity, vertical climb/descent, and so on.

Under the new ADS-B concept, each aircraft’s approved GPS navigation system will generate all of this data, and then transmit it at least once per second by means of an “extended squitter” — allowing ground controllers and other aircraft in the vicinity to track each aeroplane’s flight path with much greater precision and accuracy.

Unfortunately for us, the New Zealand CAA has not followed the United States FAA, which has decided to retain its Mode C and Mode S transponder requirements for flight in regulated airspace (to provide a secondary radar backup to ADS-B, as well as communicate with other aircraft that have traffic warning systems).

Currently, to equip our aircraft with what is required under the proposed National Airspace and Air Navigation plan, the cost will be in excess of $10,000.

There is no guarantee that the price will reduce and no one knows what new, lower cost equipment manufacturers may develop.

By 2021, if you want to fly in controlled airspace, it is proposed that you will need to equip your aircraft with an ADS-B-capable mode S transponder. This requires an accurate certified GPS unit on board the aircraft to provide the data to transmit position reports. The cost of this will depend on whether your existing equipment can be upgraded.

We can all understand the need for the complete system to be installed on aircraft operating under IFR or high altitude airline traffic conditions, but many GA pilots fly in controlled airspace under VFR conditions, and we are in controlled airspace when flying to or departing from a large number of NZ airports. In these conditions, a Mode S transponder alone should provide controllers with sufficient aircraft information because the Mode S transponder transmits aircraft identification, system status and pressure altitude information.

Every pilot/owner who intends to fly in NZ airspace in the next few years – and controlled airspace will probably be extended – should make a submission to the following email address consultation [at] caa [dot] govt [dot] nz before February 3 2014.

Our feedback to CAA should request that all non-IFR GA aircraft (especially microlights that must fly VFR and only in daylight) be required to only install a Mode S transponder.

♦ There’s more on ADS-B here

The Dilbert Principle of 21st Century Management

While walking the short distance between our hotel and Parliament, along Featherston Street with a following gale and against the flow of black-clad pedestrians, Des Lines and I played a game of I Spy A Smile. “First one to spot ten smiley people earns lunch at Rydges Hotel”. This was a prize not to be sniffed at, but neither of us won.

Gazing upon this tide of miserable functionaries, one could not but compare it to the prevailing wind in places like Seoul or Silicon Valley and contemplate the meaning of life for this grim-faced multitude, apparently following a lemming-like, endless routine of drudgery and trudgery.

But this being downtown Wellington, surely a large number of them must be Managers? And Managers should be bright, cheerful, forward-looking, empowered, creative and happy in their work, right?


The Pratfall: It happens when a high-flying Manager gets out of his depth, causing widespread damage below

The Pratfall: It happens when a high-flying Manager gets out of his depth, causing damage to everybody below

For those of us who have spent little time in an office (let alone experienced the nightmare of working in an open-plan one) such an existence is terrifying and mysterious. In the case of aviators, exposure to any sort of office can lead to mild claustrophobia or panic attacks. Many of us are genuinely mystified as to what actually goes on in such hellholes. They wonder, for example, how anyone in the CAA can be rational, judging by much of what is emitted from Asteron House. Are they on the same planet as us? Many aviators truly believe that the people who manage Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority are completely out of touch with what is happening on the ground and in the air.

Well, folks, I have discovered the answer and it is called The Dilbert Principle.

Ignore for a moment the fact that very few employees at the CAA have any kind of experience at the sharp end of aviation. Try to resist that urge to accuse them of hating you because you can fly, or – even worse – that you may be a prick rich enough to afford an aeroplane and they are just jealous and spiteful. Instead, carefully consider their vocation or ambition – which is, in our example, the role of a Manager.

Once upon a time (25 years ago, to be precise), Britain’s economy was bigger than China’s, and it was ruled by Managers. Much the same held true in the United States, where to be a Manager indicated that you were part of an elite group of bright, controlling minds.

But during the last 25 years, the world has turned upside down – as the revered BBC Business commentator Peter Day recently noted in a brilliant summation of the last two and a half decades.

Today, in those outposts where traditional Managers still hold the upper hand, you find atrophy, entropy, political correctness and general paralysis. Where they have assumed their rightful lower position, you find innovation, energy and growth. There are good reasons for this.

Peter Day discovers that there's nothing new under the Sun - just variations on stupidity

Peter Day has discovered that there’s nothing new under the Sun – just variations on ancient stupidity

Peter Day is an experienced journalist who’s seen it all (and is best understood using the ears and brain of someone who knows that there is nothing new under the Sun – just variations on the ancient theme of Folly). He recently found out why the world turned upside down without most of us noticing.

One of the key features is the realignment of the role of Managers.

It’s a bit like the Earth’s poles suddenly reversing, as is predicted. The first people to notice will be pilots. The last people will be their Managers far below, in the air-conditioned office.

It dawned on Day that the reasons for the adjusted role of managers may be found in a cartoon strip called Dilbert. It is hugely popular amongst office workers, but is completely baffling to everyone else, including Managers. This is because Dilbert lampoons The Manager, and you must have worked under one to understand the humour.

The Dilbert Principle is a development of the Peter Principle, which stated that people are invariably promoted to the level of their incompetence. Dilbert’s Principle recognises that in today’s world, it makes no economic sense to promote a creative and productive member of the team to be a manager. What you do with the unimaginative (and therefore uncreative and unprofitable) staffer is deliberately put them into management, to deal with the mundane stuff, such as compliance with stuff created by other managers from places such as government.

Which profit-motivated airline would put its top pilot into a management role? Which government would put its country’s top psychiatrist in charge of the Cabinet (even though this might be a good idea)? Why would anyone in their right mind give up a job they love and are good at, to push pens behind a desk and administer other people’s rules like a nodding dog?

Creativity at work: Steve Jobs imposed on his Apple logo by an admirer. Management was not impressed

Creativity at work: Steve Jobs imposed on the Apple logo by an admirer. Management was not impressed

Two examples of public misunderstanding of management spring to mind. First, Apple, where Steve Jobs is credited as being the brain behind the innovations – whereas in reality, he was merely a superb marketing manager and the inventive stuff was done by the almost invisible Steve Wozniak. Second, Microsoft, where Bill Gates as a supreme manager sub-contracted all the creative work for his company’s original PC operating system to freelancers, and is not known to have ever written a single line of code. Microsoft is now top-heavy with managers and has become a boring company, going nowhere. Apple may go the same way because it is being rapidly overtaken by younger companies driven (for the time being) by innovators who are not stifled by bean-counting managers and accountants.

From this, it is clear that Managers are faithful and reliable people who are only useful when they consistently follow the Rules. But Managers become dangerous when – having become disconnected from reality – they begin to set them.

The last two chief executives at Telecom proved that innovation from top management cannot be expected merely because they are paid fortunes. The greatest challenge faced by management these days is keeping a lid on public outrage (as CAA Director Graeme Harris knows, and has proved quite an expert at).

Unless they are kept under tight control, today’s Managers can be the killers of innovation, the destroyers of happiness and the bringers of inertia. The natural tendency of these people is to establish more rules to enforce and this usually involves the employment of more managers to manage the rules – and more lavish and larger premises in which to house them. Risk-averse politicians (with their less than scrupulous control of taxes) tend to be easy prey for such Managers, and are flattered when their Managers describe the kudos that will follow from being world-class when it comes to making Rules (refer to Kyoto Protocol, ICAO etc).

Perhaps the most startling example of what can happen when Managers are allowed to roam free is the European Union. It produces more than 20,000 new regulations every year, and has erected a Value Added Tax system so complex and muddled that a new industry – VAT Recovery – grew from it. Hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats and VAT recovery managers now toil ceaselessly to create… absolutely nothing.

So what, you may ask, has this to do with General Aviation?

Almost squared the circles... now all we need is to tick the boxes

Almost squared the circles… now all we need to do is tick the boxes

The short answer is that the Civil Aviation Authority, as it presents itself, seems composed largely of old-school Managers with scant or no aviation experience, who demonstrate little sign of creativity, have no discernible imagination and see their role as the enforcers of rules and the imposers of new ones to regulate. When questioned, they say: “Rules is rules.” When really pressured, they say: “Rules is ICAO rules.” When asked if flexibility is possible, they say: “Only under very restricted circumstances, and according to the rules as I am bound to apply them.” When asked very tricky questions, they put them into the Official Information Act basket, which gives them 20 working days of breathing space, according to the Rules.

The result is precisely what the finest Manager aspires to: no progress or change (or hope of it), no useful engagement, the preservation of the status quo and a stench of decay generated by mindlessly applied power that alienates the authority from its customers and precludes all hope of creating a Just Culture of transparency and fairness.

So the Dilbert Principle proves that Managers don’t actually hate us. Down at the CAA, they really don’t want to deliberately destroy general aviation, but they have an alien pattern of thought that allows no other way of operating. This is why no amount of evidence may change the myopic Manager’s one-track mind. Thinking outside the tickable box is dangerous. If he loses faith in the Rules, the Manager’s raison d’etre is threatened.

This is why CAA Managers’ lofty claims to seek a no-blame Just Culture – where they would work honestly and openly with lowly aviators – are (and must remain) simply hot air, based on an idea that can exist only in the minds of God and Utopians.