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Archives for March 2016

Class 2 medicals harm your wealth and add unwanted fat to the CAA

This article was written by Murray Shaw, a GA pilot, who originally sent it to the CAA

Class 2 medicals: They provide no benefits, either individually or to the public

Class 2 medicals: They provide no benefits, either individually or to the public

I propose that the CAA eliminates the requirement for a Class 2 medical for Private Pilots, replacing it with the same medical requirement as that currently required for the Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) while retaining the current privileges of a PPL, and removes any requirement for PPLs to apply to the CAA for a medical certificate for a basic PPL.

There is substantial international information that points strongly to the fact that medical certificates do not prevent medical events from occurring in flight.

To expand on this subject:

♦ Paul Bertorelli researched some stats in the US (Avweb, 28 July 2015). He cites statisticss produced by a review of the autopsy results of 471 pilots involved in fatal aircraft accidents between 2011 and 2014, in which 403 had a medical certificate, 68 did not (flying under Sport Pilot rule) and 18 of the 403 were caused by medical incapacitation, or 4.4%. All of those pilots possessed current medicals which had not detected the issue that caused the accident. This indicates that for pilots, medicals do little or nothing to protect the public from the hazard of any pilot undergoing a medical event that leads to incapacitation or an impaired ability to maintain control of an aircraft in flight. None of the Sport Pilot accidents were caused by a medical event.

♦ The ICAO documents indicate there is a need to maintain some level of medical oversight over aviation activities. However, the ICAO acknowledges that, in applying the “1% Rule” (one pilot incapacitation due to a medical event in roughly every one million hours) for the above grouping the incidence of risk is very low.

♦ The rule to report medical events that impact on a pilot’s medical certificate has been removed from the PPL requirements, but is retained under the RPL requirements, which results in a confusing state of affairs. Are PPLs not required to report any such situation?

The reality for any pilot is a need to self-certify prior to any flight. In recent times, this has taken the form of the “I’m Safe” checklist which includes an assessment of any medical/health issues that may impact on a pilot’s ability to safely conduct the flight. Having said that, and in light of the point above, how many pilots report to the CAA that – due to having a head cold – they are not fit to fly? My guess is very few, if any, because too many know that to do so would incur further scrutiny, and significant costs, before being cleared to fly again – no one trusts the bureaucrats!

♦ The limitation of any medical exam is that its certification is only valid at the time of the assessment. Health issues can and often do come on with little or no notice, and can very quickly become debilitating. No medical assessment can predict this. As is indicated in the top point, medical assessments are unable to accurately identify and predict the likelihood of any such condition that can impact on a pilot’s medical certificate.

♦ The ICAO states that its own information identifies the primary cause of pilot incapacitation is gastrointestinal issues (75%). These can occur in the range of minor discomfort to rapid onset and complete debilitation. They are also identified as “usually impossible to predict”.

♦ For any risk management activity to be effective, the applied treatments must be proven to be effective. It is clear that the New Zealand population available to supply the level of data necessary to properly assess risk is insufficient. Therefore the CAA must rely on international statistics to inform it of the efficacy of its oversight and regulation processes in many areas. In the area of aviation medicals, it is very clear that all the CAA achieves is to create an additional layer of unproductive bureaucracy that does not serve to protect the public of New Zealand and, moreover, appears to be a revenue-gathering exercise by a Government department and an attempt to justify the existence of highly paid (but unnecessary) jobs.

♦ It is clear that the CAA considers cost to be a significant issue in the operation of its medical unit. From a public perspective, the obvious question is: How and why is the unit structured in such a way to generate such costs, and why are efficiencies through a review of its necessary functions (as required of other Government agencies) not looked for – and a restructure achieved?

Under the principle of “User Pays”, the CAA has introduced conflict:

♦ First, through over-regulation, the CAA is forcing pilots to pay for a service that provides no benefits, either individually or to the public in general.

♦ Second, the CAA is endeavouring to have pilots subsidise the additional scrutiny required for a very small number who have had an identified medical issue occur, but wish to retain their flying privileges. This breaches the principle and unfairly imposes costs where they are not necessary.

I would like to stress that this submission is not one that requests removal of medical examinations altogether, as I do not believe that is either sensible or appropriate risk management. I also believe that the lack of statistics to the contrary is a clear indication that the current approach to medical fitness applied by the CAA is excessive and leaves significant scope to reduce the level of surveillance of pilots, particularly recreational General Aviation ones.

I submit that, in view of the above evidence and in serving not only the Government, but the general public of New Zealand and the aviation community (pilots and support functions such as maintenance organisations) the CAA would be best served by supporting and encouraging general aviation activity through the reduction of the PPL medical requirements to the same level as that of the current RPL.


♦ If you have written to the CAA – on any subject – don’t just keep it to yourself and them. You can share it with fellow aviators by sending it to the GAA as well. Email to admin [at] caa [dot] gen [dot] nz

Letter from America: I don’t want to be like New Zealand…

This is from Paul Bertorelli’s Avweb.com site based in Florida…

Paul Bertorelli: User fees are a measure of cowardice to tax the few onerously, instead of the many appropriately

Paul Bertorelli: User fees are a measure of cowardice to tax the few onerously, instead of the many appropriately

The other day, I was floating along in the Cub listening to the radio chatter when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard a native English speaker for several minutes. I listened for several more and determined that, sure enough, there were no native English speakers on the frequency. Judging by the accents, there were Indians, Germans or Italians and at least one Chinese, but no American English speakers.

I’m not about to launch off on a nativist tear here, but quite the opposite. There’s a reason for all these foreign accents here in the skies over Florida. It’s because the US remains the preferred place for students from all over the world to learn to fly. And the reasons for that are several. One is that gas is cheaper and despite our incessant whining about the FAA, the regulatory burden in the US is less onerous than about anywhere else.

Jollying it all along is the fact that in the US, we’ve built the best, most accessible aviation infrastructure in the known universe and that is why there are more airplanes, more pilots and more airports in the US than anywhere. In an age not that long ago, we had things like the Civil Works Administration that scattered airports all over the country, many of which are still used by those very same students I was listening to on the radio. Yet today, we carry on that government-provided infrastructure through the FAA’s AIP programme, funded as it is by taxes. The ATC system is similarly taxpayer-supported.

The good news is for at least this week, that system remains intact, now that the House has shelved a proposal that would have, among others things, removed ATC from FAA control and funded it through user fees. It may be a temporary reprieve, but it’s a reprieve nonetheless and I’ll take it. I’ve said in the past that I’m not philosophically or ideologically opposed to user fees, but I think given this country’s history as the world leader in accessible aviation infrastructure, user-fee supported ATC is just all wrong. I’ve heard – and written about – user fee successes in Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere, but among developed countries, the US ranks number one in per capita access to airports. (For the record, 40 small island nations rank ahead of the US, but they are merely small populations clustered around a runway. In more than a few cases, the runway was built by US dollars.)

In a political season marked by discussion about the health care system in Denmark and Norway, I suddenly realise I don’t want to be like Denmark and Norway, nor do I want to be like Canada or New Zealand when it comes to aviation fees and to hell with the Reason Foundation. We built this nice system that people from around the work flock to for a reason and, at least for the moment, we’ve decided not to screw it up. Bully for us.

What’s changed from the days when the US had the will to build the best air transportation is basically political and bureaucratic. The Congress lacks the political will and ability to fund the FAA on a predictable basis even though there’s no doubt that the tax and funding base exists to do this. User fees, at least in this context, are nothing but a measure of cowardice to excise tax the few onerously instead of the many appropriately. Toll roads sprouting up everywhere are another example of this.

For me, the math has always been inarguable. Collectively, GA user fees will never generate enough revenue to normalise the FAA’s funding stream, but they’ll be, in principle at least, so penalising as to significantly harm an industry that’s already struggling for survival, causing more exits and lower revenue. It’s the perfect lose-lose.

Unfortunately, the heaved sigh of relief is but the briefest respite. The quest for user fees will never die. But at least for the time being, we can forget about it. A cheery thought for the weekend. Meanwhile, the Pilots Bill of Rights Two with medical relief remains in play. The just-killed House reauthorisation bill had PBOR2 language and that died with it. But the Senate bill is still viable. Keep your fingers crossed.

♦ Paul Bertorelli is editor of The Aviation Consumer and AVweb.com. He is also the deputy editorial director of Belvoir Publications, which publishes Aviation Safety. He was formerly the editor of IFR. Paul’s an ATP-CFII-MEI. The website is well worth visiting.

You’ve changed your address? Heavens, that really is rocket science!

CAA boffin develops world’s most expensive rubber stamp. (Picture by flyingfox567)

CAA boffin develops world’s most expensive rubber stamp. (Picture by flyingfox567)

In the Phase 1 price review consultation, the CAA presented an option to introduce differential hourly rates for Professional/Technical and Administration staff contribution to “activities for which fees and charges are made”. There was strong support from customers.

And then, in the Phase 2 consultation document, the CAA stated:

We have established rates for Professional/Technical, and Administration staff charge- out, based on it’s [sic] cost allocation modelling. This would enable activities that are delivered predominately through administrative staff (such as aircraft registration or licensing functions) to have a different base rate applied from those activities delivered predominantly through professional/technical staff.

So we asked: Would you please provide the calculation of how the administrative hourly rate was determined and what portion of the total hourly rate is attributable to an upward movement in direct and overhead costs?

The CAA response:

The CAA does not have an administrative hourly rate. A proposal for the establishment of an administrative hourly rate was considered as part of Phase 1 consultation to the current Triennial Funding Review project but was not proceeded with.

We thought that this was a strange and confusing answer. So we contacted John Kay, General Manager, Policy and Systems Interventions, for clarification.

Mr Kay told us:

Consideration of the feedback from respondents, and an assessment of the ongoing efficiency of charging for what is a small component of the overall revenue from chargeable activity led the Authority to propose that there be no charges made for the administrative time spent on chargeable activities. This is set out in Proposal 5, specifically “We propose that administrative staff time, for which an hourly charge is currently made, is no longer charged for.”

In essence, this means, in the event that the proposal is proceeded with, that:

1) Professional/technical staff working on chargeable activities, would be charged out to participants at the current rate of $284, incl. GST (or $246.96, GST excl.); and

2) Administrative staff working on chargeable activities, would be not charged out to participants, (that is $0)

We thought that the Authority’s proposal was to be commended, particularly in the climate of steadily increasing costs in other areas to CAA clients. But to test how this change of policy might play out, we went back to Mr Kay and told him that in December of last year, a Part 115 operator queried a CAA invoice for processing a change of address notification. The operator had moved from one hangar at Ardmore to another on the same airfield.

He was charged $355 for a simple amendment to the address shown on his Part 115 Adventure Aviation Certificate.

At the time, the reply from the Authority was that:

In this case time was required to change the office address and ensure the exposition was correct where that new address was published – which it wasn’t, and follow up with your exposition writers. An hour is conservative for the time taken to complete this, and again it was actual work done. The remaining 15 minutes was for all administration tasks associated with the work request.

We asked Mr Kay that, if we understood his letter correctly and if Proposal 5 is adopted, there would be no charge for a simple change of address amendment to an Exposition?

Mr Kay stated:

In the case you refer to in your letter, the professional/technical activity carried out by CAA staff was ensuring that the changes being requested were consistent with the exposition. This required clarification with the participant. One hour of professional/technical staff time was charged for. In addition, 15 minutes administrative time incurred on the activity.

Under the Authority’s proposal, the participant in this scenario would be invoiced for one hour for the activity carried out by professional/technical staff, but would not be charged for the 0.25 hours of administrative time incurred on the activity.

We’ve told Mr Kay: “Your explanation does little to convince us that this charge was justified and we would go further to say that those who have been made aware of the scenario we presented to you consider it nothing less than a rort. This was in essence a clerical matter that any competent clerk could have processed at minimal time and cost even if meant picking up a telephone to get further clarification”.

It is with deep scepticism that we view the seemingly benevolent CAA proposal to not charge for administrative time. There will undoubtedly be creative ways to ensure that administrative work will still be classed as professional or technical…