Welcome to the General Aviation Advocacy Group of New Zealand

Archives for August 2016

Ag pilot competency checks: CAA leaves a mess in its wake

CAA - the fox in charge of the henhouse

CAA – the fox is in charge of the henhouse

The CAA is clearly in difficulties over its plans to reform the testing regime for agricultural pilots, particularly since the GAA pointed out that much of the proposed reform was not practical – particularly for the single-seat, single-control fixed-wing aircraft. Yes, it may be “legal” using the subtle differences in interpretation between a “passenger”, a“crew member” and a “required crew member”.

However, legality does not necessarily translate into a safe operation.

There are serious Health and Safety implications in the CAA’s proposals. Protests from the ag operators have highlighted the hazards. The CAA has adroitly passed the health and safety issues back to the operators and made them responsible for mitigating the dangers.

Because some of the single-control aircraft do not have a specific reference in their operating limitation pages of their flight manuals (a single-control Fletcher aircraft has only a placard on the panel, for example), the CAA says that the manufacturers do not specifically prohibit the carriage of a person in the jump seat during actual agricultural operations. However, a GA 200C Fatman, for example, does have a specific reference in the limitations pages to the fact that the passenger seat must not be occupied during agricultural operations and therefore an E Cat or a flight examiner may not be legally carried in that seat.

To mitigate the risks of restricted control movement caused by the person occupying the passenger seat during actual agricultural operations, the CAA has passed that responsibilty over to the PIC to ensure he has full and free control movement before takeoff. Whether this control check adequately takes into account the person in the passenger seat shifting his pre-takeoff seated position during a critical phase of flight, such as the low level reversal turns at the end of a spray or topdressing run, is open to conjecture.

As a result of submissions regarding the difficulties in complying with AC 61-15, the CAA has modified its stance and now permits ground observations of Ag competency checks in single-control, single-seat aircraft, provided they are backed up with high resolution video footage taken from within the cockpit.

The CAA is delegated to manage the new Health and Safety Act in the sphere of aviation. We question how the CAA can be expected to carry out an independent investigation of its own ACs and AMCs when it is, in effect, the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Ag pilots – a tiny and easily identifiable group for the CAA – were never individually consulted when the Authority issued its first AC about flight testing.

The Authority’s latest Advisory Circular is now up to Revision 5.

Of course, all this nonsense could have been avoided by proper consultation.

The General Manager GA has told us that there is no requirement for the CAA to consult on the addition of an AMC (Acceptable Means of Compliance) to an AC, although it may disclose and discuss the AMC informally but not necessarily with all interested parties.

However, the parties most affected by the Rule and the first version of the AC were the single-seat, single-control, fixed-wing Ag pilots – and they were not specifically consulted. We ask the obvious question: “How hard would that have been?”

We say that the way the Authority handles ACs and AMCs amounts to regulation by stealth, there being no compulsory requirement to consult with all interested parties – leaving the CAA at liberty to advise hand-picked groups claiming to represent the industry.


♦ 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


CAA Funding Review: Mud sticks – and so do promises

It wasn’t just former Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee who, in 2012 (when imposing those dramatic rises), promised to reduce or remove the need for increased CAA charges in the 2015-2018 triennial review. He spoke for every minister of the day. In 2016, that still involves at least 13 ministers in the present Cabinet.

Min of Tran Simon Bridges: Muddled response

Min of Tran Simon Bridges: Muddled response

There seems to be an official reluctance to even acknowledge Mr Brownlee’s undertaking, possibly because bureaucrats and politicians wish to avoid accusations of broken promises. Current Transport Minister Simon Bridges’ muddling response, when recently faced with sharp questions in the House from NZ First’s Denis O’Rourke, was, we suspect, because he had been hoodwinked by officials who had conveniently failed to brief him about the Brownlee pledge.

If you read the CAA’s briefing papers to the incoming minister in 2014, you’ll see that its “first principles review” of future funding was already under way.

This suggests that Minister Brownlee either approved a first principles review in the expectation that charges would be held or reduced and the present hourly rate of $288 would become the 100% cost recovery rate, or officials charged off on their own. Gerry Brownlee is not known to mislead his Cabinet colleagues. He’s a minister of long standing. His expectation would be that the promise:

For the period for the next funding review (that is 2015-2018) the Civil Aviation Authority will look to decrease costs so that fees and charges reflect full cost recovery from 2015/16 and the need for further increases is reduced or removed…”

would be honoured.

Few ministers have objections to “first principle” reviews; such reviews are set in the context of the Government’s overall policy objective. In this case, the CAA apparently never told Mr Bridges that his predecessor had committed to two things:

  • Decreased costs
  • Need for further increases reduced or removed.

One can only assume that the promises were designed to get the controversial 2012 increases across the line. In other words, they were false and merely designed to comfort other ministers who were concerned that the draconian 2012 rises were unfair.

We also know that, this time round, many politicians are uncomfortable that those who can afford to pay – such as central and local government-controlled monopolies – get a free ride under the new proposals, while some of our most vulnerable operators, servicing similarly vulnerable communities, must pay up to 300-400% more.

If the present review is a “first principles review”, why weren’t these principles clearly articulated to everyone?

I was around when we went to “user pays”. The first principle of user pays is that the users have a say. As users, what say had we in the $43m of revenue the CAA claims it needs? As far as I am aware (along with everyone I have spoken to), we were merely told that $43m was what CAA wanted. Well, let me offer just a few of many money-saving thoughts:

  • The Civil Aviation Act S.72 E requires the Board to consider the most efficient and effective means of performing its functions and discharging its powers either by delegation, contracting or performing in-house. There is no evidence that the Board has ever done this. Why not?
  • The CAA undertook an expensive investigation ($250,000-plus) of an accident involving a US-registered aircraft. The Feds were not even interested and the findings were of zero benefit to the New Zealand flying public – where’s the accountability for that?
  • LTSA has a perfectly good system for registering vehicles. Why can’t we register our aircraft on the same system and at the same cost?

The second principle: All who benefit should contribute something. This means there should be no free-loaders. Under the CAA’s new proposals, this principle is destroyed. The likes of the private pilot will pro rata contribute more to financing the system than any airport, ATC and Met provider, engineering company or registered cargo agent. This is unfair and unjust.

The third principle: Where an activity can be identified and linked to a beneficiary, an hourly rate should be charged. This is not merely some flight of fancy but is enshrined in how charges must be set. There must be zero cross-subsidisation of these activities.

The fourth principle: Ability to pay. Not all companies and/or individuals have an equal ability to pay. Some businesses derive much more global credibility than others, through having a competent regulatory authority.

The fifth principle: When all activities have been allocated fairly according to the 100% cost recovery hourly rate, then – and only then – can a levy be struck. Levies cannot be based on hours because if a beneficiary can be identified, that beneficiary must pay.

One of the reasons the Ag levy is so high is because of the cost of implementing the Ag Sector profile. I put money on it that Ag operators were never told they would have to retrospectively pay for the Ag Sector profile. Levies – as with taxes – can’t be applied retrospectively without Parliament’s authorisation. This is a big NO NO.

Recent advice from the CAA says: “The Board… has now finalised its advice to the Minister of Transport. As he is now considering that advice, it is not appropriate for me to comment further…..”

This clearly shows that the Regulatory Impact Statement (a document forming part of the advice to ministers) was undertaken by officials without any transparency or consultation with industry as to the impact of the proposals. We had sought, on the industry’s behalf, an independent development of the RIS. The Chairman of the CAA didn’t even bother to respond to that letter.

We are determined to oppose any unjust or unfair proposal and will use every means at our disposal.

The GAA has commenced a formal complaint process with the Minister of Transport, highlighting the areas where consultation has been deficient, and in particular:

  • the “selective” nature of aspects of the consultation process
  • the failure of the CAA to release to all parties the individual submissions it received
  • the timing of the consultation process, which curiously coincided with peak work periods for the industry
  • the lack of full financial transparency around the levy proposals
  • the defective thinking behind decisions that would permit “free-loading”

Individually, these aspects may seem minor. Collectively, they form a convincing basis to claim a breach of process and to challenge these proposals.

The future for our CVD pilots: GD Review Panel’s findings, in black and white

"...much evidence was presented to support the view that most CVD in pilots is not likely to be of aeromedical significance"

“…much evidence was presented to support the view that most CVD in pilots is not likely to be of aeromedical significance”

The full report of the Colour Vision Deficiency General Direction Review Panel runs to 87 pages. In the interests of brevity, we have condensed it to three A4 pages. Fifty-nine written submissions were received in response to the consultation process. Of these, 15 were from aviation groups and the remaining 44 from individuals.

The Principal Medical Officer, Dr Dougal Watson, also provided the panel with a PowerPoint presentation. In answer to a question regarding the reasoning behind the proposed flight restrictions for a pilot who is CVD, he said that the “restrictions are historical”. This was a key issue for the panel, particularly in relation to the risk posed by a pilot with CVD, the different operational environments pilots operate in and who should be determining restrictions under which a pilot is to operate.

The PMO also said that he thought practical flight tests are unreliable.

But in the panel’s now-released opinion, a flight examination has the same status as a medical examination in ensuring that a pilot is not a threat to the public and renewing their privileges to fly. Here are the key points in the panel’s report:

Part 6 – Conclusions

  1. The colour vision status of those holding a medical certificate issued under CAR Part 67 needs to be known, just as other aspects of the physical status of pilots is known; e.g. other aspects of vision, hearing and mental health status. If routine screening or non-routine examination (including a practical test) acceptable to the Director can be passed, then the CVD is not of aeromedical significance.
  2. The promulgation of a GD for colour vision is appropriate to provide certainty, clarity and consistency.
  3. CVD is a potential safety threat although there is difficulty in establishing exactly what the threat is. In this respect, the guidance provided by ICAO is not helpful. The ICAO Manual of Civil Aviation Medicine admits that there is very little information which shows the real, practical implications of colour vision defects on aviation safety. ICAO standards for colour vision pre-date many advances in aviation technology and flight safety, which raises doubt over the validity of many of the traditional reasons for imposing restrictions on a CVD pilot and calls into question what is and is not of aeromedical significance. The situation is compounded by inconsistent standards being applied by different states and by the same state over time.
  4. Advances in aviation, technology and training mean greater emphasis can be placed on interpreting information rather than simply the recognition of colours if this is not essential to the operation. These advances, and the additional safety they bring to aviation in general, are such that relaxing CVD requirements will likely not impact on safety. No evidence or compelling argument was presented to the panel that related perceived aeromedical significance of CVD to known or proven threats to flight safety. On the contrary, much evidence was presented to support the view that most CVD in pilots is not likely to be of aeromedical significance. Similarly, the accumulated hours flown by pilots around the world, especially in Australia, suggests CVD pilots are likely to pose no greater safety risk than a non-CVD pilot.
  5. There is a lack of evidence to support the proposed medical certificate restrictions, and the proposed restrictions do not reflect risks posed by CVD in the context of modern aviation.
  6. Any restrictions imposed on a pilot with a CVD condition must be applied on the basis of an identifiable threat to safety or risk. The question as to whether or not a condition is of aeromedical significance, and hence the level of risk, is dependent on the operational context; the type and nature of the operation; type of aircraft; and crew composition. What may be significant for one situation may not be for another. The variability is too great to be dealt with by generalised restrictions as proposed in the GD.
  7. There is no strong link between the office-based examination of CVD and real world realities. Under the proposed GD, the assessment of interferes with or likely to interfere with is ascertained from office-based assessments only. This assessment cannot be made from office-based tests only and can only be determined by an in-flight practical test. While aviation medicine and flight operations specialists will need to be involved in the development of protocols for in-flight testing, only a flight examiner or flight instructor will be in a position to assess the ability of a pilot with a CVD condition to operate an aircraft safely. Thus the effect that a CVD condition will have on the ability of a pilot to safely exercise the privileges of a licence is a flight operations issue, not a medical issue.
  8. The CAD test appears to be the best office-based occupational test available and it is appropriate that it is added to the list of acceptable non-routine examinations. Overall though, the GD appears to be too limited in acceptable non-routine tests and while the GD suggests other tests may be acceptable to the Director, AC67-1 does not reflect this.
  9. Consistency in standards and restrictions with other states, particularly Australia, is desirable; however it is more appropriate to direct any initiatives in this respect to ICAO to progress.
  10. A three-tier testing regime which includes an in-flight test is a more appropriate method than the proposed GD to assess colour vision and to determine the ability of a candidate to safely exercise the privileges or the safe performance of the duties to which the relevant medical certificate relates. Such a regime would maintain New Zealand’s compliance with ICAO requirements in this respect and will identify the operational risks of CVD. The three tiers are:
  • Stage 1 – Initial Routine Screening. The current screening proposed by the GD using the Ishihara test using the pass criteria as proposed in the GD.
  • Stage 2 – Non-routine office-based examination. Should an applicant not pass routine screening, non-routine office-based examinations are conducted to establish the nature and severity of the condition. If any test is passed, then the condition can be deemed as not of aeromedical significance.
  • Stage 3 – Practical test. Should it be necessary, a specifically tailored flight assessment or simulator exercise is conducted to determine the ability of the candidate to safely operate an aircraft.
  1. It is appropriate that Stage 2 and 3 testing is conducted through the AMC process, including the ability for a candidate to forego non-routine examinations and accept restrictions based on the initial screening results.
  2. Any restrictions placed on a candidate’s certificate must be based on the context of the individual’s circumstances; the nature and severity of the condition, and the intended operation

Part 7 – Recommendations

  1. The CVD GD Review Panel recommends that the Director proceed with the General Direction – Impaired Colour Vision with the following changes:
  2. Review the GD with respect to acceptable non-routine office based examinations to ensure other tests currently in use by other ICAO regulatory authorities are included as acceptable tests.
  3. Introduce the CAD test as proposed.
  4. Include a practical flight test to the examination procedure as a third stage following initial screening and non-routine examination so that a candidate may demonstrate their ability to operate an aircraft safely.
  5. Ensure that certificate endorsements, including the need for any ongoing tests should a CVD condition be deemed to be of aeromedical significance, are based on input from both medical and operational staff and are related to the individual’s particular situation with respect to condition and operational context, and noting that only an in-flight test can assess the ability of a pilot with a CVD condition to operate an aircraft safely.
  6. Develop appropriate protocols, procedures and guidance to ensure the practical test is appropriate to the nature and severity of an applicant’s CVD condition and the context of the candidate’s intended operation and the identifiable risk that the candidate poses.
  7. The Review Panel further recommends that the Director conducts further evaluation into the colour perception needs of air traffic controllers.

The bottom line.

This report does not reflect CAA policy and simply provides guidance to the Director. We will need to wait until the PMO provides his report to the Director. A final decision on what process the CAA will adopt is not expected until November.