Welcome to the General Aviation Advocacy Group of New Zealand

2017 December Bulletin

The ‘Empty-skies-are-safe-skies’ policy is killing Aussie aviation

(and New Zealand has the same symptoms)

By DICK SMITH in The Australian, 28 December 2017

I don’t think you should ever regard aviation safety as what is affordable. — Australian Federal transport minister John Anderson, October 5, 2000

Dick Smith – I have been warning for years that introducing regulations that ignore cost have been crippling the industry…

I welcome the appointment of Barnaby Joyce as Australia’s new Transport Minister. He certainly has a challenge in front of him when it comes to Australia’s general aviation industry, which is in a state of near collapse after years of failed government policy.

It will take someone as senior as the Deputy Prime Minister to sort out this mess. As The Australian has reported, general aviation — so vital in a big country like ours — is in serious trouble. Crippled by skyrocketing regulatory costs and pointless red tape, businesses are closing and much of the flying training industry is being sold off to Chinese buyers at bargain rates. A federal government report last week showed the drastic decline brought on by the excessive costs: general aviation flying hours, which include the vital flying training industry, have declined by 40 per cent in just five years.

But none of this is new. I have been warning for years that introducing regulations that ignore cost have been crippling the industry. It was 17 years ago that I ­became involved in a very public disagreement with Joyce’s predecessor, John Anderson, who introduced the ­policies that have resulted in today’s mess.

At the time, I was chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and I warned Anderson that the substantial additional costs that had been placed on the industry by the sell-off of the airports and the “user pays” air traffic ­control system would have to be balanced by a reduction in other costs.

Driven by bureaucrats with little understanding of business, he pursued a policy of regulations ­regardless of cost, with the inevitable result that ridiculous levels of regulation have made it im­possible to maintain a viable industry. It seems that for the bureaucrats, the safest skies are empty skies, similar to the Yes Minister episode about the hospital with no patients.

Anderson refused to meet me to discuss the issue, releasing a public statement that showed how little he understood. “I don’t think that you should ever regard aviation safety as what is affordable,” he claimed. “Safety is something which has the highest priority — it is not a question of cost.”

In effect he was saying that with air safety there was no cost that was too high to pay, ignoring the fact this would make the cost of air tickets unaffordable to anyone other than the ultra-wealthy.

Anderson’s public statement was quickly embraced by the ­bureaucrats within CASA and the denial that cost should be considered became an almost cult-like ­belief that still exists in that organisation to this day.

Former NZ Transport Minister Simon Bridges: he also had an entrenched public service and he also was in denial. Will his successor be any better?

Aviation is like anything else in life. The amount of money that you can spend on safety is always limited by what the marketplace can afford. If regulations are written that increase the cost of flying too much, people can’t afford to fly and businesses go broke.

The inevitable result of this stubborn insistence that there are no limits to the costs that could be imposed on the aviation industry is a situation where operators simply can’t afford to meet the red tape and expenses.

It has done nothing to improve safety and will very likely lead to a situation where most pilots in Australia will come from Asia. The losers are many of Joyce’s constituents in rural and regional Australia who rely greatly on general aviation as a vital link in Australia’s transport systems.

It means we will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in export earnings from flight training and other operations that are no longer Australian-owned.

Before Anderson became minister, the CASA service charter ­directed that Australia should ­follow “proven safe procedures and standards from leading aviation countries which best allocate finite safety resources, to protect fare-paying passengers and ­encourage high participation levels in aviation”.

But this directive was removed from the charter in the Anderson years. I fought these changes while chairman of CASA but failed to overcome an entrenched public service and a transport minister in denial. I resigned rather than be held responsible for the slow death of an industry that I have been a part of for more than 40 years.

I hope now that under a new minister we can get back to a sensible policy that balances costs and regulation in a rational way.

Joyce will need to move quickly to reverse the disastrous “ignore cost” policies of the past. I will give him every support and I do hope he listens to the industry before it is too late.

  • There are further signs of crisis in Australia, where visa restrictions on foreign pilots are set to be relaxed because of a looming crew shortage, and Chinese airlines are said to be poaching pilots with offers of salaries up to $750,000. Read about it here.
  • Dick Smith is the former chairman of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The independent CAA Customer Satisfaction Survey is under way

The General Aviation Advocacy Group has launched an independent survey of CAA customer satisfaction. This is the first comprehensive opinion poll of NZ CAA clients since 2003.

If you don’t express yours, you can’t influence theirs

When the CAA learned the results of its 2003 survey, the bureaucrats were not happy. Customers were so critical of the authority that the exercise was never repeated. The CAA has always refused to consider it, rejecting requests from the GAA and others.

In 2010, the CAA was dealt another blow by the Martin Jenkins Value for Money Report, which identified persistent failings. Since then, no one – high or low – has managed to extract any detailed information from the CAA about what has been done to improve its performance.

The authority is apparently planning a series of surveys, none of which measure overall customer satisfaction. The first, about CAA communications, was virtually unpublicised. The GAA discovered it by accident. It asked, amongst other things, if users would like the CAA to use Facebook or Twitter.

No fit and proper person in aviation would rely on Facebook or Twitter for serious or in-depth messages from (or to) the CAA. And the authority would find it impossible to communicate all but the briefest of messages through Twitter, because of its severely limited character count.

In an annual report, the CAA states that it spent $40,000 on one small Colmar Brunton survey.

GAA volunteers are running a far more sophisticated and comprehensive survey, for about $400.

The Independent Client Satisfaction Survey of the NZ Civil Aviation Authority is modelled on the CAA’s 2003 survey, updated to reflect changes in aviation (as well as other surveys including those by CASA, our neighbouring Australian authority).

It is in four parts and covers:

  • How customers feel about their relationship with the CAA, its charges, and how complaints might be better handled
  • Service delivery and the CAA’s dialogue with aviation system participants
  • The development and reform of aviation regulations, compliance with regulations, and medical issues
  • Best practice, consistency of decision-making, safety reporting and audits

Each part contains about 30 questions.

Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The survey is anonymous. No one taking part will be tracked or recorded. Many participants in the New Zealand aviation system are very afraid of the Civil Aviation Authority. We have taken great care to protect them and encourage freedom of expression.

The results will be presented to the CAA board and management, the Minister of Transport, Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee, other decision-makers and the media.

One question missing from the survey is: Should the CAA run regular customer satisfaction surveys?

If enough people involved in New Zealand General Aviation take part in this sector-generated survey, the CAA will get the answer – and the broader message.

Please help to send that message.

Thank you for supporting the GAA team in 2017. We send our best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and 2018. It promises to be an unusually interesting year for everyone in NZ’s GA.

Major improvements to the aviation medical system – but not ours…

Kiwis are at the end of the Earth, in more ways than one…

Thousands of pilots in Australia are set to benefit from major reforms to the aviation medical certificate system.

They go much further than our CAA’s proposals in a recent medical survey.

The reforms by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) include creating a new category of private pilot medical certificate, allowing non-passenger-carrying commercial operations under a full Class 2 medical certificate and increasing the delegation of decision-making to medical professionals.

The new medical certificate category, to be known as a basic Class 2, will be available to private pilots flying piston engine-powered aircraft carrying up to five non-fare-paying passengers. Operations will be limited to daytime visual flight rules and will be permitted in all classes of airspace.

This basic Class 2 medical certificate will require an assessment by a doctor using the Austroads commercial vehicle driver standards. General practitioners will be able to carry out assessments.

The commercial vehicle medical standards currently apply to drivers of heavy vehicles, public passenger vehicles and vehicles carrying bulk dangerous goods. They cover medical issues such as cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, psychiatric conditions, blackouts, substance abuse and vision and hearing disorders.

The new basic Class 2 medical will be valid for a maximum of five years up to the age of 40 and a maximum of two years above the age of 40.

The current unrestricted Class 2 medical certificate will remain in place for private pilots operating aircraft up to 8618 kg with a maximum of nine non-fare-paying passengers. This unrestricted Class 2 medical will be used under all flight rules and allow for operations in all classes of airspace.

Importantly, pilots flying commercial operations with no passengers – such as flying training and aerial agriculture – will now be able to do so on the basis of an unrestricted Class 2 medical certificate. Previously, these operations required the pilot to hold a Class 1 medical certificate.

CASA’s CEO and Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, said the reforms to the aviation medical system maintain appropriate safety standards while offering flexibility and less red tape.

“CASA has been engaged with the aviation community and made a series of fundamental reforms to aviation medical certification,” Mr Carmody said. “We have initially focused on changes that benefit general aviation because this sector has been telling us the current medical certification system was causing real difficulties.

“In the interests of public safety, it is important that pilots meet relevant medical standards but the system must not make unnecessary demands and should meet the needs of the aviation community.

“I am pleased we are making changes that will see more appropriate medical standards applied to flying training and aerial agriculture – two vital sectors of Australian aviation.

“CASA will now continue to review the aviation medical system to identify possible improvements in areas such as using medical data more effectively, further streamlining processes, further reducing CASA involvement in medicals and harmonising with global best practices.

“It is CASA’s role to maintain appropriate aviation safety standards, but the requirements must not unnecessarily burden Australian aviation and hinder development and growth.”

The reforms to aviation medical certification will be progressively introduced during 2018.

e-Licensing becomes a reality for commercial pilots, but not ours…

Once registered with an account, pilots will be able to track the progress of their application, view the privileges they hold and have the ability to update personal details such as a change of address. The new e-Licensing will also benefit flight training schools, allowing them submit course completion details online and apply on behalf of their students.

Commercial pilots will need to create an online account to access CAA licensing services. However, individuals are advised to wait until they need to make a transaction before setting up an account. More information can be found on the dedicated e-licensing webpage at caa.co.uk/elicensing.

Sorry, folks. This no-brainer improvement, based on old technology, is apparently unavailable in New Zealand.

Drones: Tests for UK operators – and programming the beast to behave itself

Picture by Jakob Owens – Unsplash

Drone users in the UK may have to take safety awareness tests under legislation planned by the government.

The move has been welcomed by the British Airline Pilots Association, which has warned of near misses involving drones and aircraft. Balpa said there had been 81 incidents in the UK this year – up from 71 in 2016 and 29 in 2015.

A proposed Bill would force owners of drones weighing more than 250g to register and sit a test.

Drone pilot and trainer Elliott Corke said most recreational and commercial-purpose drones weigh more than 250g.

Christian Struwe of drone-maker DJI warned that some of the proposals may be difficult to police – for example the 400ft height restriction. But he told the BBC Breakfast programme: “The good thing is that as an industry we are already working on it. We can limit how high they can fly.”

We also understand that manufacturers can program ‘geo-fencing’ into their drones to make it impossible for them to fly within airspaces identified by the on-board GPS, such as airfields, other areas used by low-flying aircraft, and prisons.

The $11.10 triumph: It was like drawing blood from a stone

Scrooge would have admired the NZ CAA

As a result of the GAA’s challenge to the wording of AC61-20 Rev 7, we secured refunds for CPL and ATPL holders who wished to exercise the privileges stated in CAR 61.41 and had previously been required to apply (and pay) for a Recreational Pilot Licence.

But we also sought a refund of the $11.10 NZTA fee, which was part of the Fit and Proper Person declaration. At first, the CAA wanted proof of payment, but we objected to that because the charging error was the authority’s and the onus was on the CAA to rectify the matter using its own records. A CAA official sniffily told us we would have to visit the authority’s website to discover what it had decided about this.

Then the CAA seemed to recognise its rudeness and wrote again, saying:

CAA is prepared to reimburse that sum to affected RPL holders without proof of payment being required. To identify eligibility, CAA will be reviewing each individual’s file. Please note that the LTSA fee of $11.10 has only been in place since 01 June 2011 so anyone obtaining a report prior to this date would not have incurred any cost.

Reimbursements will be processed as soon as possible in the upcoming weeks to all those who have responded to their letters.

Admittedly a small monetary win, but it’s the principle that matters.

Oh, and restoring some degree of courtesy…

The current situation regarding PPL holders

The GAA has also been pursuing the issue of an “anomaly” in CAR 61.41 which prevents PPL holders from exercising the privileges of a lower licence – the RPL. The CAA had told us:

We have discussed the content of your letter at some length and while agreeing that the current wording of Part 61.41 creates an anomaly we cannot change that in the AC as the Rule overrides the AC. We will be making it clear in the AC that in its current state the Rule only applies to ATPL and CPL. However, we are in the process of submitting an issue assessment recommendation to address this anomaly. Part 61.41 is prescriptive and will require a Rule change to allow PPL to be treated in the same manner as ATPL and CPL hence the need for this issues assessment. We encourage you to submit a request for a Rules issue assessment of Part 61.41 to add weight to the process.

Please note that we cannot confirm the implied intent of Part 61.41(b) as the Rules are made by the Minister under section 14A(d) of the Civil Aviation Act therefore the intent is the Minister’s not the Authority’s.

After that, we submitted a request for a Rules issue assessment. This process will take some considerable time (probably years), due to other assessments that are ahead of ours.

As a stopgap measure, we petitioned the Director to exercise his exemption power under s37 of the Civil Aviation Act. At first, he refused, until we showed him evidence of his having signed an exemption in similar circumstances. We’re looking forward to Graeme Harris’s decision.

AC61-18 and D Cats and third-level instruments

There is a continuing CAA tendency to use third-level instruments to wrongly manipulate regulations, rules and other legislation. This bad behaviour was recognised long ago, in the Swedavia-McGregor Report.

In AC 61-18, the authority purports to decree that rule 61.307 (h) does not apply to Category D flight instructor ratings.

It also claims that the holder of a Category A or B flight instructor rating who is not current may not exercise the privileges associated with a Category D flight instructor rating as a matter of right.

CAR 61.307 (h) is plain and simple. There is no rule that prohibits the holder of a Category A or B flight instructor rating from exercising Rule 61.307 (h) as of right. There is no legal requirement for a Category A or B flight instructor to apply for a Category D flight instructor rating whether or not they are current in the higher rating, provided they meet the currency requirements of the lower rating and otherwise comply with the rules.

Neither an AC nor the Director hold any power to negate the rules. They can only be issued and revoked by the Minister or the Governor-General.

The authority’s claim that CAR 61.307 (h) does not include the Category D flight instructor rating and that this is a separate rating, not a lower category, is not merely creative.

It is unlawful.

Clearly, a Category D flight instructor rating is a lower rating than Category A and B flight instructor ratings.

We brought this error to the CAA’s attention at the beginning of September, and waited so long for a reply from its legal section that we had to file yet another complaint for a breach of the CAA’s Service Charter.

The discussion continues…

AC 61-20 Revision 8

Having revealed to the CAA its unlawful content of AC61-20 Version 7, we then discovered that it had failed to correct all the rule errors in Version 8. In particular, its note on page 6:

Notes: Under rule 61.303, an RPL does not qualify the holder for the issue of a flight instructor rating. Therefore, a flight instructor rating cannot be endorsed on an RPL. A person holding a flight instructor rating endorsed on a CPL or ATPL may not exercise the privileges of that instructor rating with a Land Transport (DL9) medical certificate.

So we told the authority that Rule 61.303 sets out the eligibility requirements for the issue of instructor ratings and explained:

Clearly, this eligibility requirement is set to ensure that the applicant for the issue of an instructor rating has met a given level of aviation knowledge and piloting skill. However, there is no rule that restricts the exercise of an instructor rating on a lower licence provided the operation meets all the requirements of that lower licence and the instructor rating. We have already demonstrated that a CPL or ATPL holders may exercise the privileges of a lower licence.

For example, a B Cat Instructor may exercise the instructor rating on the privileges of a PPL provided he/she meets all the requirements of currency for both the rating and the licence. This would include, in part, meeting the requirements of 61.307 (d).

In another example, a holder of a D Cat Instructor rating or an A or B Cat Instructor exercising the privileges of a D Cat under CAR 61.307 (h) may issue type ratings in accordance with the excessive restrictions of CAR 61.37. There is nothing in CAR 61.37, which prohibits the exerciser of those privileges from giving instruction. (ref CAR 61.37).

Whilst an instructor rating cannot be issued on a RPL, the holder of a CPL or ATPL lifetime licence holding an instructor rating and exercising the privileges of the PPL or RPL already has the rating endorsed on the appropriate licence. In this case, there is no physical PPL or RPL to endorse with an instructor rating.

The appropriate instructor rating will be endorsed on the licence-holder’s ATPL or CPL.

We’re told that this is also being considered by the authority’s legal section.

Meanwhile, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  To us, these CARs are – by definition – prescriptive.

Audio and video use as evidence

We’ve been made aware of a pending prosecution against a pilot that we believe has serious implications for general aviators as well as professional pilots.

It involves a pilot who is being prosecuted for events that occurred on a cross-country flight during which the aircraft encountered unforecast bad weather.

The evidence that the CAA is principally relying on stems from audio and video material recorded by a young student pilot, during a training flight. The student used a GoPro camera fitted inside the cockpit, and a separate audio recording device.

The lawyer acting for the pilot believes that cockpit audio and video recordings are inadmissible in any criminal proceedings in New Zealand, against any pilot. There is Court of Appeal support for this, following the 1990s Dash 8 crash on approach to Palmerston North, with no other court decision to the contrary.

The CAA view

The CAA takes the view that this exclusion of audio and video recordings applies only if TAIC is investigating and that it is free to use such audio and visual evidence in prosecuting a pilot, where the CAA or the police have investigated and not TAIC. The pilot’s lawyer is of the view this opinion was not supported by the Court of Appeal decision. Also, when the TAIC Amendment Bill was passed through Parliament to prohibit CVRs being used in criminal proceedings against pilots, the Hansard records of the third reading of the Bill when enacted did not support the CAA’s opinion either. We understand the CAA has used this type of evidence in other prosecutions and, if not challenged, will continue to do so.

The entire issue needs to be considered and ruled upon.

The implications for GA pilots and operators

You never know who’s watching…

If the CAA is successful in securing the admissibility of cockpit audio and video recordings in cases other than a TAIC investigation, the implications for GA pilots are obvious.

Since the 1990s, when the TAIC Amendment Bill was introduced in respect to dedicated aircraft CVRs, rapid and probably unforeseen advances in technology have resulted in a proliferation of pseudo-CVRs in the form of GoPro-style cameras, iPads, smartphones and the like.

A recording taken by a co-pilot or student pilot, or even a passenger within close proximity to the cockpit on a smart device or camera can now be taken out of context, and used to bring prosecution action against a pilot. These devices, with their monocular depth perception and limited field of vision, will often portray an inaccurate view of what a pilot is actually encountering and weather conditions in particular may look worse than what was actually experienced.

The CAA could use such recordings in a prosecution against a GA pilot, unless a ruling is made that they are totally inadmissible against all pilots, regardless of who investigates.

The CAA has applied to the District Court to have the video and audio evidence admitted against the pilot. The pilot is therefore in the position of either having to accept that the CAA can use that evidence, or defend it. If the CAA loses in the District Court, it is likely to appeal, as any ruling prohibiting the authority from using such information obviously has ongoing implications in future CAA investigations. That has serious cost implications for the accused pilot, who cannot afford to fight this alone. A ballpark forecast of costs to argue the matter in the District Court alone is about $15,000.

The matter is due to be heard in the District Court on 14 November. At this time, the pilot does not have sufficient funds to meet the estimated costs of fighting this legal challenge, and if unable to do so, it may be left to the Judge to decide and rule on the admissibility point with the CAA lawyers appearing and making submissions, and potentially no one appearing to argue against them.

We need to recognise, as a community of aviators, that what the accused is confronting has wider implications for the rest of us. This is why we are looking for support from fellow pilots and operators prepared to assist in the funding to obtain a definitive judicial ruling on the admissibility of these recordings as evidence in criminal proceedings against all pilots.

To enable contributions, a bank account has been set up:

ASB, Victoria Road, Devonport

The account name is GA Advocacy Fund

The account number is 12-3065-0148085-02

All funds collected will be applied to fighting this legal admissibility issue alone. Should the pilot subsequently have to go to court to answer to the substantive charge, the pilot will have to ultimately decide on what course to take, and will bear any costs of that.

If for any reason there is a surplus of funds after this admissibility issue is resolved, we would ask you to contribute on the basis that a record of all contributors will be kept and all contributors will be surveyed as to how the General Aviation Advocacy Group should apply any surplus funds.

We urge you to consider making even a small donation to assist in this important legal challenge.

Client Satisfaction Surveys in a post-factual world…

The CAA is either living in a fools’ paradise and thinks all its customers are happy, or it is deeply afraid to ask them. We can’t think of any other reason why the CAA refuses to hire a neutral organisation and tell it go to the customers and ask some honest questions. We also have convincing proof that no company or organisation can rely on anything other than an independent monitoring of its customers.

Here’s why…

In January this year, we wrote to the Chairman of the CAA Board pointing out that the Authority engaged Colmar Brunton to undertake a client satisfaction survey in 1995 and 1998; five years later in 2003, the same research company carried out a similar survey. Since then, there have been no further CAA Client Satisfaction Surveys specifically targeting all CAA document holders. The 2003 survey’s results did not heap praise upon the CAA.

In his reply, the Chairman said:

“Your interest in surveys is topical as the CAA will shortly be repeating its flagship ‘Feel Safe’ survey conducted by Colmar Brunton. Management are currently planning on supplementing the survey, or even splitting its content, so that while retaining its prior focus on the CAA’s ultimate customer (the public) it also provides more information from the aviation sector”.

OK, it’s costing you $4.50 a minute. But do have a problem with me?

The Colmar Brunton “Feel Safe” surveys have typically only contained results from 300 to 400 respondents. We have written to the Chairman and asked that all CAA document holders be made aware of his planned consumer survey. But we reminded Mr Gould that this is just a consumer survey, and what is actually required is a CAA document-holder survey related to specific client issues, and promoted via the CAA’s email user database and Vector magazine.

Post-audit or inspection feedback to the CAA

In our letter to the Chairman, we pointed out that MoBIE has for many years operated a system in which, after every investigation, an inspector is required to send a client satisfaction survey to all parties involved. Something similar would be a valuable tool for the CAA Director for feedback about, to quote just one example, the knowledge and performance of auditors and the way they interact with aircraft operators and aircraft maintenance facilities. A client feedback system also provides useful information to senior managers of departments to gauge the performance of individual staff members as part of their yearly performance reviews.

The Chairman said:

“… at the end of each audit or inspection, the CAA already surveys the parties involved in order to gather information on their views on the effectiveness and efficiency of the regulatory intervention they have just been involved in. While that provides limited information about the performance of one regulatory function, we are interested in gathering a broader range of views to inform risk management and decision-making. Both the management and Board of the Authority recognize the importance of such information from the sector to inform our planning and improvement efforts. In part, this is one of the reasons we place so much importance on the relationship with representative bodies like the Aviation Community Advisory Group.”

We then sought to verify what the Chairman had claimed was correct – “the CAA already surveys the parties involved in order to gather information on their views on the effectiveness and efficiency of the regulatory intervention they have just been involved in”.

We asked a number of operators if what the Chairman claimed (or had been told by his officials) actually happened in practice.

  1. Did the Chairman’s statement have validity?
  1. Did operators feel comfortable providing feedback to the CAA when their AOC is at stake?

We believe the replies below speak for themselves, and we’d welcome further comments.

  • No, I’m not aware of any statement like that. Imagine if an operator criticised them at that point, they could be deemed not fit or proper and their AOC withdrawn or delayed when the auditors got back to Wellington. Yes there is a discussion, but who would dare to complain? It proves how out of touch the Chairman is.
  • I never had the auditors ask me how the audit went or what I thought of CAA. If you wanted a good audit report you would never consider expressing your thoughts on that issue. Ask the Chairman for some of the recorded comments.
  • No, I haven’t been asked for feedback (that’s not to say I haven’t given verbal feedback to auditors at a subsequent audit however!).
  • I am not aware of any formal feedback system. At one point during an audit, I found I was being asked the same questions at each audit such as “Is your fax number still xxxxxxxxx. Is your mailing address still xxxxxxxxx. Is your phone number still xxxxxxxx. When I’m paying over $4.50 PER MINUTE for CAA to ask me the same questions at each audit to which there was no change, I wasn’t happy. I suggested they send me an A4 sheet with those questions on it prior to the audit and I could go through and tick the boxes, thus saving valuable minutes. They thought that was a great idea but nothing was done.
  • I have never been asked at all, fair to say I have offered my opinion on a number of occasions regarding their efficiency levels, no one has ever asked me for it tho and I have undergone approx 25 audits over the years.
  • The last CAA audit that I went through was about 2 years ago for our former Part 145 maintenance organisation. There was certainly a discussion on how we viewed the conduct of the audit but our responses were very much along the lines of what you would expect of “the regulated” talking to “the regulator”. No matter how the CAA Chairman might like to dress it up, it is extremely difficult to get anyone whose livelihood relies on holding an aviation document to be critical (no matter how well intentioned or constructive) of the organisation that issues said document.
  • I am in full agreement for the auditing process to be outsourced, what a great idea, at least if this happened there would be no favoritisms by the auditors. It’s imperative that all operators record* audits.  In that way it keeps the auditors honest and semi under control.
  • Yes this is an interesting subject and I totally agree with the other comments.  After last year’s audit we received a survey, which I filled out with my own feelings regarding CAA.  But I then thought it wasn’t a good idea to return it as it may have been held against me.  So I never posted it. I am certain that industry is running scared of CAA and feel that there are “bully” tactics going on. CAA is determined to change the aviation industry to make it highly regulated to cover their own arses.  Hence industry is finding this hard to come to terms with.
  • A further point about commenting on audit skills etc is as long as they are sitting at your table you are paying for that time.  You want them in and out of your place as soon as possible so the audit doesn’t cost you an absolute fortune.  So no, we wouldn’t think there would be anyone out there brave enough to criticise the CAA openly and in front of the auditors, as it would make their lives a misery.

The Chairman also said:

“On the information theme, please note that management is also introducing a ‘balanced scorecard’ to improve the information available on organisational performance. While not yet complete, over the next 12 months you can expect to see information being sought from the sector and others to inform the assessment of matters of regulatory effectiveness, efficiency and regulatory burden”.

  • Record, in this context, means to “tape record”. The GAA recommends that all important dialogue you have with CAA personnel –  on your premises, over the telephone or at the CAA’s office – should be recorded on audio and/or video. Before making any recording, you should advise your intentions to the CAA personnel, ensure they agree to an uncensored recording and offer to provide them with a copy of it.

CAA Notices – The tentacles of regulation just keep growing longer

In mid-February, the CAA announced its intention to publish CAA Notices as a means of ensuring that “the regulatory framework remains responsive and adaptable to change.”

On the surface, these objectives almost appear noble. But when we peel back the layers, what emerges is a worrying erosion of the checks and balances that have underpinned aviation rule-making since the early 1990s.

A CAA Notice will be a mandatory stipulation of requirements and must be complied with. It will be reinforced by a rule, but the notice itself will be issued by the CAA rather than going through the rule-making process.

Parliament did not vote for this

When concerns were raised about the advent of CAA Notices without any consultation, the response from CAA management was that there is no proposal to consult on the concept of Notices because these are currently permitted under Section 28(5) of the Act.

Section 28(5) was inserted into the Civil Aviation Act in 2010 and does confer certain powers to impose requirements or conditions; however, some seven years later, the CAA is being somewhat cute in its interpretation of how far the law-makers (Parliament) intended these powers to extend.

One of the positives of our system of government is that it keeps records, and these very clearly show that:

  • In recommending amendment of the Civil Aviation Act to Cabinet, the Minister sought to grant the Director power to determine technical matters such as testing equipment, syllabi and examinations
  • Cabinet agreed to amend the Civil Aviation Act to provide for rules that delegate to the Director the power to determine technical matters, such as testing equipment, syllabi, and examinations
  • When introducing the amendments to Parliament for debate, the Associate Minister highlighted them as being about the power of the Director to determine technical matters under the Civil Aviation Rules.

Parliament intended the granting of powers to determine technical matters in a narrow range of areas. It never intended the establishment of a process where the CAA becomes the risk-definer, the solution-chooser, the rule-maker and the law-enforcer.

This entire CAA Notices concept is a flossed-up attempt by the regulator to twist the intent of the law-makers in order to extend its tentacles and shield itself from the scrutiny of its masters. Aviators will not have recourse to the MoT or Minister regarding the content of CAA Notices.

Rather than looking for mechanisms to increase its powers and subvert the checks and balances that exist, the CAA should be focusing on getting rules and rule amendments right the first time so that they progress through the existing process in a timely manner.

CAA funding review: Political leadership is now essential

Since our update last month, we’ve achieved much greater clarity around a few things:

  • The Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, is still waiting for the final Cabinet paper and Regulatory Impact Statement on proposed charges.
  • He believes that these two papers are months away, not weeks.
  • He has given an undertaking that the Chairman of the Board will respond to our letter calling for independent and open and transparent analysis of the Regulatory Impact Statement, but told us that he doesn’t think such transparency is necessary.

So what does this all mean?

It is by no means certain that the new levies and other changes will occur in November as planned. This triennial review of charges is already running at least 12 months late. Some say that if there is no decision on changes before the end of the year, it will be very difficult to impose them until after the election.

We are quite happy with (and support) a number of the CAA’s proposed changes. We oppose only one of them: the proliferation of new levies on commercial general aviation. All the others are either unequivocally supported or backed with some reservations about their consistency with the user pays philosophy.

The GAA is opposed to the introduction of new levies because:

  • They are unfair and unjust – some sectors, notably GA commercial, will have to pay for audit and surveillance through the proposed new levy, while all other groups get this service for free.
  • Commercial GA will have to pay for educational, safety investigation/prosecution and safety promotion and implementation of rules under the levy arrangements, while all other sectors have these activities paid for by the levy on passengers.
  • Safety in commercial GA is highly vulnerable to increased costs – a recent statement by the CAA’s Deputy Director responsible for GA confirms this point, saying a recent survey of more than 600 helicopter pilots has shown cost-consciousness was a major safety issue for the group.
  • The CAA doesn’t need the money. It is extraordinarily well resourced, reporting reserves of more than $5m in the 2015 financial year.
  • Obedience to Treasury and Audit office guidelines for charging in the public sector is leading to an internationally uncompetitive industry, with the CAA’s hourly rate significantly in excess of the UK or Australia.
  • Levies are like taxes – they only increase. When the aviation industry is expanding, the CAA over-recovers – and if there is a a shortfall, charges are increased with government approval.

Last time, the CAA had some justification for a rate hike but on this occasion there should be only one recommendation and that is to reduce present charges because the Authority is rolling in money.

And that’s why the Regulatory Impact Statement is so critical.

Simon Bridges: Time for some serious attention

Simon Bridges: Time for some serious attention

If you get this high-level analysis wrong, things go really pear-shaped. We are surprised that the Government doesn’t see the RIS as a key part of managing its political risk – and there is significant risk if the analysis is wrong.

We know through our network that the hourly rate charges are doing a lot of damage. There is a commitment out there to bring in new equipment and technologies, but exorbitant CAA costs are having an impact. New Zealand is simply not always getting the best kit because CAA charges can be as high as $60k per aircraft and these charges must be paid up-front, before the aircraft is productive. So we get new aircraft, but perhaps not always with the best technology and safety benefits.

At no time did officials tell ministers that this would be one of the downside consequences.

We cannot understand why Simon Bridges is so quick to rule out any engagement with the industry on developing the RIS.  The CAA clearly understands (or has allegedly been told as much by an astounding 600 helicopter pilots in what appears to be a private survey) that commercial pressures are substantial in the sector.

So why aren’t the Ministry of Transport and CAA open to engaging independent and informed advice on the issue? This is the best way of managing the political risk.

Aviation safety is not some esoteric flight of fantasy by number-crunchers in gold-plated towers with water views. It is a very practical matter to which we all contribute, so why won’t Wellington officialdom accept we should have input into this critical paper? We have nothing to hide.

I am disappointed that, despite Minister Bridges’ commitment, the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority has chosen not to respond to my letter of mid-July on the RIS issue. Now I do know that The CAA’s apparent position is that it has made recommendations to the Minister, and that’s it. However, it also appears that the CAA is still having major input into the development of the RIS Why wouldn’t CAA want to put the best possible advice to the Ministry?

At the behest of the Auckland National Party MPs, we filed a formal complaint via Andrew Bayly, MP for Hunua. Its content has not yet been widely circulated, but we’ve done some more work on the impacts of all the changes proposed and concluded that the new levels of cross-subsidy are larger than the current ones.

The GAA believes that the Authority’s underlying strategy is aimed at taking our focus off its exorbitant hourly rates, and the escalation to a 100% cost recovery hourly rate of $466 per hour plus GST.

The real issue is benchmarking CAA charges so that they are internationally competitive. This would mean hourly rates of between $150 and $190 per hour and a medical application fee of no more than $80. Forget the Treasury and Audit Office guidelines; this is about making New Zealand’s aviation industry as attractive as possible, and that means safe and cost-competitive.

Our message to you: It’s really important to keep talking to your local MP, because sooner or later Minister Bridges will make a recommendation to his Cabinet colleagues.

Our message to Simon Bridges: It really is time to seriously consider and discuss our sector’s competitiveness, and that requires accountability and leadership.


♦ If your experience with the CAA – on any issue – has been disappointing, don’t keep it to yourself and them. Please share it with fellow aviators. Email admin [at] caa [dot] gen [dot] nz. Your privacy is assured.

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.


The doctor needn’t see you now: UK PPLs freed from Class 2 medicals at last

PPL holders in the UK are within weeks of liberation from the Class 2 medical, along with its needless hassle and expense.

96% of UK pilots backed the scrapping of the PPL medical

96% of UK pilots backed the scrapping of the PPL medical

This means the medical requirement for UK private pilot licence and national private pilot licence holders will be the same as for a DVLA Group 1 Ordinary Driving Licence (ODL). Existing medical options (for example, a UK declaration with GP countersignature) will remain open. The same options will be available for private balloon pilots.

To take advantage of the change, pilots will only need to complete a form on the CAA website to declare that they meet the DVLA medical standard. Pilots under 70 will need to do this once, while pilots older than that must confirm their declaration every three years.

The changes are subject to enactment of the proposed Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is planned to come into effect on a so far unspecified date in ‘late [northern] summer’ 2016. The proposed ANO legislation will contain these changes and other significant amendments for GA.

Currently, UK pilots with an NPPL (National Private Pilot Licence) must merely comply with DVLA group 1 or 2 standards and have their self-declaration of fitness countersigned by their GP. Holders of a UK PPL currently need an EU Class 2 medical, or meet the NPPL medical requirements if they only use the privileges of an NPPL licence (in other words, only fly within the UK).

The change has been supported by a study of the risks associated with GA flying, together with a review of the causes of light aircraft accidents and the likelihood of these being triggered by a pilot being medically incapacitated.

The risk to third parties was considered by the CAA, as well as the regulatory approach now being taken by the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA, which mirrors the UK proposal.

In New Zealand, pilots continue to ask: Just how long will it take for our own Civil Aviation Authority to awake from its slumbers and try to catch up with much of the developed world?

Our most recent information from the CAA (couched in its characteristically defensive, bureaucratic wording) said:

The CAA is aware of, and monitoring, developments relating to questions of Private Pilot Licences and medical requirements in the UK and USA. The question of suitable future requirements in the New Zealand context is to be the subject of policy work by the CAA. However, please note that any significant changes to the current regime would require changes to the Civil Aviation Rules, which is a matter outside the control of the CAA.

And as CAA deputy boss/Associate Minister of Transport Craig Foss told a GAA supporter in a letter dated 26 July 2016: “the CAA is not currently considering any changes to medical certification requirements.”

Live within your means – Minister Brownlee’s promise after the 2012 review

Brownlee may have gone away, but we haven't

Brownlee may have gone away, but we haven’t

I’ve already expressed my view that the CAA’s proposed new levies on commercial general aviation are some of the most draconian steps I have ever seen attempted, although I am assured they rank up there with the epic pricing debacle of the early 1990s.

Well, it would appear our former Minister of Transport nailed the CAA’s feet firmly to the ground when he said:

for the period of 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…”

It’s time to deliver.

Has the CAA looked to decrease its costs? To be fair, it’s a mixed bag – some “ups” pushed by such things as the agreement with Airways on the AIP ($2m plus CPI adjustments) and SMS; and some “downs” such as shared services with AvSec.

BUT the net effect has been, as disclosed in the CAA consultation document, to push up the full cost recovery hourly rate calculated on the same basis as in the 2012 review to $466 per hour. Under the Treasury and Audit Office guidelines on charging for public services, this is the rate CAA should be charging industry – and could charge, unless costs are controlled at the 2019 review.

There was a quid pro quo in 2012 – Ministers formed the view that the industry had to “suck up” the increases – but there would be no more. The clear message: the CAA must live within its means.

We do agree that its “means” are pretty gold-plated compared to what we ordinary people in industry are used to, but nevertheless the message from Ministers was clear: Enough is enough.

Ministers come and go and Minister Brownlee handed the reins to Minister Bridges. But the problem remains.

Our lobbying programme is reminding everyone of the Cabinet’s undertaking.

For those who have responded to our survey and wanted further action, we have drafted letters for them to send to their MPs. We have also been in contact with and spoken to many more commercial GA companies. Each has been grateful for the assistance we are providing.

We are not suggesting that commercial GA shouldn’t continue its contributions towards the costs of running the CAA, but we are opposing the imposition of any new levies.

Levies are taxes that reduce financial accountability. They are the beginning of the slippery slope towards future revenue hikes. An hourly rate of $466 is simply ridiculous.

Let’s be clear:-

  • The CAA does not need $1.792m from GA commercial – present reserve levels are almost 300% higher than stated as required in the 2012 Cabinet paper.
  • Minister Brownlee’s 2012 assurances were an undertaking to reduce costs and remove the threat of further increases.
  • The CAA is not delivering value for money – commercial General Aviation is reporting little if any improvement in services.
  • The new levy “pays” for services which commercial GA already funds via the participation levy.
  • The CAA’s communication of proposals was too complex, lacked the critical financial information justifying the $1.792m increase, and occurred during peak season.

A quick reminder of the increased charges being proposed;

  • Introduction of new levies for commercial General Aviation (3-year phase-in):
Parachuting/Paragliding operators $2.50 per descent
Commercial Passenger operators (Medium/Large aeroplanes) $5.50 per flight hour
Commercial Passenger operators (Small aeroplanes and helicopters) $6.50 per flight hour
Adventure Aviation operators $12.50 per flight hour
Freight only operators $3.00 per tonne
Agricultural operators $0.87 per tonne


  • Existing levies (Passenger and Participation) to be retained.
  • Removal of hourly rate charging for all CAA audits.
  • A claimed 30% reduction in the pilot medical certificate application fee, which on closer examination was proved to be CAA sleight of hand: The Authority first increased the existing fee by 23% (to $404.71) and then reduced the new total by 52%, to $210.45. A genuine 30% reduction would put the charge at $162.76.
  • CAA annual income requirement projected to increase from $38m (2016) to $43m (2019)
    • o Removal of hourly rate audit charge – $2.24 m
    • o Reduction in medical cert fee – $0.8m
    • o Passenger levy + $6m
    • o New GA levies +$1.792m
  • CAA actual reserves $10.2m; targeted reserve $3.6m

We understand the CAA Board has considered and reconsidered the final recommendations. Adjustments to the levy rates have been flagged but the CAA continues to pursue the new levy on commercial GA.

There are now well over 50 letters with key Ministers and MPs. Each of them requests a one-on-one meeting with the MP to raise “parliamentary awareness” of the issue.

If you are opposed to these new levies and want to join our campaign, let us know and we will help you. We know we still have a bit more time as the Minister hasn’t received the CAA’s final recommendations. We will only overturn these levies if we speak with one voice and deliver the same message:;

LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS – deliver on Brownlee’s undertaking

We are not going to go away, and we will use every possible avenue to get these new taxes on commercial GA removed.


Goodbye PPL Medical – and good riddance (but not in New Zealand)

96% of UK pilots backed the scrapping of the PPL medical. Is the NZ CAA deaf?

96% of UK pilots backed the scrapping of the PPL medical. Is the NZ CAA deaf?

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has announced the virtual end of the PPL medical.

Requirements for private pilots are to change in line with the CAA’s top level principles for GA regulation. They do not apply to pilots with commercial licences or those displaying at airshows, who will still need to be approved as fit to fly by a specialist aviation medical examiner.

The move – supported by 96% of respondents in a public consultation – will lead to cost and time savings for pilots and, in most cases, even remove the need for General Practitioner or Authorised Medical Examiner involvement.

Once the change takes place later this year, the medical requirement for UK private pilot licence and national private pilot licence holders will be to meet the same standard as that required to hold a DVLA Group 1 Ordinary Driving Licence. Existing medical options (for example, a UK declaration with GP countersignature) will remain available. The same options will also be available for private balloon pilots.

To take advantage of the change, pilots will need to complete a form on the CAA website to declare that they meet the DVLA medical standard. Pilots under 70 will need to do this once, while pilots over 70 must confirm their declaration every three years.

The changes are planned to come into effect in late northern summer 2016 when a new version of the UK Air Navigation Order will be published, containing these changes and other significant amendments for general aviation.

Currently, pilots with a NPPL licence are required to comply with DVLA group 1 or 2 standards and have their self-declaration of fitness countersigned by their GP. Holders of a UK PPL currently need an EU class 2 medical or the NPPL medical requirements if they only use the privileges of an NPPL licence.

The change is supported by a study of the risks associated with GA flying, together with a review of the causes of light aircraft accidents and the likelihood of these being triggered by a pilot being medically incapacitated. The risk to third parties has been considered and the regulatory approach taken by the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA, which mirrors the UK proposal, was also reviewed.

The consultation response document can be seen at www.caa.co.uk/cap1397.

More detail on the CAA’s GA activities and the work of the GA Unit are available at www.caa.co.uk/ga.

The FAA has a bill passing through Congress which will give PPL privileges on a driver’s licence medical.

Could we soon see the walls of our own CAA Medical Unit begin to crack under the weight of global common sense?

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

First, they put your head in a cloud. Then they slip their fingers into your wallet

The last time we looked at the CAA’s current pricing review, we showed how the authority rewrote history to claim that it had discovered a public good element in the Medical Application Fee – and hip-hooray, folks! The fee looked as if it was coming down.

Black and white? Not quite

Black and white? Not quite

But now we have discovered yet another piece of CAA sophistry: The secret art of increasing a fee while making it look like a price cut.

You’ll recall the CAA’s epiphany. It looked like a minor miracle. The CAA had experienced a flash of insight to which it had been blind three years earlier. Back then, it refused to accept that there was an element of public good in the medical application process. But now, like Paul on the road to Damascus, it seemed to have relented and repented. And when we asked the CAA to

“advise the methodology and the justification that has been used by the CAA in calculating the revised medical application fee? In particular, what value has been attached in the calculation to each of the public good, private good, and club good categories?”

the CAA answered:

Exactly where the balance lies between Club Good and Private Good is difficult to establish. However, based upon our analysis of the workload of the Medical Unit, our estimate is that the benefits derived from Medical Certification are distributed approximately as below:

Club (passengers): 48%

Private (pilots and air traffic controllers): 52%

The CAA propose that the Application Fee for a Medical Certificate be set at the rate of $210.45 incl. GST ($183.00 excl. GST).

You’ll notice that this judgement was based on their own “analysis”. How the “workload of the Medical Unit” could have had any material influence on the ratio calculation is anyone’s guess…  we may need to leave that to a future generation of bureaucrats to explain.

It is also well worth noting that when the CAA came up with its 48% – 52% split, that was a purely arbitrary decision without any consultation with interested parties. We, along with AOPA, Aviation NZ, and NZALPA presented the Club/Private Good case when we went to the Regulations Review Committee in March 2013. At the time, the CAA and the MoT strenuously argued that we were incorrect in our assertion that there was a Club Good.

The last paragraph in our quote from the CAA would alert even a half-witted six-year-old in possession of a pocket calculator. It turns out to be all smoke and mirrors.

If we use the current medical application fee of $313 as the baseline, a reduction in the fee to $210.45 sounds like a step in the right direction – though not a big enough step, considering that our neighbouring regulator CASA charges NZ$78 for a comparable medical application fee.

However, if we take the proposed new figure of $210.45 and say that this represents 52% of the actual medical application fee, we find that it equates to 52% of $404.71.

So the CAA had slyly raised the medical application fee! Then its spin-doctors (who, for all we know, may also work part-time in the Medical Unit) cunningly disguised it as a price reduction by using that new inflated figure before applying the 52%.

If we more honestly apply 52% to the existing $313 fee, the calculator shows a fee of $162.76. This is what everyone would have been charged for the last three years if the RRC had agreed with the combined submissions, instead of nodding away a flawed proposal simply because it had been properly processed.

Do please bear in mind that even $162.76 is still double the CASA medical application fee of NZ$78.

If you ask the CAA how it is saving money and raising efficiency in the Medical Unit, you’ll get this response:

There has been a reduction in staff over time in line with the reducing applications for medical certification. Since the 2012 restructure the medical administration staff has reduced from 7 to 5.5 advisors. Overall total staff numbers have reduced from 12 to 10.

The reduction in the number of medical certificates over the period 2010 to 2014 was 1,668 (from 8293 to 6625) and the number of senior medical officers was reduced by 1 (from 3 to 2).

In addition, it should be noted that the Aviation Medicine team has significantly contributed to the reduction in CAA overhead costs, with a reduction of 30% in floor space it currently occupies.

Approximately $300,000 in savings have been achieved with the reductions noted above.

Well, we say that this is another case of more mirrors and even thicker smoke.

An artist's impression of trying to find the centre of the CAA

The CAA’s sickening downward spiral, created by “user pays” fees and charges

The reduction in the number of medical certificates over the 2010 to 2014 period was a foregone conclusion, predicted by almost everyone outside the CAA after it brought in a short-sighted policy to introduce the exorbitant medical application fee. As we forecast, many pilots have exited aviation entirely. Others have downgraded to RPLs and microlight certificates.

Using the CAA’s own figures, a decrease of 1668 medical certificates over the period has meant a reduction of income to the Medical Unit of at least $522,000. This is calculated on the basis that each and every medical certificate would have attracted the $313 medical application fee. Set against that is a reduction in costs of just $300,000. A significant part of this has been achieved by a 30% reduction in floor space occupied by the Medical Unit.

Using figures supplied to us by the CAA in April 2013, the average annual rental for levels 14 and 15 of the Asteron Centre was $556.44 per square metre.

If we conservatively use these figures (and bearing in mind that we would have expected rental costs in this prestigious location to increase over the period), this floor space reduction is a one-off saving that cannot be repeated in the next three-year review. It follows that a large percentage of the $300,000 saving was attributable to the reduction in floor space the Medical Unit occupied.

What we can see, through this dense fog, is a significant decrease in income and workload within the Medical Unit which has not been offset by a corresponding increase in efficiency and reduction in costs. The shortfall appears to be around $200,000.

In previous discussions with the Director about the consequences of a policy that actively encouraged pilots to withdraw from Class 2 medical certification due to the financial costs involved, we suggested that the cost of the medical application fee must surely rise due to the basis on which it had been previously calculated: the operating costs of the Medical Unit, divided by the number of requested medical applications.

Graeme Harris was somewhat coy and suggested that we could not draw the conclusion that the medical application fee would correspondingly rise in proportion to a falling user-base. However, it seems that – as we predicted – it has now risen, from $313 to $404.71, or by about 29% (which is not far off the CAA’s stated but unverified 20% decline in the demand for medical applications).

An overt price rise would have resulted in a serious backlash from the GA community. The CAA tried – and almost succeeded – to perform a perfect somersault by first agreeing with the view we put forward in our submission to the Regulations Review Committee, playing with the numbers and then seeking to hide its increase in plain sight.

When you think you've found the goalpost, they move all the balls

And just when you think you’ve found the goalposts, they move all the balls

It’s becoming obvious that CAA policy can be hard and soft. It will change to suit CAA needs; but it is invariably rigid in the face of a concerned but captive client base.

Is it any wonder that cynicism and distrust of the CAA is encouraged by this latest piece of creative chicanery?

The effects of medical certification costs have been far more serious than merely harming grass-roots general aviators. We now have a much-diminished pool of older, experienced instructors available to pass down their knowledge, gained over many thousands of hours. This, of course, is of no particular interest or concern to non-flying administrators within the CAA who have no knowledge of such things.

If the CAA was genuine in its ‘safety first’ policy within aviation, it would be trying to retain these instructors, who have so much wisdom and experience to offer, instead of increasing the financial burden they bear just to maintain their certification.

We know the cause, and we all know who caused it  – let the culprits now consider the effect.