The real enemy of aviation is not the CAA. It is the Treasury

17 August 2014 / by Gavin Grimmer / Adventure, Consultation, Costs, Employment, Governance, Medical, Opinion, Safety, Security
Gavin Grimmer: The Treasury has failed miserably. I ask you, what planet are they on?

Gavin Grimmer: The Treasury has failed miserably. I ask you, what planet are they on?

I attended the CAA meeting in Palmerston North on the Funding Framework for 2015 to 2018, after travelling from Hastings. Initially, I was not terribly interested because, as many will know, CAA has cost me an enormous amount of wasted hours over the last few years, and I saw this as probably some more wasted time.

Like everyone else, my feeling was “What is the point… they never listen anyway!” I went with the feeling that it might be the last CAA meeting I attend because after 32 years in the industry, I have become so demoralised with all the goings on with CAA over the last couple of years that I have really had enough and am seriously considering parking my aeroplanes, counting my losses and giving up. I have much better things to do with what’s left of my life than arguing with nonsensical bureaucrats.

So I was rather surprised when, on arrival, we were met by the Director, Graeme Harris, and he showed us where the coffee and biscuits were (which was very welcome, as we had not had time to have dinner). Not only that, he stayed and talked with us!

When the meeting began, I was again surprised to find that it was not run by various CAA personnel; the whole thing was presented by the Director, with a couple of staff taking notes.

Graeme Harris started by saying that he not only welcomed interaction but required it. As he put it: “It’s a boring subject, and if we don’t interact, I will bore myself.” He went over the way CAA currently funds itself, using a PowerPoint presentation, and then went into explaining various options of how the whole process might be better managed.

He acknowledged the damage that had been done to the industry and was very concerned about how it might be corrected. Then he went over the pluses and minuses of various other methods of more fairly sharing the cost-recovery burden.

One thing I did especially note, and was very pleased to hear, was that they were looking into placing aircraft registration/participation levies on hold, in a way much like the NZTA does with motor vehicle registrations. With the current system, one has to pay a participation levy whether an aircraft is flying or not. For example, the Belworthy family of Christchurch has to pay for its lovingly home-built aeroplanes (eight of them) every year, even if they are never flown.

The penalty for not paying is that the aircraft is deregistered and then, if you ever want to use it again, it is treated as a newly built aeroplane and has to go through the whole drawn-out process of miles of paperwork, CAA inspections, a test flying period, and more CAA paperwork and charges; an absolutely ridiculous situation.

I noticed, very early in the presentation, something glaringly obvious: About 80% of CAA’s funding requirements comes from airline passenger levies and I was gobsmacked to hear it was only $1.71 for Domestic, $1.55 for ANZA, and $1.30 for International (plus GST).

Let’s stop and think about this.

$1.30 is less than one Moro bar. It doesn’t even buy a daily newspaper. What a joke.

If this measly amount funds 80% of CAA costs, why is this debate going on?

The solution is very simple – increase the levy by 50 cents, and there are no more funding problems. When I buy a ticket on an airline, another 50c is certainly not going to put me or anyone else off, and for anyone to think otherwise is just nuts.

The main reason for all the very high standards in medicals, training, safety management, aircraft maintenance, and so on is plainly to meet the expectations of the general public that when they fly airlines, every conceivable standard is as high as it can be to ensure their safety, and this also applies to those who don’t travel on airlines because they like to know there is little chance of a plane crashing into their house. On that basis, what is another 50 cents to ensure these standards are maintained?

The general public requires these standards (just look at what happened to the recent public outcry over the Carterton balloon tragedy and, prior to that, the Fox Glacier skydive accident) and so the public should pay. Why is another 50 cents a ticket for this peace of mind such an obstacle?

On delving into this further, the problem is not as I originally thought. It is not entirely CAA that is to blame over this fiasco. It is the Treasury, which has set the User Pay policies and will not budge.

The Director expressed his concern about the dramatic drop in the numbers of pilots renewing their Class 2 Medicals since this new charging regime took effect – a reduction in the region of 1000 PPL pilots!

Treasury – on its own website – states its objectives and one of the primary aims is:

“A higher-performing State sector that New Zealanders trust, delivering outstanding results and value for money”

(See Statement of Intent 2013-2018 and Statement of Intent 2014-2019)

On this one count, the Treasury has failed miserably.

I ask you: What planet are they on?

A public outcry is needed.

My low opinion of CAA has changed somewhat after that meeting, and I’m now really impressed with our Director.

But will I remain in the industry? We shall have to see what happens over the next few months!