Lack of trainers and investment concerns civil air
A lack of adequately trained controllers, the introduction of new technology and a trainer supply issue are of most concern to the Australian air traffic controller organisation Civil Air.
President Tom McRobert also told NZALPA Annual Conference attendees about a massive airspace restructure on the east coast of Australia, which is likely to affect trans-Tasman routes. These issues compound what can be described as a “very challenging” relationship between air traffic controllers and employers in which the atmosphere could often be hostile, Roberts said. Trainer and ATC supply issues have been further compounded by the loss of a number of current overseas workers due to changes in Australian Visa rules. Another major topic for ATCs and the airlines has been ground delay and traffic control flow management difficulties.
Rapid technological innovation has also led to an increasing number of drones operating in Australian airspace. Like here in New Zealand, their growing use continues to concern air traffic controllers as well as pilots and the public. McRobert said that last year there were 151 reported incidents of drones coming too close to aircraft in Australian airspace.
The approach to this and a number of other issues by the federal regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), was described by McRobert as continuing to be ‘very bureaucratic’. Drone safety has been the subject of a senate enquiry, and recently CASA changed the rules governing the use of commercial drones to make it easier for farmers to use them on private properties.
This means farmers will soon be able to fly drones weighing up to 25 kilograms over their property without an unmanned aircraft operators certificate, provided they are not paid for the work.
Unlike New Zealand, where Airways began a trial of one recently in the South Island, remote digital control towers have been pushed back on the Australian agenda at the moment due to other issues. Instead, recent accidents have put into perspective the need to lobby against changes in the industry that introduce more risk at lower cost – something that is an issue for many air controller organisations around the world.
There was good news though, McRobert said, in regard to the development and take up of PAN in Australia. Like in New Zealand, wellness and mental health issues were receiving a high profile with ATC organisations and meant that some issues could be dealt with without requiring escalation.
Australian Unions outline concerns faced across the Tasman
A Qantas proposal to recruit foreign pilots into its regional airline operations is unnecessary and will deny Australians regional airline positions when the “current blockage” clears, says David Booth, President of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP).
In his address to delegates at the recent New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association conference, Captain Booth outlined the Australian national carrier’s proposal to bring in more foreign pilots to address the current supply issue.
The recruitment drive is also the result of a number of Qantas regional pilots moving to mainline or overseas roles, the introduction of Boeing 787 aircraft, and a wave of retirements.
Captain Booth said that addressing what he described as a ‘pilot blockage’ was one of three priorities for AFAP, while another was defeating the Qantas recruiting proposal.
He made the distinction between a pilot shortage and a pilot blockage, saying the current situation cannot be described as a pilot shortage as there were actually hundreds of general aviation pilots “ready, willing and able” to step into regional airline pilot jobs.
Members of AFAP want to see Qantas achieve sustained recruitment and work on the progression pathway for pilots moving from its turboprop Q400 aircraft to jets. There seemed to be a mismatch between predicting the current and high future need for pilots and a lack of numbers being trained in Australia. This was not an uncommon issue in the Asia Pacific region, especially in China. In addition, AFAP wanted to see an improvement in working conditions for pilots in regional operations.
The third strategic priority for AFAP was to achieve revised fatigue management regulations.
Joining Booth at the NZALPA Conference, Murray Butt, President of the Australian International Pilots’ Association (AIPA) highlighted pilot training issues, some of AIPA’s concerns around pilot fatigue, and the acute need for pilots to achieve a work/life balance.
Captain Butt said particular concerns were due to the launch of the new longer international routes by a number of airlines, meaning pilots would be engaged for even longer timeframes. Earlier this year Qantas launched the Perth-London non-stop route which, at 17 hours, is the world’s second-longest flight after a Qatar Airways service between Doha and Auckland that covers 14,529 km, or just 45 km more than the stretch from Perth to London.
Concerns about the Qantas flight had led to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the unions and the airline whereby, for the first time, there would be a scientific study into fatigue and workable solutions considered, with the intention to develop a Fatigue Risk Management System.
For AFAP another growing concern was being dealt with by its Helicopter Council due to effects on Australian helicopter pilots from the protracted downturn in the country’s resource sector. The Council and in-house staff had been providing assistance to pilots facing redundancies as well as supporting a number of pilots in the wake of serious technical, legal incidences and welfare support.
2018 NZALPA Conference Awards
Stewart Cameron Memorial Award:
Presenting the award in memory of her husband, Stewart, Deb Cameron spoke about how the support she received from Air Traffic Controller and Peer Support Volunteer Cam Lorimer following her husband’s death, will always be remembered.
Mrs Cameron’s husband passed away nearly five years ago, and in the aftermath. Mr Lorimer was a pillar of support that helped Mrs Cameron navigate the difficult path ahead.
“The support from my husband’s peers was priceless, and it meant everything,” Mrs Cameron said.
Stewart Cameron was a well-respected Air Traffic Controller, instructor, and member of NZALPA, who experienced a period of psychosocial impairment. Due to the nature of the work, people in the aviation industry can be particularly vulnerable to stress and mental health issues.
As a consequence of his sudden death in 2013, NZALPA created this award to recognise persons who made an outstanding contribution to peer support for members.
Mrs Cameron said that Mr Lorimer was a strong, silent figure she could count on in the suffocating, foreign world of grief and stress she was plunged into.
“I knew that I was supported, and I knew that someone had my girls’ and my best interests at heart, she said.
In more recent times, Mr Lorimer has focused his time on supporting victims of workplace bullying.
Mrs Cameron said that when she learnt Mr Lorimer had been out there supporting victims of bullying, it touched her heart because she knows just how important that peer support is.
“Sometimes seeing with our eyes is not enough to connect with those who are struggling. But seeing with our hearts gives us greater insight, and just being there.
Scroll of Merit:
Shane Thomas has been presented with the Scroll of Merit to recognise his exceptional contributions, dedication and commitment to NZALPA.
Shane is well-known as one of the ‘go to’ representatives for advice, and has been a loyal NZALPA member and Air Nelson pilot for over 25 years.
During his time with Air Nelson Shane has achieved a significant amount, including the establishment of a solid working relationship with the airline, resulting in better communications and outcomes for members.
He has also been involved in the past two contract negotiations that saw a number of improvements to the CEA, including achieving a minimum of ten days off per roster.
Shane has held various positions during his time, including the Administrative Head of the Air Nelson Council, Air Nelson Contract Management Group (CMG) representative, NZALPA Air Nelson negotiator, Board of Management member, and Deputy Industrial Director.
He was also part of the NZALPA team on the Security of Employment HPE project that has resulted in the successful Regional Seniority List ratification ballot. This work may help enhance future job security for the Air New Zealand Group regional pilots.
Retirement glasses were given to the following members who have recently retired:
Photos from 2018 NZALPA Conference
NZALPA and John Murrie of Massey University, School of Aviation are gathering information to better understand the influences, training and employment of New Zealand fixed wing pilot trainees who aimed to become professional pilots.
NZALPA wants to use this information to help improve pilot career opportunities in New Zealand.
John Murrie will use the data as part of his PhD study of the airline pilot career pathway and pilot supply. The survey will use data totals only and will not identify any individuals.
Whether you gained work as a pilot or not, your assistance completing the survey (CLICK HERE to complete) is very much appreciated.
The Survey can be completed on mobile or desktop. Please share the link with anyone you know who gained a CPL in or after 2000.
You DO NOT have to be an NZALPA member to participate.