Our industry is in the midst of unprecedented change, with a major overhaul of civil aviation legislation and a big shakeup occurring with our regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
These changes represent opportunity, and it’s important that we use NZALPA’s voice to present our views and have meaningful input to decision making.
Accident and incident investigation
The August issue of Uplink included an article about the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), and in this issue NZALPA’s Senior Technical Officer Dave Reynolds responds. He is calling for change in some areas, including accident investigation - where changes could be incorporated into the Civil Aviation Bill legislative process.
The legislation review provides a perfect opportunity to ensure that New Zealand complies with the United Nation’s Convention on International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 (Accident and Incident Investigation). Annex 13 requires member states to have a single independent accident and incident investigative body, where the sole objective of its investigations is to prevent future accidents and incidents – and not to apportion blame or liability.
An unrestricted flow and exchange of information is vital to improving aviation safety. It ensures that participants have sufficient trust in the system so they are willing to report their errors and mistakes in an open and candid manner without fear of retribution resulting from their disclosures.
Our current system sees TAIC investigating some accidents and incidents, with its findings and recommendations not available for use in any other forum other than the Coroner’s Court. Meanwhile, other investigations are done by the CAA. Not only are there no restrictions on use of the CAA investigation findings, but the CAA is responsible for regulating and enforcing the rules.
The two approaches could not be more diverse and the potential consequences of a CAA investigation are contrary to all that is espoused by Annex 13. With the Civil Aviation Bill we have an opportunity to address this and to meet our ICAO obligations.
In the meantime, the CAA announced in its September briefing that it was merging all of its investigation units so as to reduce duplication in investigations – both internally and between CAA and TAIC. While it is possible that duplications may reduce as a result of this change, it won’t eliminate them.
Frustratingly, this CAA change is tinkering around the edges, when what’s really needed is a much bigger change that acknowledges international best practice in our industry and results in New Zealand meeting its obligations under ICAO.
At a time when industry trust of the CAA is at an all-time low, and when participants in CAA investigations do not have confidence that they will not face civil or criminal retribution as a result of information disclosure, it would be a better use of resources to have a single independent investigative body (TAIC) investigating all incidents and accidents.
Dave Reynolds made these points clear when he met Ministry of Transport officials last month to discuss our submission to the Civil Aviation Bill in detail, to provide clarity on our views and answer their questions. Dave reiterated our position that it is simply not tenable to have the body responsible for regulating and enforcing the rules also doing the investigations into accidents and incidents.
Unfortunately the Ministry of Transport is reluctant to ensure New Zealand fully complies with Annex 13.
NZALPA’s view is that the Civil Aviation Bill is a cornerstone of the New Zealand aviation industry and must provide for the highest degree of safety and security within the New Zealand aviation system.
That explains our position on Just Culture, which we believe should be incorporated in the legislation, ensuring legal protection for all safety related flight data and recordings. This information should be protected in law, and it should not be possible for it to be used punitively against an individual or inappropriately used or released. It is unacceptable to see air traffic control transcripts released for public consumption through the news media.
It also explains our support for the Clear Heads initiative, which aims to help tackle drug and alcohol impairment. However, we also believe the legislation should be extended to include the (similar) effects of fatigue on performance.
In terms of external threats to safety and security, NZALPA believes that if a perceived threat justifies armed in-flight security officers or sky marshals are needed, then that demonstrates unacceptable risk and the flight should not go ahead.
Finally, NZALPA is calling for drone and remotely piloted aircraft system operators to have the same duties, powers and obligations of a pilot in command. We believe ICAO’s definition of a Remote Pilot-in-Command (RPIC) should be adopted, ensuring the legislation is robust enough to ensure safe integration of these aircraft into the aviation system.
This might sound like a long list of NZALPA demands. But when they are put into the context of safety and security we make no apologies. This is our industry and we have vital and unique insight into how it operates. Why wouldn’t the Government want to take our advice?
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