AOPA Australia has received several complaints from our NSW flight school members regarding the inconsistent application of exemption standards by airports’ regarding the current public health orders, particularly those in regional areas. Part 142 schools have phoned airports in regional NSW explaining their circumstance and are often met with perplexity and, in some cases, restrictions to ‘Touch and Go’ only or even a straight-up ‘no.’
All of our flight school members follow strict covid-safe practices and have covid-safety plans in place. Many schools want to land, refuel, and take-off as quickly as possible, wearing masks and following the best hygiene practices in the process. However, the case is not always negative, with other airports being very supportive subject to our members sending them appropriate documentation of their flight details, plans, and covid-measures.
AOPA Australia has received telephone advice from NSW Health that as a Part 142 organisation (formal educational program), you can fly with Part 142 students under the reasonable excuse of facilitating attendance at a school or other educational institution where you cannot learn from home. The specific reasonable excuse is found under Schedule 1 paragraph 4 of the current Public Health Orders.
AOPA Australia is currently seeking this advice to be confirmed in writing.
AOPA Australia further understands that the NSW Government are relying on NSW Police to enforce restrictions during this time, and we are aware of a range of examples where the Police are applying varying interpretations of the relevant exemption currently available to our members.
With respect to the above, AOPA Australia has written to the NSW Police Commissioner seeking clarification and an urgent communication to be distributed to all Police statewide, ensuring the valid exemption is thoroughly understood and the rights of Part 142 Flight Training Providers and students are protected.
In the myriad of exemptions and reasonable excuses, we are talking about two people in a plane, who are COVID screened, wearing masks and following the best hygiene practices. These pilots complete navigational training to these airports, get out to refuel, get back in and depart again, spending as little time as possible at these airports. Such educational training is well within the NSW government’s risk appetite, it’s simply a matter of getting the message out there.
AOPA Australia is encouraging the Government to make more explicit rules for pilots undertaking formal educational programs under Part 142 to clear this mess up and consider extending these provisions to those already enrolled under Part 141 programs.
Aviation education is essential in ensuring we maintain the highest levels of safety in Australia. Therefore, we must encourage their operations as far as reasonably practicable during this time for currency, financial stability and future of our aviation training system in Australia.
There is a significant domino effect for flight schools not operating now. Part 142 students already enrolled are suffering skill decay, which will result in additional expenses to cover remedial lessons; Part 141 students aren’t too different. The average Diploma of Aviation – Commercial Pilot Licence (Aeroplane) student will spend $80,000 undertaking flight training; more if you are undertaking the same course for rotary wing. If this training is extended due to skill decay brought about by what we are talking about here then remedial lessons and the like can cost upward of +$400/hr for fixed wing and +$600/hr for rotary wing.
Any members who require further information are invited to contact;
Mr Benjamin Morgan
AOPA Australia CEO
Mobile: 0415 577 724
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