Each October the Recreational Aviation Australia celebrates their ‘Safety Month’, with iconic Australian aviation brands such as QBE Insurance and RedBull Air Race champion, Matt Hall, all joining the effort. But just how committed the RAAus are to the safety of their members and industry remains to be seen, following a stunning refusal by RAAus to publish its accident investigation reports. A case of do as we say, but not as we do.
RAAus, according to a communication from CASA, have refused the regulator permission to publish any of its accident investigation reports, denying manufactures of RAAus registerable aircraft access.
The decision contradicts the messaging of QBE Ambassador, RedBull Air Race Champion, and RAAus Spokesperson Matt Hall, who states;
“… at RAAus we want to make sure that people are willing to talk about their incidents… so that other people can learn from those incidents… other people can benefit. And, we can reduce the chances of those incidents happening again… RAAus operates a fair and open reporting policy… we want to make sure that members feel safe… and not be worried about repercussions or judgment…”
Accident Reports for aircraft registered with RA-Aus are not published for the public nor are they supplied to the manufacturers. These reports are sealed by the RAAus under strict confidentiality never to be seen by their members, and in many cases, their own Board of Directors, with the industry denied the opportunity to learn from past mistakes.
Approached for a copy of the RAAus accident report for the Bristell accident at Clyde in Victoria, CASA has indicated that consent is required from RA-Aus to access the report and that consent has been denied by the RA-Aus. This stunning refusal now raises the question as to who is regulating whom? And, just how committed CASA and RAAus are to their so-called ‘Safety Month’ or ‘Safe Skies for All’ slogans.
CASA has the function of conducting the safety of civil air operations in Australia. Section 9A of the Civil Aviation Act states;
“In exercising its powers and performing its functions, CASA must regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration”
Contrary to the response from CASA, claiming it cannot release the report;
- CASA has delegated powers to RAAus pursuant to CAO 95.55, however, CASA did not abdicate its s9A of the Civil Aviation Act responsibility.
- For CASA to defer to RAAus for permission to disclose an accident report conducted by its delegate, RAAus, before it will be released to the manufacturer of the aircraft involved in the accident, is to ignore CASA’s primary obligation under section 9A of the Act and instead it has put the interests of RAAus ahead of the public interest, being that the results of the report into the Clyde accident be made publicly available, and in particular, to the manufacturer of the Bristell aircraft, which has been subjected to undue criticism by CASA and RAAus;
- The results of the investigation into the Clyde accident must be released, otherwise nobody will know what happened;
- It is not good enough for RAAus to have an apparently exclusive power to investigate Light Sport Aircraft accidents on the RA-Aus register but an apparent discretion as to whether or not it will release the reports of its accident investigation, and/or whether or not it will consent to CASA (which has the ultimate responsibility for the safety of civil air operations) to release its reports; and
- The public needs to know and have confidence that those in authority with the power to conduct air accident investigations, do properly conduct those air accident investigations, and do make the reports publicly available.
The CASA/RAAus refusal is both stark and alarming, and raises a significant question; What are CASA/RAAus hiding?
The manufacturer of the Bristell aircraft is entitled to a copy of any RAAus accident investigations and/or reports that involves its aircraft for clear safety reasons, enabling the manufacturer to determine/address any safety issues that may have arisen. Yet, they are refused this essential safety function, with CASA hiding behind RAAus, and RAAus hiding behind its private self-administration status.
Make no mistake. the CASA/RAAus refusal to release accident reports stinks of corruption and backside covering. Their refusal communicates this loudly. This decision alone should become the focus of a serious independent Government inquiry.
The refusal by RAAus to release its accident report denies our industry the opportunity to independently review and assess the performance of the RAAus with respect to safety. It is in the public interest that investigations into RA-Aus aircraft accidents are properly carried out and that the results of the investigation are made publicly available.
Sealing these accident investigations and reports only serve to hide mistakes and will undoubtedly foster a negative safety culture. Pilots, aircraft owners, and manufacturers cannot learn from reports that are suppressed. The objective of the RAAus safety initiatives cannot be achieved.
A little more from RAAus Spokesperson, Matt Hall;
“So what RAAus want to do is encourage pilots to talk about their incidents… it helps the individual learn, but it helps the wider community. We allow people to learn from other people’s mistakes and reduce the chances of that incident happening again. At RAAus if something goes wrong, tell us about it.”
Well, taking Matt Hall’s advice, AOPA Australia is respectfully calling out RAAus on this issue. What RAAus are doing in suppressing accident investigation reports is wrong, and we are calling on them to demonstrate their commitment to safety, by immediately releasing them to improve safety.
AOPA Australia has today written to the RAAus Board of Directors, CASA Director of Aviation Safety, CASA Board of Directors, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Senate Rural Regional Affairs Transport Committee, calling for all RAAus accident investigation reports to be made public.