Better Safety For Charter Flights In Australia

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New Rules Will Revamp Charter Operations ...

According to the country's aviation government agency, charter flights across Australia will become safer under a new set of proposed aviation rules. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued detailed draft rules for the operation of all commercial passenger-carrying small aircraft. The Part 121B Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM)is open for industry comment until September 30, 2003.

A key change under the proposed new rules is the introduction of comprehensive pilot training and checking requirements for all small aircraft charter operations. The agency claims these requirements will lift safety by improving pilot skills, competencies and knowledge in small aircraft charter operations.

The planned changes to regulations covering charter operations are included in a new Notice of Proposed Rule Making issued for Part 121B of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations. Part 121B covers charter and regular public transport flights carrying fare-paying passengers in aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight not exceeding 5700 kilograms. A new Air Transport classification will be created to include both charter and regular public transport flights, introducing a single safety standard for commercial passenger operations in small aircraft.

... Higher Accidents Rates Cited

CASA claims the proposed changes are needed as small aircraft charter flights currently have a much higher accident rate than small aircraft operating regularly as public transport. In 2001, there were 32 small aircraft charter accidents compared to three involving small aircraft in regular public transport. At the same time, CASA recognizes charter operations must retain their flexibility in order to provide essential transport services, particularly in regional Australia, where remote destinations such as cattle stations and aboriginal settlements are often located.

Because of this perceived safety concern, CASA's NPRM includes other proposed improvements including increased supervision for less-experienced pilots. In addition, single-engine, turbine-powered aircraft allowed to carry up to 14 passengers with a single pilot, standard passenger weights for aircraft carrying more than six passengers, more flexible aircraft performance requirements and more comprehensive fuel provisions are also noted.