A BREAKTHROUGH on Civil Aviation Safety Authority rules affecting aerial mustering has been greeted with relief in rural Queensland.
Regulations introduced last September demanding additional training for flight crew licencing were howled down as dramatically increasing costs for graziers, especially the northern beef industry, for no positive increase in operational safety standards.
Late last week CASA announced changes to its new requirements for low-level flying following a concentrated response from the helicopter industry.
A planned 12-month flight review requirement for the low-level rating has been extended to 24 months, and a requirement to maintain a minimum of two hours of low-level flying over six months has been removed.
However, because mustering is a higher-risk activity, there are ‘recent experience’ requirements for pilots.
Aerial mustering pilots will be required to have a minimum of 20 hours of aerial mustering operations in the preceding 12 months.
These changes have been welcomed by Queensland senator Matt Canavan, who originally raised the issue at an LNP state council meeting in November 2014.
“The changes will make a big difference for pilots in aerial mustering,” he said. “This is an issue I took up on behalf of the cattle industry and I very much welcome CASA’s change of heart.”
Cloncurry’s Don McDonald said it was “bloody good news”.
He was looking at a threefold increase in charges for helicopter mustering, for four people, a cost he was unable to pass on.
“I think the costs will be lowered and we’ll have a more sensible operation,” he said.
Helicopter mustering advocate Craig Crumblin, who has been in the industry since 1986, said the changes showed CASA was finally really listening.
“They had asked for renewals every year but there was nothing in place to manage that – they’d put the wagon in front of the horse,” he said.
“We have to do a biennial flight review. With these changes we can do the low-level at the same time.
“It gives you the best bang for your buck. People are less likely to let it slide, and will want to take part in it all.”
He said the vast majority of career chopper pilots had started in the mustering industry, and it was important to keep that pool engaged.
Mr Crumblin added that the 20 hour minimum of flying in the last 12 months was all part of the “give and take”.
“It’s good; operators should have some currency. How would you like to be flying with someone with just two hours of recent flying?”
CASA’s director of aviation safety, Mark Skidmore said the organisation had been carefully working through all the feedback and making adjustments as necessary.
“This is a normal process after a large regulatory change to ensure the new rules are delivering the right safety outcomes without placing an inappropriate burden on the aviation community,” Mr Skidmore said.
“All wisdom does not lie within CASA so we are happy to listen to the views of others and consider if the regulations can be improved.
“Where there are unintended consequences these will be addressed as quickly as we can, recognising we are working with a comprehensive rule set.”
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