CASA plots path for culture change following review

By Harley Dennett

Wednesday August 26, 2015

Director of aviation safety Mark Skidmore has flagged a shake-up at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority over the next 12 months to prioritise better service delivery.

A team of internal advisors from across CASA will spend the next two months coming up with the plan and begin implementation steps in October.

A shift towards a “rational ‘just culture’ approach” when dealing with its regulatory clients was also flagged in its new corporate plan, following years of strained relations over previous decision-making at the safety authority.

This comes after Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss late last year accepted 32 of the 37 recommendations from the Aviation Safety Regulation Review chaired by David Forsyth, and agreed to undertake more investigation of another four recommendations. In response, CASA also formed closer working ties with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Skidmore wrote in this month’s CASA briefing that it was clear from internal and external feedback, as well as the government’s response to the ASRR, that a range of internal changes were also required:

“Improvements can be made to the way CASA is structured, governance arrangements can be more effective and our systems and processes can be improved. In particular, we must do better at delivering regulatory services to the aviation community.

“From talking with many people I understand our service delivery can be inconsistent and applications can sometimes get passed unnecessarily between different areas of CASA, slowing down our response times. We need to be able to deliver consistent, effective, efficient and timely regulatory services to the aviation community. To do this I am having our processes reviewed to help me identify how and where the most effective improvements can be made.”

Skidmore’s plan is to have key changes in place by the middle of 2016, and reinforced that he is “committed to a significant change program” building on the positive thing CASA already does:

“The overarching aim of the change program will be to develop a more constructive engagement between CASA and all sectors of the aviation community. To do this we will soon be setting out CASA’s regulatory philosophy — how we will be a strong, fair and responsive safety regulator that works with the aviation community to achieve optimal safety results. Our approach to being the aviation safety regulator will inform how we conduct our activities, including regulatory development, education, surveillance and enforcement.

“As I have said previously, CASA must become better at consultation and listening so we can work with the aviation community to build more effective safety partnerships.”

Digitally transforming the role of regulator

Several major projects are being funded to begin this year, mostly around improving the regulator’s responsiveness with the industry as the stakeholders themselves become increasingly digital.

Pre-empting the catch-cry from the Digital Transformation Office, CASA is prioritising the changing needs of their customers, such as making information and communication in both directions more accessible, mobile and easy to use.

The agency’s aging enterprise system Aviation Industry Regulatory System (AIRS) is at the end of its useable life, so will be replaced with a new set-up called Aviation information Management System (AiMS) with better interface links with industry’s systems.

Online smart forms will be used to improve the stakeholder experience. The regulator will also be upgrading its website and digital communications platforms that will make it easier for the aviation industry to check regulations and advice on mobile devices and tablets while in the maintenance hanger or aboard aircraft. CASA employees will be given more mobility tools for when in the field themselves.

CASA already made flyers happy last year with a change in the rules to permit small electronic devices — phones, iPads, tablets and gaming devices — to stay on from gate to gate. Now they’re helping pave the way for their other clients to go digital too, in small steps of course, starting with maintenance personnel exams. From October the option will be available for the exams to be conducted online. The agency explained in its monthly briefing:

“The move to an online system will mean people sitting the exams will get their results as soon as they finish. CASA will still set the exam questions but will not run the exam centres or the electronic delivery system. Exams will still be held at least six times a year at multiple locations, with the next sittings due to be held in late October 2015 and another round in December 2015. Approximately 4500 maintenance exams were undertaken during 2014.”

While the costs of the capital investment is budgeted at $13.5 million in 2015/16, CASA expects to generate savings long-term with reduced support costs for maintaining legacy systems.

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