Username: #Customer.Username#This week our guest editor is your President Dale Webb discussing the concept of going beyond regulation.
Swedavia; what is the next step?
The following is personal opinion; it does not represent the view of the Council or Board of Aviation New Zealand.
One of the few benefits of advancing years is that you don't have to read so much history, you lived through it. For some that includes the aviation regulatory regimes in New Zealand over the last 50 years. Civil aviation along with most other activities boomed in the period immediately following World War 2. Technology, safety and pretty much everything else had improved hugely as a result of the war so appropriate new legislation was necessary. Almost all in positions of authority then had war service so unsurprisingly the civil and military aviation cultures of the time were very similar. The process was "do it by the book and we will come and inspect you as often as we need to; that will make sure you do it right". It was accepted at the time but the world as always moved on; many things changed, particularly technology. The major difference was the gas turbine engine, it made aircraft of all types so much more capable. The turbine engine revolutionised air travel, the helicopter industry and much, much more. Also with a post war generation the "do it as I tell you" based on legislation from a very different era was not nearly as well accepted. So the government of the day set up a steering committee to investigate improvements and in April 1988 the Swedavia McGregor report, SMR was published. It recommended major fundamental change leading to the Civil Aviation Act 1990, plus the current rules, advisory circulars and other legislation that flow from it. This was major change and has served us well. If you are an insomniac the entire 304 page report is on the CAA website but even the summary is seven pages. The abstract though is manageable; less the first two sentences it reads :-
"........ In the public interest there is a division of responsibility between the State and the operator over matters of civil aviation safety. The principles for this division must be clearly defined to establish the State’s legislative framework and responsibilities for setting standards, licensing individuals, delegating authority and carrying out surveillance. This review considers the need for regulatory controls in civil aviation, identifies the appropriate level of regulation and determines the resources needed for a civil aviation safety authority in New Zealand. The review distinguishes between the minimum level of regulation to comply with international obligations (viz ICAO) and discretionary levels of regulations which may be desirable but are not obligatory. The costs and benefits of civil aviation regulations are identified. How best to administer civil aviation regulations in New Zealand is determined. The review concludes that a stand-alone State institution is the most appropriate for a civil aviation safety authority in New Zealand and that cost-benefit analysis should, whenever practicable, be a mandatory tool for rule making in discretionary areas."
The legislation resulting from the SMR introduced joint responsibility for safety, previously it been the states responsibility; it also introduced the concept of cost-benefit analysis. Over 25 years ago it also acknowledged there was a legal minimum and an additional discretionary level of regulation.
All pretty radical stuff at the time but again the world has not stood still; this time the changes are more social than technical. Society has become markedly more risk averse and if anything more cost conscious. The increased CAA charges introduced just over a year ago have triggered a major adverse reaction from the aviation sector. The almost universal reaction has been "there is no benefit for massive additional cost, particularly the pilot medical charge". Any cost-benefit analysis would show no increase in safety for the massive increase in cost. From anecdotal evidence I am certain safety has been reduced as if possible pilots have either moved to the much simpler surveillance of a recreational licence; or have simply decided to fly without a valid medical. There are modest signs that this major error by the CAA is being recognised but most of us will be long dead before it is forgiven and forgotten.
The bigger issue though is the cost of compliance and surveillance generally. The SMR abstract above said "In the public interest there is a division of responsibility between the State and the operator over matters of civil aviation safety. The principles for this division must be clearly defined to establish the State’s legislative framework and responsibilities for setting standards, licensing individuals, delegating authority and carrying out surveillance." It seems logical to me that the greater the states responsibility, the bigger the surveillance system they will need and automatically the greater the cost. If the state paid for that there would be at least some acceptance but in the current financial climate when we, the industry pay for all of the surveillance and much of the policy making and other infrastructure of the CAA, the SMR principle of cost-benefit analysis has obviously been quietly abandoned.
I believe it is time to introduce self, rather than state regulation.
The Flight Safety Foundation gave another reason which supports this five years ago when in an effort to continue the improvement in safety they encouraged the world's airlines "to go beyond regulation". They argued that simply doing the minimum to satisfy the regulator will not achieve the ultimate aim of zero fatal accidents. I believe that means for reasons of both cost and safety effectiveness we need to make the move towards regulating ourselves. This move would simply continue the progress of the last 50 years; from the state being responsible for safety, responsibility is now joint, the final option is operator responsibility in other words, self regulation. It is already the case in many areas of recreational aviation and is done well. It has also been very successfully done for licence assessment with ASL now Aspeq, doing that under CAA delegation for the last 20 years. Aspeq owned by the aviation sector, not an SOE do it so well that they now are the licence assessment agent for many other countries including later this year the UK and other industries. Outside aviation many professional groups are already self regulating; medicine, dentistry, law, accountancy, engineering and while I have not done the research probably a number of others. The impact on our lives of those groups is probably just as great as is aviation. It could be said that the medical world are responsible at some stage for the life of every one of us. The Ministry of Health pays but does not legislate how they do it safely; the health professionals do that.
Self regulation will not be a soft option, and for those that don't meet the standards it won't be cheap; but I believe it is the best option. As they have in a number of other areas, the agricultural aviation sector has already taken the first step in this process. The AIRCARE™ programme has been developed by ag operators for ag operators and establishes safety, environmental, occupational and other standards beyond, in some cases well beyond the regulatory minimums. The same concept would be relatively simple to extend to the flight training sector and other non air transport ops. Public acceptance for air transport would be a harder sell and would take longer.
We, the participants in the aviation industry would be responsible for developing, operating and improving the necessary safety systems. A single generic system such as AIRCARE™ would be efficient but those that so wished and could afford it could and no doubt would develop their own processes. That would prevent the rigidity, inefficiency and compulsion that goes with any monopoly as we have with our current regulation. All systems would also need to meet the cost-benefit analysis test but the right to change or improve the system you use is yours to make, it would not be externally imposed. We all have the right to enter or leave aviation or any other industry but if we choose to enter then we must accept the responsibilities that go with that. One of those responsibilities would be the need to have a Safety Management System. The responsibility now and even more in future to operate as safely as best practice allows. Best practice will always be determined by those that actually do it, not by those that look on.
So; Swedavia; what is the next step? I hope you are convinced that the answer is to continue the move from state to self regulation. We have been in the half way house of joint responsibility for some years, it's time to continue the progress towards self regulation. The benefits are compelling; greater safety at reduced financial cost. To reap those benefits though the industry will have to mature and accept greater self responsibility. Are we up for the challenge? I hope so.
President – Aviation New Zealand
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